Summer is one of my favorite seasons of the year for three reasons: the sun, the beach, and seafood. (Emphasis on the seafood.)
My maternal grandfather was a sea salt miner in the small beach town of Cuyutlán, in Colima, Mexico. Each time we sat down to ceviches and aguachiles finished with sea salt from Colima, was always a sweet reminder of his hard work, and the many stories and adventures my mom had growing up on the coast.
Aguachile (“chile water”) is very similar to ceviche, though different in preparation. The dish originated in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico a state known for cheesy shrimp tacos gobernador, ceviche de sierra, and spicy aguachiles. There’s three main variations: aguachile verde, aguachile rojo, and aguachile negro—and, like most cuisine in Mexico, aguachile is very regional, so within these three there are limitless variations. Aguachile verde is typically made with raw shrimp tossed in a light broth of water, cilantro, cucumber, fresh lime juice, and jalapeno or serrano peppers; served on a bed of cucumber slices, avocado, and red onion.
The rojo and negro aguachile variations rely on different peppers and charred ingredients to yield a resultantly red or black-hued aguachile. In my take here, oil- and nut-based salsa macha serves double duty—bringing that characteristic moody hue, but also lending watery crisp aguachile some heat and richness via chiles de arbol, fried garlic, and soy sauce. Although we aren’t able to travel and enjoy trips to the beach this year, a sprinkle of sea salt holds so much power for me. It’s able to instantly transport me back to those black sandy beaches in Cuyutlán where we love to sit under ramadas to feel the cool sea breeze and enjoy an aguachile with an ice cold Colimita, the place where mi abuelito once used to work the sea. —Esteban Castillo
- Prep time 33 minutes
- Cook time 4 minutes
- Serves 4 to 5
large fresh shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
large fresh scallops, side muscle removed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 1/2 cups
cups plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided
chiles de arbol, destemmed (use 8-10 for more heat)
medium cucumbers, sliced
red onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tostadas or tortilla chips, for serving
- In a large bowl, gently mix together the shrimp and scallops, then pour in 1 1/2 cups lime juice, making sure everything is completely submerged. Set this aside to cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and the scallops white and opaque.
- While the shrimp and scallops cook, make the salsa. In a small saucepan over medium-heat, heat up the vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the garlic cloves, chiles de arbol and peanuts. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the garlic is nice and golden brown.
- Add the sesame seeds to a small heat-safe bowl, then pour the infused oil, garlic, and peppers over, and let cool completely. Once the oil has cooled, pour this mixture into a blender with the soy sauce, and blend for 10-15 seconds, or until everything is broken down but not completely smooth.
- Once the shrimp and scallops are fully cooked through, drain off the excess lime juice, set the scallops aside and add half of the salsa mixture. Toss the shrimp to coat well.
- Once you are ready to plate, stack the sliced cucumber around the perimeter of the plate, then place the shrimp and scallops in the center. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice over the cucumber slices, and dollop the remaining salsa onto the shrimp. Top with the sliced red onion, salt and pepper to taste, and serve with tostadas or tortilla chips.