What is the best cebiche EVER? The one that’s eaten at the beach! As a kid, my favorite memories of eating cebiche were during our trips to Salinas, one of the many beach towns in Ecuador. My mom didn’t have a car, but my uncle – Tia Lorena’s husband – did. Actually, he had a pickup: a 1976 Nissan Datsun light blue pickup. The coolest. Pickup. Ever. During school breaks, which for us kids in Guayaquil and along the coast were from January through April, we would drive two hours west to Salinas, usually on a Sunday. My uncle would pack up the back of his pickup with a tent and a cooler full of drinks and head to the beach. The cabin was packed with us: my uncle behind the wheel, me in the middle and my aunt next to me with my little sister on her lap. Packing up a car with more people that what’s allowed is quite common in Ecuador. It was both a science and an art. We excelled at both.
Upon arrival, my uncle would drop us off at the Malecón de Salinas with all of our accoutrements, while he went to find a place to park the truck. Once settled, we would hang out for a few hours enjoying the sun, sand and sea. Vendors would walk by selling countless tereques (tchotchkies), but my favorite vendor was El cocotero – the coconut water guy. I was always in awe of these guys who quickly yet gracefully would carve out the coconut with their machetes until you had the perfect opening to put a straw through. Quite the talent. And generally speaking they had all their fingers. With our agua de coco in hand, we headed to La Plaza for some cebiche.
Now, even though mom seldom came along, I always carried with me her sage pieces of advice regarding eating cebiche at the beach:
Mijita: NUNCA coma cebiche de balde.
Mijita: NUNCA compre cebiche de cualquiera que tenga uñas negras.
Which means, my little daughter, NEVER eat cebiche out of a bucket, and NEVER buy cebiche from anyone who has dirt under their nails. Thanks mom! Clear as mud. Or dirt.
Back in Guayaquil, my mom used to prepare cebiche in what I consider the most typical – and most delicious – way to prepare it. You see, cebiche Guayaquileño or what I consider cebiche Ecuatoriano for that matter, has ketchup in it. My mom would cook the shrimp for a few minutes and THEN let the acids do their thang. We would eat our ceviche with sides of canguil (popcorn), or maiz tostado (sort of corn nuts), and chifles (fried green plantain thin slices). My uncle would also have a side of arroz blanco – white rice – to sop up the cebiche juices, and he would add a few spoonfuls of ají criollo. When I recently made this cebiche, it brought back so many memories. El Hubs thought it was off the charts. My mom would’ve been proud.