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Lionfish Ceviche

10 April 2016

I made a resolution last year to eat more fish.  Being a lawyer, I sometimes get obsessed with targets, so I set myself a target to eat fish. Initially it was 75 fish in the year (i.e. 1.5 times a week) but after some heckling from friends I increased it to 100 fish in the year.

Now, I’ve never had a good relationship with eating fish. In part it’s because I don’t like the taste, I even went so far as to claim that I was allergic to fish for some time, just in case anyone thought they would try to convince me to like it.  I think it was in part because my parents never cooked fish, other than cod and parsley sauce, which I’m sure would put most people off fish.

But it’s also the ethical reasons…I won’t get into those here.  

Anyway, I had decided to eat more fish, I had also started Lionfish culling (see here).  That was an obvious answer to my moral objections, the Lionfish are an invasive menace that damages the ecosystem of Cayman, and provided a handy answer to my taste one as well.  There has been a major drive in Cayman and other parts of the Caribbean to encourage people to eat Lionfish – humans have wiped out plenty of other species this way…

The flesh is white and firm, with a neutral taste.  We have tried it in coconut flour and blackened. Some restaurants in Cayman, such as Vivo or Tukka serve it up in sandwiches or a curry, but it can be relatively expensive as it is fairly labour intensive to catch.

However, I’m surprised to say that one of my favourite ways to have it is ceviched – the process of curing sea food in citrus juices.  Cayman also does Conch ceviche but I haven’t dared to try that.

The following is a recipe that works, cured for an hour or so (perfect if prepared on the boat between dives), credit my friend Kent with tweaking the recipe, first seen at

Ingredients: Fresh lionfish cut into 1/2-1cm chunks, fresh squeezed lime, fresh squeezed lemon, red onion finely diced, chopped tomatoes, chili (seeded and finely diced), cilantro, avocado, salt, mango and jalapeno or scotch bonnets, served with tortilla chips.

Those who are experienced (like Kent) can fillet the fish without removing the spines. However, the venom remains in the fish for several hours, so clipping away the spines is sensible. The Lionfish are then quite easy to fillet (not that I have filleted any other fish), but getting all the flesh takes some practice.

Once diced, place the Lionfish in a bowl with all of the ingredients, ensuring that it is covered by citrus juice. Then either do a second dive or treat yourself to a beer while waiting for it to cure and serve with tortilla chips. 

And did I make it to a 100 fish in the year?  Well, no, I only did 79 times, which I count as a success because (a) it exceeds my initial pre heckling goal; and (b) it would be a good score in an exam… and I removed lots of Lionfish! (see 117 Lionfish culled)


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