Ceviche (pronounced "seh-VEE-chay") is a Latin American dish which traditionally consists of raw fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice (usually lime and/or lemon juice). The acid in the citrus juice coagulates (denatures) the proteins in the seafood, effectively cooking it. Since no heat is used, the dish is served cold. There are many recipe variations combining the marinated fish/shellfish with a wide variety of other fresh ingredients such as onion, tomato, cilantro, chili peppers and avocado. My plant-based version relies upon cooked unripe green jackfruit as a replacement for the fish/shellfish, since it has a neutral flavor which takes on the flavor of the marinade and a flaky texture reminiscent of cooked crab. The dish is essentially a zesty, marinated plant-based salad which is served cold as a refreshing appetizer with crispy corn tortilla chips. This recipe yields enough ceviche for two to three guests; for more simply multiply the recipe.
Canned green jackfruit bears a resemblance to flaked crabmeat when cooked. It can be found in Indian and Asian markets or purchased through the internet. Look for the label “Green Jackfruit” or “Young Green Jackfruit” and be sure that it’s packed in water or brine and not syrup. Cans of ripe jackfruit packed in syrup may be stocked nearby, but don’t be tempted to substitute as the ripe fruit will be too sweet for this application.
*Chef’s note: Traditional ceviche made with fresh seafood has a fresh, clean flavor and should not be fishy. If you wish to add a subtle ocean flavor to this plant-based version add a little bit of dried kelp flakes or flaked, toasted nori.
Drain the jackfruit and rinse. If the jackfruit was canned in brine, rinse thoroughly. Add the chunks of jackfruit to 1 quart salted boiling water. Reduce the heat to a slow boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the tough core from each chunk of jackfruit with a sharp knife and discard. Break the chunks apart with your fingers and remove the soft seeds and seed membranes and discard. The remaining flaky pulp is the only portion you will want to use in the dish, so sort through the chunks carefully (there will be a significant amount of unusable material). Wrap the pulp in a lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Coarsely chop the pulp and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the avocado and toss well to combine. Refrigerate for several hours to marinate the ingredients and blend the flavors. Add the diced avocado just before serving and toss well. The avocado can also be placed into a ring mold and the ceviche layered on top for a lovely presentation. Season the ceviche with additional salt as desired and to taste. Serve with crunchy tortilla chips.
Tip: Strips of flour or corn tortilla that have been flash-fried in cooking oil make an interesting and crunchy garnish.