All along Mexico’s Pacific coast you’ll find seafood stalls serving fresh fish: whole grilled, steamed until plump, pan-fried, raw, or in one of the many. ceviche-type preparations. Marinating seafood in acid is a cooking technique used around the world, for good reason. It’s quick, easy, and almost unexpectedly delicious. And I think we should all be doing it more at home.
This recipe is the same idea as a ceviche – fish marinated in lots of lime juice, plus a few other seasonings – but it’s both easier and faster.
Tiritas de pescado originally from the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo region in the state of Guerrero, and like many famous fish dishes, they were originally a snack for fishermen. I first read about them on Mely Martinez’s amazing blog, Mexico in My Kitchen.
To prepare them, the white fish fillets are sliced ââinto Â¼ inch strips through the grain of the flesh, then cut into 2 inch long pieces. These are marinated in lime juice, dried oregano, slices of red onion, and salt for about 10 minutes. Unlike many more complex ceviches, tiritas don’t require a multi-hour marinade because the strips are cut so thin and because of the firm but tender types of fish that are used.
In this recipe, adapted from âThe Food of Oaxaca,â chef and author Alejandro Ruiz recommends sierra or mahi-mahi, which are caught off Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. Ruiz includes cucumber slices in his tiritas, for added crunch, and a little olive oil, which brings out the silky feel of the fish. Served with tortilla chips, saltines or even yuca or plantain chips, I like to think of it as a new take on fish and chips.
If this is your first ceviche-style dish, I recommend making the recipe as it is written. It helps to watch how the fish turns into acid, what it looks, feels and tastes after it is fully cooked. Difficult to explain this transformation in words! It is essential to use the freshest fish you can find. It should have virtually no odor – or should smell only light sea blue – when you take it out of its paper or plastic wrap.
Suggested substitutions or additions:
- If you can’t find mahi-mahi or sierra, sea bass or scallops will do.
- Lime juice is great for this recipe, but lemon juice would work just as well.
- Mexican dried oregano adds a wispy earthy touch, although I imagine dried mint or a sprinkle of crushed cumin seeds might also be interesting.
- I love the crunchy and refreshing flavor of cucumber and red onion. You can also use bell pepper, shallots, green onions, jicama, or zucchini.
Tiritas de Pescado
The Pacific coast of Mexico is rich in fish such as red snapper, mahi-mahi, bonito and mullet. One of the easiest ways to make a fresh catch is tiritas, a ceviche-like dish that originated in Guerrero. The acidity and salt heal the fish, infusing it with flavor. It is essential to use only the freshest fish for this. When buying fish from a fishmonger, ask when it was caught; if it is whole, check the eyes to see if they are clean and clear. If the fish smells strong, it is past its prime and should not be used for this recipe. Serve tiritas simply with tortilla chips, saltines or on tostadas.
Makes 2 to 4 servings (about 2 cups of tiritas and 30 crisps)
7 or 8 ounces of fresh, skinless white fish, preferably sierra or mahi-mahi, cut into strips 2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick
Â½ cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes), plus more to taste
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Â½ teaspoon of dried oregano
Â½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt, and more to taste
Â½ cup (about 2 ounces) thinly sliced ââcucumber, peeled and seeded if the skins and seeds are prominent
Â½ cup (about 2 ounces) thinly sliced ââred onion
In a medium glass, stainless steel, or ceramic (non-reactive) bowl, toss fish with lime juice, olive oil, oregano and salt. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes, then add the cucumber and onion and refrigerate for another 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and / or lime juice, if desired, and serve.
Per serving (approximately Â½ cup of tiritas), based on 4 servings: 89 calories, 4 g of total fat, 0 g of saturated fat, 35 mg of cholesterol, 185 mg of sodium, 5 g of carbohydrate, 0 g of fiber food, 2 g of sugars, 10 g of protein
Adapted from âThe Food of Oaxaca: Recipes and Stories from Mexico’s Culinary Capitalâ by Alejandro Ruiz and Carla Altesor (Knopf, 2021).
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