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Ceviche cures missing-Guatemala blues with its cilantro, Picamas flavors

Leah Purcell of Tampa spent most of her youth in Guatemala. She recaptures the flavors she enjoyed as a child with her ceviche, which includes crab, mango, tomato, onion and cilantro.


Leah Purcell of Tampa spent most of her youth in Guatemala. She recaptures the flavors she enjoyed as a child with her ceviche, which includes crab, mango, tomato, onion and cilantro.

WHO: Leah Purcell, 23, of Tampa, warehouse manager and customer service representative at

WHAT: Ceviche

ABOUT THE RECIPE: Leah Purcell is a child of two cultures. Although she was born in America, she spent most of her childhood in Guatemala with her missionary parents. "Growing up in two different cultures, it's difficult because it's like you're making your own culture," she said. "It is very cool to have that background, though."

Now back in the states, she still aches for Guatemala — especially the food. She craves the flavors from her childhood. "(Guatemalans) put lime, salt, cilantro on everything," she said. One way she re-creates those flavors is by making ceviche, a meal she associates with beach excursions. On hot days, many Guatemalans enjoy the seafood dish while lounging on the dark, lava-enriched sand.

"It's a nice snack to take because it's pretty healthy and it doesn't really spoil," she said, although she adds that you have to keep it cool.

Ever since she left Guatemala, Purcell has been tweaking the recipe, which she got from her mother. She added Guatemalan hot sauce and mango to make it her own. Purcell's version uses uncooked shrimp or imitation crab. Traditional ceviche incorporates raw seafood that is "cooked" with citrus juice.

For Purcell, cooking is a creative art. She enjoys experimenting with spices and says she often likes to "throw things in and see how it comes out."

TIPS: "The key is to put in a lot of cilantro to give it taste," she said. The Worcestershire sauce is "essential" to give it an extra kick, along with the Picamas sauce. Picamas is a traditional Guatemalan hot sauce that can be purchased online at Amazon or found at some local Latin-American stores. It comes in green and red, but Purcell recommends the green.

ON THE SIDE: In Guatemala, ceviche is often served with saltine crackers. Purcell suggests that you could also serve the dish over a bed of fresh spinach, or with sliced avocado on the side.

Emily Young, special to the Times

If you have a recipe that you would like featured, or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, email with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Or mail to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.



1 pound diced imitation crab (leg style) or small, uncooked and peeled shrimp

8 limes (for shrimp only)

1 mango, sliced

5 plum tomatoes

½ white onion

3 to 4 celery stalks

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 to 4 teaspoons Picamas (Guatemalan hot sauce)

Handful of fresh cilantro

If using shrimp, place it in a large bowl and squeeze lime juice over it. Marinate for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that it is immersed in the juice. If using imitation crab, skip this step. The juice "cooks" the seafood.

Slice mango. Dice tomatoes, onion and celery. Combine ingredients in a separate bowl, adding Worcestershire sauce, Picamas and cilantro. Transfer the mix into the shrimp bowl, folding gently. (If using crab, stir pieces into mixture.) Serve chilled. Serves 6.

Source: Leah Purcell of Tampa

Ceviche cures missing-Guatemala blues with its cilantro, Picamas flavors 04/02/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:59pm]
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