The sign claiming “Best Shrimp Ceviche in Quepos” enticed us into Kukula, a restaurant in a small town on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast on the first day of our 10-day vacation. We tried ceviche at several other places during our stay, but we all agreed that Kukula’s made the best. Before we left the area, we went back one more time so I could take notes and try to recreate it at home. I experimented with several combinations before I even came close to what Kukula’s served.
Two key ingredients in ceviche are seafood — typically raw — and lime juice. The acid in the lime juice “cooks” the seafood. Variations of this South American appetizer — yep, the original recipe is from Peru, not Mexico — can contain a variety of seafood, including shrimp, scallops, or fish, such as halibut or sea bass. Of course, there’s other yummy stuff too, like jalapeños, onion, and avocado.
When I’m in my one-butt kitchen in a land-locked state, I prefer to use pre-cooked baby shrimp (peeled, tail off). It’s quick, easy, and tasty. If you’re lucky enough to be near an ocean and can get fresh-off-the-boat shrimp, you can either cook your raw shrimp in lime juice or boiling water. Directions for each method are listed below.
Use a non-reactive bowl, one that won’t react with the citrus and tomatoes to give the ceviche a metallic taste. Non-reactive bowls include ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and plastic; just about anything except aluminum, copper, and cast iron will work.
What made this shrimp ceviche even better was scooping it up with homemade patacoñes (fried green plantain chips). Serve ceviche with tortilla chips or homemade patacoñes or tortilla chips.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes (or 3 hours if using raw shrimp)
One-butt kitchen needs:
- Juicer or citrus squeezer
- Non-reactive (ceramic, glass, stainless steel, or plastic) bowl
- Strainer or colander
Serves 4 to 8
- 1 pound frozen pre-cooked baby shrimp, peeled and tail off (or raw shrimp prepared according to directions below)
- 6 limes, squeezed
- 1 lemon, squeezed
- 1 orange, squeezed (limes, lemon, and orange should make about 1 cup citrus juice)
- 4 Campari tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
- 1/2 cup red or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro, stems removed, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
Choose one of three methods to prepare shrimp:
- For frozen pre-cooked shrimp, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Place thawed shrimp in strainer or colander and rinse with cold water. Shake to get rid of excess water.
- To cook raw shrimp in boiling water, prepare an ice bath by putting a handful of ice cubes in a bowl of cold water. Set aside. Put 2 quarts water and 1 tsp salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook for a minute or 2, depending on the size of the shrimp. Do not overcook; remove the pan from heat when the shrimp turn opaque. Pour shrimp into large strainer or colander to drain. Place shrimp into an ice bath to stop cooking. Unless shrimp are small, cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.
- To cook raw shrimp in lime juice, cut them in 1/2-inch pieces. Pour citrus over shrimp and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. (Note: this method may not kill all the bacteria.)
Put shrimp in a non-reactive bowl and stir in citrus juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes for pre-cooked shrimp, 2 to 4 hours for raw shrimp. Mix in tomatoes, avocado, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and salt. If it’s too tart, add more salt. If it’s still too tart, drain off some of the citrus juice. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Shrimp ceviche is best eaten the day it’s prepared.