In Colombia, David says, ceviche is an aphrodisiac. On the beaches of Santa Marta, dark, lanky young men walk up and down the shore bent over from the weight of Styrofoam coolers. Big straw hats protect them from the sun, which is powerful, especially around noon in this tropical city. They walk from beachside group to beachside group, offering to prepare ceviche for you towel-side. They flip open the lids of their coolers to scoop little pink shrimp into a paper cup. With quick-fire flips, they douse it with squirts of lime, garlic water, ketchup and mayonnaise, serving you the whole mess with a packet of Saltines.
They walk up and down the beach all day, opening and closing their coolers, scooping shrimp and squirting ketchup, while the hot sun just gets hotter. David wouldn’t let me try any of the beachside ceviche. Because in Colombia, ceviche also gives you food poisoning. Some aphrodisiac.
I must say, I was skeptical. I’d had ceviche before, but it had been purist compared with this. I mean, two of the main ingredients of Colombian ceviche are ketchup and mayonnaise. That’s what I put on my burger, not my lime-marinated fish.
Yet somehow, this truly simple combination of ingredients yields a concoction that’s a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a little bit tangy, and very, very fresh. Kind of like a beachside romance, just, you know, properly refrigerated.
Colombian Shrimp Ceviche
Serves two. All of the romance, none of the runs.
3 large cloves coarsely chopped garlic
¼ cup water
2 cups uncooked mini shrimp
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup finely diced red onion
1 finely diced birds-eye chili
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt, to taste
Combine water and chopped garlic in a glass bowl, and allow the garlic to infuse into the water for at least 4 hours, or preferably, overnight.
Bring a small pot of salted water to boil, add shrimp, and cook for about 4 minutes. Your quantity of shrimp will have shrunk to about half.
Drain and rinse shrimp with cold water, and place into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add lime juice, onions, chili, cilantro, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salt. Stir well to combine, then place in the fridge and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Serve in small glasses garnished with extra ketchup and mayo, and maybe even a sprig of cilantro. Note: You may want to leave some (but not all!) of the marinating juice behind in the bowl when you’re scooping the ceviche.