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Southeast Asian ceviche with avocado and tortilla chips. Photo: SCMP

How to make Southeast Asian ceviche with avocado and tortilla chips, a Peruvian classic with a Mexican-Thai fusion twist

  • Use lime juice, or even better, calamansi juice to cure the seafood – it takes around two hours
  • The tortilla chips give crunch, while chilli, fish sauce and coriander add a flavour punch

Using salt or acidic ingredients to briefly cure raw seafood isn’t unique to South America, although ceviche – which comes in many versions – is probably the one most people think of. Hawaii has its poke, the Philippines has kinilaw, the Nordic countries have gravlax, and Japan, of course, has sushi.

You might not consider the seafood in sushi to be cured by the acidity (in this case, vinegar) because usually, the rice and fish meet only briefly – ideally, just seconds before the chef places the piece of nigiri in front of the customer. But sushi was originally created as a way to preserve fish – sometimes for months – in the days before refrigerators.

Southeast Asian ceviche with avocado and tortilla chips

This fusion version of ceviche is “cooked” with fresh Thai lime juice, although if you have calamansi juice, use that instead. Of course, the seafood is not actually cooked, but if you leave it marinating long enough, the texture and colour change so that it looks cooked – the scallops turn from opaque to off-white while the shrimp become white/pink.

Southeast Asian ceviche with avocado and tortilla chips. Photo: Jonathan Wong

In addition to the lime juice, the ceviche is flavoured with fish sauce, garlic, shallot, bird’s-eye chilli and fresh coriander. It is then served with avocado (the richness of which balances the acidity), radish and tortilla chips, which give a nice crunch.

As with other types of ceviche, you can eat it while the seafood is still almost raw (marinated for two hours or less), or leave it in the fridge for longer, so the texture becomes firmer.

Buy the freshest seafood you can find from a reputable supplier. Frozen scallops are fine as long as they haven’t been injected with a preservative. The flash-frozen ones from Japan tend to be good, although they are expensive. If using fresh scallops, trim off the roe or coral, and use only the scallop flesh. The coral and roe are delicious when sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.

The ingredients for Southeast Asian ceviche with avocado and tortilla chips. Photo: Jonathan Wong

20-24 fresh shrimp, about 5cm long (without the head)

8 scallops, about 4cm in diameter and 2cm thick, thawed, if frozen

60ml (4 tbsp) fresh Thai lime (or calamansi) juice

10 grams (2 ½ tsp) granulated sugar

20ml (4 tsp) fish sauce

2-3 shallots, peeled

2-3 small garlic cloves, peeled

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2-6 red bird’s-eye chillies

A handful of fresh coriander leaves

3-6 small radishes

6-10 cherry tomatoes

1-2 ripe avocados

Fried tortilla chips

Fine sea salt, if necessary

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1 Make the dressing first, so the sugar has time to dissolve. Put the lime (or calamansi) juice in a bowl, add the sugar, then stir well. Stir in the fish sauce, then set aside, mixing occasionally, while preparing the other ingredients.

2 Peel the shrimp and remove the heads. Make a shallow cut down the back, then carefully pull out the vein.

3 Cut the scallops in half, slicing parallel to the cutting board so each one becomes two discs.

4 Cut the shallots and garlic cloves in half, then thinly slice them. Cut the chillies into thin rings, shaking out and discarding the seeds as you go.

5 Taste the lime juice/fish sauce mixture. If it tastes too tart, stir in a little more sugar.

Mixing the lime juice, fish sauce and other seasonings. Photo: Jonathan Wong

6 Put the shrimp and scallops in a container. Add the shallots, garlic and chillies, then pour the lime juice/fish sauce mixture over the seafood and stir well. Cover the container, then refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for about two hours or less (for rare seafood) or longer if you prefer the seafood more done.

7 Roughly chop about half the coriander leaves. Thinly slice the radishes and halve the cherry tomatoes. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. While the avocado is still in the shell, slice the flesh, or cut it into chunks, as you prefer. Use a large spoon to scoop the avocado flesh from the shell.

8 Stir in the chopped coriander, the radish, the cherry tomatoes and the avocado, then transfer the ceviche to a serving dish. Garnish with the whole coriander leaves and serve with the tortilla chips.

Serves four to six as an appetiser.

Food styling: Nellie Ming Lee; Kitchen: courtesy of Wolf at House of Madison

Like this recipe? Look for more in the SCMP Post Magazine, or on SCMP Cooking.