Are you a fan of ceviche? Are you sure? It is the national dish of Peru, with deep roots in Latin America, especially on the Pacific coast. A common recipe is made with fresh seafood, “cooked” in lemon or lime juice and combined with chili peppers chopped onions, salt, and cilantro.
Can citric juice really cook fish or shrimp? It’s not technically cooked, but the acid in the juice transforms the fish, rearranging its proteins, making it relatively safe to eat. I say relatively safe because everything depends on the fish or seafood is absolutely fresh. If the seafood is a bit old, don’t go there, don’t even think about it.
So, not sold on ceviche yet? What if I told you that West Indies Salad, a Coast classic, is the first cousin to ceviche? It is said to have originated in Mobile, Alabama, and with ships coming and going from Mobile’s busy port to all points in the Caribbean and South and Central America, it’s pretty easy to see how this recipe has spread all over the Americas.
West Indies salad dates from the 1940s, but in recent years its popularity has waned. In the 1980s it was commonly found on menus of local restaurants, but it is a rarity today. But that is the way food culture works. We borrow ideas from someplace else, make a few changes and then make it our own. A few years ago, the Low Country recipe for shrimp and grits was not on Coast menus at all, now it is common. File gumbo was a classic that has fallen by the wayside, and there are countless other recipes that have come and gone.
Do you know a place in Jackson County that has West Indies salad on their menu? Tell us about it and we will post a list to share with everyone. BB’s in Ocean Springs has my vote, what’s your favorite?