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A Guide to Eating Ceviche Like a Local

Picture of Brandon Dupre
Updated: 15 March 2018
So you’ve finally made it to Lima, the capital of Peru and the emerging gastronomical capital of South America, and you’re foaming at the mouth to get the chance to eat some of Peru’s famed ceviche. But before you gorge yourself on fresh fish soaked in lime juice, there’s some things you should know. Here’s how to blend in and not be a fool when eating ceviche in Lima.

The level of spice

Once you’ve identified your ceviche spot and sat down, it’s time to place your order. Something to bear in mind is that most cevicherias will temper the flavors when they are preparing ceviches for gringos. They don’t want people keeling over in their restaurants because of the spiciness, so they take it easy. If you like your food spicy, order the ceviche picante to make sure that they don’t hold anything back. If spicy food isn’t your thing, just ask for ceviche.

How to eat it

When you first sit down, you’ll be given a classic assortment of utensils – a spoon, knife, and fork – but only one is used when eating ceviche. To eat ceviche like a local, use the spoon, which allows you to keep all the lime marinade in each spoonful of ceviche, thus giving you the full flavors of the dish. Some cevicherias won’t even serve your classic silverware, but will give you a spork, a brilliant cutlery hybrid consisting of a spoon with the teeth of a fork at one end.

When to eat it

One of the biggest mistakes visitors make when eating ceviche is going out at night to eat fresh fish. That’s something that you won’t find any Peruvians doing. Peruvians enjoy their fresh fish in the morning or during the afternoon, knowing that anything served after that won’t be as fresh. Fish options such as ceviche remain on the dinner menus mostly for the gringos who are accustomed to having dinner as their main meal, but that’s not the case in Peru. Most Peruvians will enjoy the biggest meal of the day, especially if they are eating fresh fish, in the afternoon.

What to eat it with

Most cevicherias or seafood restaurants will always serve canchitas (popcorn kernels) with their ceviche. If they don’t, make sure to ask for some. No ceviche is complete without some canchitas in it. Alternatively, it can be served with chifles (banana chips) as they do it in the north. When added to ceviche, canchitas and chifles give the dish crunch.

What to drink

As any proper Peruvian knows, you have to order your ceviche with one of three options: Inca Cola, Coca Cola, or beer. The drink of choice in Peru is the famous, acid-yellow Inca Cola, which taste like a bubblegum-flavored soda. Another classic option is to order your ceviche with a Pilsen Callao or Cristal, two of the most popular beers in Peru.