Tiger’s Milk – Glass I

2010.Mar.19 Friday · 4 comments

in Food & Recipes, Restaurants

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called “wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.

from Sleeper (1973)

This is going to be a series of posts split over time. It is my search for the best leche de tigre, tiger’s milk, a Peruvian specialty that is closely related to ceviche. At its simplest it is merely the juice found at the bottom of the receptacle used for mixing up the ceviche – the lemon, salt, herb and chili mingled with the juices drawn off the seafood, and served up in a small glass ranging from shotglass size on up, and oft-times used as a hangover cure. But it can also be what amounts in many ways to a soup version of ceviche – more liquid than fish and shellfish, but all the same ingredients. It is, to my mind, the essence of Peruvian coastal cookery – the fresh flavors of the sea blended with all the spices and herbs that make the cuisine what it is.

Just as a side note, there is also a leche de pantera that is made the exact same way, but uses as its seafood base the concha negra, the Black Ark (Anadara tuberculos), a mollusc that I shall leave you to research should you want, but which results in this preparation in a leche that is a muddled dark grey in color, hence the name. To the best of my knowledge concha negra are not available here in Buenos Aires, so I doubt anyone makes a leche de pantera. You can see an example of the ceviche about mid-way down this post from a visit to Lima. So let’s start off with three completely different versions:

Somos Peru - leche de tigre

Somos Peru, Corrientes 2345, Piso 1º, Local 27 Moved to corner of J.E. Uriburu & Viamonte, and then shortly thereafter, closed, Once

A whopping bowl of the stuff for a mere 18 pesos in February 2010. This is not the simple shotglass hangover cure, but a meal in itself. Plenty of fish and a bit of chopped calamari. Nice and spicy with fresh red chilies, nice balance of lemon and salt. Oddly, no cilantro, instead, a whole lot of chopped celery leaves to flavor it – unusual – celery, finely diced is used in ceviches in the Trujillo, Peru area as a common addition, though usually the stalks and just a small amount. This was ever a bit too heavy on the celery flavor as well as ginger, another condiment that should be used sparingly in this dish. ★★

Mamani - leche de tigre

Mamani, Agüero 707, Abasto

At the other end of the spectrum in style, though still a decent quantity, probably an 8 ounce glass (which seems skimpy at 24 pesos until you try it), this is a thick, rich, creamy version of the dish – in fact, I’d venture to say that they’ve added cream to it to thicken it up, Henry says that milk is not an uncommon addition, but with all that citrus, I’d think milk would simply curdle, whereas cream takes on a sort of sour cream texture, which this had. Either way, it’s outrageously good, packed with a mix of fish, squid, bay scallops, shrimp and even a bit of shredded crabmeat. You can order it mild, normal or spicy, when I ordered the last, picante, our waitress just looked at me, blinked, and said, “I’ll bring you the normal,” to which Henry piped in with, “no, really, bring him the picante, he likes spicier than we do.” She did, and it was delicious, and just the right amount of heat for me – if there’s any negative it’s simply that it’s almost too rich and creamy. ★★★★

Sabor Real - leche de tigre

Sabor Real, Guevara 2, Chacarita

This version probably fits more the hangover cure style, though it’s served in a fairly big glass for that – probably a good 10 ounces. It’s nearly all liquid ceviche essence, quite good, a touch too much lemon, or perhaps too little salt, easily corrected. Nice and spicy, with hints of ginger and cilantro. The bits and pieces you see packed into the glass turn out not to be fish or shellfish, other than a few fine shreds, but lots and lots of thinly sliced red onion – too much as far as I was concerned, probably a whole onion in the glass. You can’t see from this angle, but the top is covered with a two deep layer of cancha, salted and toasted corn kernels, which give a nice textural contrast (and helped with the missing salt). The place itself, small and narrow, with a younger staff that seemed bent on deafness – the restaurant was blasting with hard and metal rock and a bit of tecno – interestingly, the clients seem to be all middle aged businessmen or neighborhood folk – someone did finally get them to turn the music down, though not change it. ★★ Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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