One of the must-do food experiences of Central America, and more typically South America is Ceviche. I love the delicate saltiness and sharp acidity that accompanies the sweet flesh of locally caught fish and shrimps, and I have often enjoyed it, albeit decadently in several good restaurants in London, notably at Pied à Terre; a Ceviche of Mackerel with Carrot and a myriad of citrus notes that lingered in my mouth for ages. My first experience of this dish in Central America on the other head was far more rustic, and the flavours packing a far more aggressive punch.
The restaurant is a famous pit-stop for hungry townies heading south to the sultry, volcanic beaches of Monterrico on the Guatemalan Pacific coast. Served up with a bowl of lime halves, Gallo Beer (the national beer of choice), a 'mixed' ceviche appeared featuring clam, conch, shrimps, a white fish (similar to Dorado), crab meat and two rather unpalatable ingredients which were discovered half way through eating - bovine spinal cord and bull's testicles! Yikes. With one raw and jelly-like, and the other staring malevolently at me, daring to be eaten, my appetite quickly diminished as my thoughts turned from succulent seafood to squeamishness. Steamed herb Tomales took the edge off, as did a delicious fish and shellfish soup that we shared that was full of meaty fishyness and lightly spiced with chillies and a sweet tomato broth. In the end the soup was the star turn, and yielded tasty morsels of fish that were poached perfectly, along with mussels, giant shrimps and a tasty little crab that really saved the day.