One thing I noticed as we travelled around Panamá was the abundance of fresh seafood. There’s a hodgepodge of influences there – Spanish, African and Native American (amongst others) – forming a cuisine that isn’t dissimilar to its neighbours. Aside from many edibles that have something to do with corn, plantain, rice and beans, seafood pops up quite a bit.
The word Panamá does mean “abundance of fish”, after all, so it’s a given that it plays a big part in the country’s cuisine.
Head to Mercado del Mariscos, Panamá City’s fish market, and you immediately get a sense of a city’s love for all things seafood. Inside it’s your typically frantic, noisy and slightly smelly fish market.
Outside it’s flanked by a row of ceviche stands vying for your business. Corvina (similar to sea bass) is the most popular, but shrimp, squid, octopus and black clams are also up for grabs – pre-made and simply scooped into a cup and served with a packet of salted crackers.
And it’s so cheap!
I thought I’d share a recipe for ceviche – a tasty dish that’s incredibly easy to construct. We don’t get corvina in our neck of the woods, but alternatives are still plenty. Cod, snapper, tuna and mackerel can all be used; or deep sea bream, which was my choice.
You’ll also notice the curing time is much longer in this ceviche than the Perúvian variety, and the fish is cut differently.
The limes used in Panamá are different to the ones we commonly see at home in Australia. They’re not as sharp and have a very slight sweetness to them. This translates through to the ceviche, so with my use of ‘regular lime’, I added a small amount of sugar to the mix. Not enough to sweeten the juice, but more to take the edge off it.
A bit of lettuce is occasionally served with Panamánian ceviche – something you don’t often see with Panamánian food. I’ve gone a little further and tricked it up with some of my home-grown finger limes. The pops of sharpness are perfect here.
I also couldn’t help myself with a few foraged bits and pieces like society garlic flowers, lemon verbena flowers and leaves, purslane and fennel fronds.
Whether you serve it simply in a cup or fancily arranged on a plate, this is one dish that enlivens the palate.