One theory suggests that the Ceviche got its name from the Quechua word "siwichi". However, it is more likely that the name is a cognate of the Spanish word "escabeche" (marinade), derived from the Arabic term "sikbaj". Another theory suggests that its name comes from the word Cebo, the name given to the Corvina fish.
Ceviche is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavour, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or "cooks" the fish without heat. Ceviche can marinated for up to 3 hours.
Ceviche's birthplace is disputed between Peru and Ecuador, and as both countries have an amazing variety of fish and shellfish, it could easily have come from the ancient civilizations of Peru and Ecuador. Every Latin American country has given seviche/ceviche its own touch of individuality by adding its own particular garnishes. In Peru, it is served with slices of cold sweet potatoes or corn-on-the-cob. In Ecuador, it is accompanied by popcorn, nuts, or corn nuts.
In Peru, ceviche is composed of chunks of raw fish, with lime or lemon juice though sometimes bitter orange (naranja agria), sliced onion, minced Peruvian ají limo, or the popular Andean chilli rocoto are included. The mixture is marinated and served at room temperature, often with cancha (toasted kernels of maize), usually referred to as canchita, chunks of corn-on-the-cob, slices of cooked sweet potato and/or white potato, and yuyo (seaweed). There are many regional variations. A speciality of the traditional central coast (i.e., Lima, Trujillo) is ceviche prepared from shark (tollo or toyo). Corvina (sea bass) or lenguado (sole) is also used. In its classical version, ceviche is a very simple dish: fresh sliced fish (white meat fish is better), freshly squeezed key lime juice, sliced onions, salt and chile (ají limo or rocoto).
In Ecuador, especially in the Quiteño tradition, shrimp ceviche tends to be made with ketchup or tomato sauce. The Manabí style, made with lime juice, salt and the juice provided by the shrimp itself is very popular. Occasionally one can find ceviche made with clam. It is served in a bowl with toasted corn kernels as a side dish (plantains and pop corn are also typical ceviche side dishes). Sea bass, octopus and crab ceviches are also common in Ecuador.
In Chile, ceviche is often made with fillets of halibut or Chilean sea bass, and marinated in lime and grapefruit juices, as well as finely minced garlic and red chile peppers. Often fresh mint and cilantro are added.
Shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna, and mackerel are popular bases for Mexican ceviche. The marinade ingredients include salt, lemon, onion, chile, avocado, coriander, and parsley. Tomatoes are often added to the preparation.
In Panama, it is prepared with lime juice, salt, scotch bonnet pepper, chopped celery, salt and sometimes coriander. Ceviche de corvina (white sea bass) is very popular and served as an appetizer in most local restaurants. It is also commonly prepared with octopus and shrimp. In Cuba, ceviche is often made using mahi-mahi prepared with lime juice, salt, onion, green pepper, habañero pepper, and a touch of allspice. Squid and tuna are also popular.
In Costa Rica, the dish includes marinated fish, lime juice, salt, ground black pepper, finely minced onions, cilantro and finely minced peppers. It is usually served in a cocktail glass with a lettuce leaf and soda crackers on the side as per Mexico. Popular condiments are tomato ketchup and tabasco. The fish is typically tilapia or corvina although mahi-mahi, shark and marlin are popular.
In the Philippines, ceviche is known as kinilaw or kilawin, and is prepared in a very similar fashion to the Latin American style: the raw fish is marinated in white coco vinegar, calamansi lime juice, chillies, onions, bell peppers, salt and julienned fresh ginger. The most common fish used is Spanish mackerel, but Filipinos make kinilaw from many other types of seafood, including oysters, shrimp, and whitebait. This is an example of "fusion" cuisine, as the preparation style was most likely influenced by trans-Pacific trade with Spaniards coming from the Americas and Europe.