The group of us who headed to Baja California were a motley food crew with a food journalist, a few artisans, and a chef who served me my first aguachile. So, it was only fitting that we stopped and tried every aguachile we came across.
On our second day, we started out at the Mariscos El Paisa street stand to get a taste of Sinaloan aguachile or aguachile verde. Now, I'm not the master coctelero that these guys were so by now means is this their exact recipe. But, I recreated my favorite parts of the dish to make a shrimp aguachile and, suffice it to say, it's going to edge out ceviche for this summer's go-to party snack.
Though tacos are top of mind when you think of archetypal Mexican street food, you'll find tons of seafood dishes being served by street vendors when you're traveling near the coast.
And sooner or later, you'll come across aguachile. Not only is this raw seafood dish uber-popular because it's tasty but also it's said to be a go-to for many a Sinaloan Cuando Esta Crudo or when they have a hangover. The more time we spend in Mexico the earlier and earlier we find ourselves ordering aguachile though we have yet to test its validity as a hangover cure!
At first glance, aguachile (pronounced "ah-gwah-chee-lay") looks like ceviche but there are a few subtle differences. Before we get into those, let's talk about its origin story.
Aguachile is a raw marinated seafood dish that is said to originate in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa. Best known for the beach town, Matzalan, Sinaloa has a unique position that means its coastline crosses from the Sea of Cortez into the Pacific Ocean. And that means that seafood is a major player in the classic foods from the region.
There is a long-standing friendly food rivalry between Sinaloa and the neighboring state of Nayarit as to who has better seafood dishes. We don't really like to engage in that because both regions have seriously delicious classic recipes. But of all the local recipes, aguachile is at the top.
If you look up the definition of aguachile, you'll often see it called a ceviche, which I get because, like most ceviches, it's raw seafood that gets tossed with citrus juice. But, while most ceviche recipes let the seafood sit in the citrus so that it "cooks," aguachile is served as soon as it's assembled.
And, as the name suggests, aguachile (translating to "chili water") is supposed to be a spicy dish. Traditionally, this is made with the teeny but very spicy chiltepin peppers but they can be hard to find.
ends trimmed and seeds removed
trimmed and sliced paper thin
trimmed and sliced paper thin
pitted and thinly sliced
Prepare The Shrimp: Use a sharp paring knife to split the peeled shrimp half lengthwise and discard any veins. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle all over with salt, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Bake The Tostadas: Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Brush both sides of tortillas with 1 tablespoon of the oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Make The Aguachile: Meanwhile, combine chilies, lime juice, water, and cilantro with a pinch of salt in a blender and blend until thoroughly blended. Toss shrimp with chili-lime marinade and onion and return to refrigerator another 2 hours. Mix in cucumber, season once more with salt and pepper.
Serve right away with tostadas and avocado.
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