food / travel

Hooked On Ceviche, The Affordable Sushi Alternative From Peru

Thousands of Peruvian migrants in Argentina have brought their tasty, affordable cooking with them. One dish in particular, the fish-based ceviche, is the "new sushi" of the foodie middle classes.

Preparing ceviche in Buenos Aires
Preparing ceviche in Buenos Aires
Hernán Firpo

BUENOS AIRES â€" One of the most potent signs of Peru's growing prestige and cultural weight may be the spread of its food, and especially ceviche, the raw fish salad relished by gourmets the world over. Here in Buenos Aires, it may even threaten the rule of an earlier international arrival: sushi.

Author Gabriel Rotbaum, who has a Peruvian wife, writes in De la nostalgia al orgullo (From Nostalgia to Pride) that Peruvian cuisine has become a veritable trend, and it's no accident that ceviche has barged its way onto menus in the trendy Palermo district, where sushi has been a favorite in recent decades.

"I had stopped entering Peruvian eateries because they were always closed with the curtains down," he says. "Then I realized the restaurants were for their own community. There are about 30 of them in a five-block radius of the Abasto area in central Buenos Aires."

He says Peruvians began to migrate to Buenos Aires in earnest in the 1990s, trickling in almost one at a time. "In food terms, we've come halfway," Rotbaum says. "There are about 350,000 Peruvians in Argentina, the vast majority living in the capital and its environs." Migrants, he adds, try to ease their move away from home, "and food is crucial to that."

That could be a problem for sushi, which up to now has occupied the capital's fascinating foreign food seat. It is indeed the "love of the exotic" that has taken Argentine diners to Peruvian food, Rotbaum says, "as happened before with other ethnic foods." The exotic element has market value, he says. "Now you have Peruvian restaurants in Palermo charging between 300 and 500 pesos (roughly 18-20 euros) per head. You can get a Peruvian meal, a traditional dish, for about 70 pesos here in Abasto."

Ceviche? No, mainly chicken. "Chicken is the most traditional Peruvian meal," Rotbaum says. "The thing with food is it's more firmly tied to social class than nationality. Buenos Aires society was fairly hostile to Latin Americans migrating here, even if society has changed since the 1990s." And, he notes, "I don't know if any place in Palermo will serve you a Peruvian-marinated chicken."

But you'll get ceviche for sure. It's increasingly seen on fusion-type menus in Palermo, though like sushi, it remains a starter rather than a main dish.

Buenos Aires is the city with the most Peruvian restaurants outside of Peru: 250. Rotbaum observes that, curiously, Peruvian food is indebted to Japanese cuisine, which arrived in Peru with Japanese migrants at the turn of the 20th century. "The Japanese brought Peruvian cooking the experience of learning to work fish and giving it a new identity," he says. And in Buenos Aires, sushi paved the way. "Who would have eaten raw fish before?" he asks.

What's next in Argentina, I ask Rotbaum. "Mexican food, but not tacos," he says. "Mexican cuisine has 300 national dishes. We just eat the tacos."

So is that the end of sushi? No, he says, "because sushi has now become a take-away dish, and that's crucial for settling in."

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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