I had never heard of tiradito before summer 2008. Randy Rucker had returned from Peru and served this tilefish tiradito with lemon verbena, fennel blossoms, and kimchee consomme.
Since then, tiraditos have been popping up on menus around Texas. At Reef, Bryan Caswell has made famous this tiradito of sea bream with blackfin tuna bacon, green apple, and avocado:
In Dallas last week, Stephan Pyles's menu offered three tiraditos, including these two: scallop and Spanish mackerel.
Several Dallas restaurants now serve tiradito. That makes sense. Dallas has one of the many outposts of Nobu. And Nobu has a lot to do with the history of tiradito in America.
what is it?
Tiradito is a Peruvian raw seafood preparation that lies somewhere in between South American ceviche, Italian crudo, and Japanese sashimi.
Typically, the fish is sliced thinly and marinated with lime juice, sometimes ginger, and sometimes hot pepper. Unlike ceviche, it does not use onions. Compared to ceviche, the flavor is delicate, and doesn't overwhelm the fish.
a little background
Tiradito is relatively new. Although the Peruvians traditionally had access to fantastic seafood, they did not like it and rarely ate it. Only in the last half century has any seafood, much less raw seafood, starting appearing on Peruvian menus.
In the early 1970s, Nobu Matsuhisa left his sushi apprenticeship in Japan to help run a sushi restaurant in Peru catering to Japanese immigrants.
It was Nobu who helped popularize the tiradito. And it was Nobu who introduced it to the U.S. when he started opening restaurants here. Ever had that popular dish of yellowtail sashimi with citrus and japalapeno? You can thank Nobu and his brief Peruvian interlude for it.
Unlike most of the U.S., Houston's connection with tiradito is not through Nobu, but direct from Peru. A few years ago, Michael Cordua took some young chefs, including Rucker, to Peru to learn about Peruvian cuisine. Those chefs returned with a lot of ideas about tiradito.
There is not much of a tiradito orthodoxy. So you see a wide range of styles.
The Stephan Pyles's tiraditos were minimalist. The fish was treated delicately, with only a hint of other flavors. It worked, especially with the scallop.
In contrast, Rucker and Caswell's tiraditos are more complex, and perhaps slightly more interesting. In their dishes, the marinated fish is only a component, combined with other ingredinets and flavors.
Like ceviche, most tiraditos highlight raw fish with citrus. But unlike so much ceviche, a tiradito preparation does not use too much onion or sauce to cover up the fish. Tiradito preparation is better than ceviche, and is an interesting Latin alternative to crudo and sashimi.
leche de tigre
At least one other idea Randy Rucker brought back from Peru was leche de tigre. Not for the faint of heart, leche de tigre is the juice byproduct from making a tiradito or ceviche.
Leche de tigre is citrusy, fishy, and spicy. It is rumored to be a good cure for hangover, as well as a boost to, um, potency. It is the kind of drink that will grow hair on your chest. I wish more of these Texas chefs serving Peruvian raw fish also would serve us a shot of this wonderful juice.