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For This Family, Ceviche Is a Labor of Love

Ceviche is as essential as breathing in Lima. The Ramos family honors its matriarch by serving the dish as she has prepared it for 60 years.

Ceviche, no matter how you spell it, is a simple but dazzling dish. It’s essentially raw fish salad “cooked” in citrus juice and onion, maybe jazzed up with spices and a dash of olive oil. When prepared well, it tastes like the salty, sharp zing of the ocean.

Peru, Spain, Mexico, and many Caribbean countries claim to be the first to come up with the dish, but it’s most likely from Peru, where archeologists suggest natives were eating it 2,000 years ago.

Ceviche comes in endless variations, based on where it’s prepared—with coriander in Nicaragua or tomatoes in parts of Mexico—and it has close cousins in Japan’s sashimi and the Philippines’ kinilaw.

While ceviche has become more common on menus around the world, its heart just might be beating in Lima. Eighty-five year old Julia Ramos has been making it for 60 years, and has even been called to the president's palace to prepare it for him. Watch the video to see how the Ramos family of Lima’s Chorrillos District keeps the ceviche tradition alive at their restaurant, Doña Julia.

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A vendor sells fresh scallops, a common ingredient in ceviche, at a market in Peru. Ceviche is essentially a raw seafood salad “cooked” in citrus juice and onion. When prepared well, it tastes like the salty, sharp zing of the ocean.

Here is Doña Julia's recipe, courtesy of the Ramos family.

Ceviche Recipe

Serves 4


-       1 pound of fresh fish (sea bass, flounder, etc)

-       4 big key limes

-       1 onion

-       3 garlic cloves

-       Cilantro

-       Boiled sweet potato, peeled, and sliced

-       1 cob corn, boiled and cut into 4 pieces

-       4 lettuce leaves


Aji Amarillo sauce: In a blender put 2 aji amarillo (chiles), oil and salt.

Rocoto sauce: In a blender put 2 rocotos (Manzano peppers), 2 aji verde (green peppers), 2 aji limo (yellow lantern chile), 2 celery sticks, piece of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, salt, and a bit of water.


Cut the fish in long stripes, and the red onion, julienned.

In a big bowl combine fish, red onion, lime juice, salt, cilantro, aji Amarillo sauce and rocoto sauce.

Serve with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 slice of sweet potato and one piece of sweet corn per person.