Posted on | March 17, 2011 | 11 Comments
With it’s long coastline, it’s no surprise that seafood is so popular in Peru. The coastal communities especially have a long history of delicious fish and seafood dishes. There’s not only the well-known ceviche; there’s also all manner of soups, fried dishes, baked, broiled and dishes with sauces.
There are also markets with a wide variety of delicious Pacific fish. But if you’re a gringo – how do you know which fish is which? Some of the names are different in Spanish. This list will help you know what to ask for.
Bacalao - cod, especially in its salted and cured form.
Bonito - The bonito found here is usually the Eastern Pacific bonito. It lives in shallower waters near the coast, although more mature fish will move into deeper water offshore. It can be caught for yourself with a line. It’s a white fish, good for ceviches and escabeche.
Caballa – In English, this is a chub mackerel, sometimes known as the hardhead mackerel. It’s good for ceviches, escabeche and secos.
Cabrilla - This is another Pacific fish, the Peruvian rock sea bass. Lives in medium depths, and usually weighs over 2 kg (4 lbs). It has tender flesh and requires a light cooking style – because of this, it’s a favorite in sudados.
Cachema - (Thanks, Michelle for the tip on this one!) This is a member of the sea trout family, called Peruvian weakfish in English. I didn’t know this one, it seems to be more popular in the northern coast of Peru. It has delicate white flesh, good for frying and ceviche, and it’s also used in sudados and escabeche.
Chita - The Peruvian grunt – one of the most commonly caught and eaten fish in coastal Peru since pre-Incan times. Many restaurants and street vendors offer “chita frita”, where the fish is gutted and fried whole, with the head included. It’s also commonly served baked and grilled, again, usually whole.
Cojinova - This is the Palm Ruff in English. It’s used in cebiches and tiraditos, fried and guisos or stews. Like the chita, the cojinova is a species that has been fished since pre-Incan days, although in recent days indiscriminate fishing has let to a reduction in numbers.
Corvina - This one has the same name in English and Spanish, but some places know it better as a drum or croaker. (Chilean sea bass has also been called corvina, but isn’t usually the fish found in Peru under that name.) It’s found along the Pacific coast from northern Peru down to the south of Chile. Corvina is another favorite fish in Peru, and is eating whole or in fillets; fried or in ceviches. It’s considered the king of the Peruvian fish.
Lenguado - This is a flounder that’s found in the Pacific near the coast from Ecuador down to Chile. Flounder is a favorite fish for many, and is cooked just about every way you can cook a fish. It has a delicate, white flesh good for ceviches and for pan-frying.
Mero - The delicious grouper, a most popular fish in Peru and elsewhere. It has a firm, white flesh that’s great for frying, on the grill, in sudados or ceviches.
Pejerrey - In English this is known either as the pejerrey or the (Chilean) silverside. It’s a small fish, usually no more than 20 cm (7-8 inches). I have only had this fish as ceviche, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite. They’re also used fried in sandwiches with salsa criolla (zarza).
Tramboyo - This unattractive fish is a spotcheek blenny, although there are a variety of related species sold under the same name. It’s most often used in sudados, sopas and chupes.
- Pez espada – Swordfish – well known to most N. Americans, great for the grill or baked in the oven.
- Tilapia – probably one of the most common freshwater fish world wide, and is extensively farmed. You’ll find it by the same name in Peru. Fried, steamed, baked – it’s all good!
This list is by no means complete – or perfect. There are fish called mero, for example, that are not grouper, because the name is used for different fish in Asia. And as mentioned with corvina – a lot of times people will tell you it’s Chilean sea bass, simply because that is a popular fish and they want you to buy their fish.
But I’ve done my best to put the names used in Peru with their correct English names.
So, did I miss your favorite fish? Let me know!
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