The tradition of taking a tasty drink before the main dish is typical in many restaurants around the world. The famous Peruvian Leche de Tigre is one of the must-have beverages in most Peruvian seafood restaurants taken before ceviche.
Leche de Tigre (meaning tiger’s milk) is a ceviche beverage made from raw fish marinated in citrus fruits and spiced with peppers, onions, and other seasonings. Many Peruvian families widely recognize the tiger’s milk as an appetizer, an aphrodisiac, and a cure for hangovers.
This article will tell you all you need to know about the history of the Peruvian Leche de Tigre, how they are made, the recipe variations you could tweak to make your own tiger’s milk, and what it means to the Peruvian people.
What Is Leche De Tigre?
Leche de Tigre translates to the tiger’s milk. It’s a term used in the Peruvian cuisine for a citrus-based marinade used in curing seafood.
The milky liquid could be made alone or come as part of the ceviche juice. There are many variants of it and each is characterized by a unique flavor that could be acidic, spicy, creamy, savory, or fresh.
Leche de Tigre could be made creamier by adding fish pureed or adding milk to balance acid from lime juice. The drink occupies a special place among the Peruvian people because they are believed to be aphrodisiac and cure for hangovers.
It’s no wonder it is listed as one of the 17 Best Peruvian Foods You Have To Try!
The History of the Peruvian Leche De Tigre
The origin of ceviche and Leche de Tigre as part of the seafood is unknown.
However, it’s believed to have originated from Peru, having been brought by the Moorish women from Grenada.
Initially, the name Leche de Tigre referred to ceviche’s juices, meaning the leftover concentrates after marinating raw fish with fresh citrus fruits, spices, and seasoning.
Cooks would make the milky liquid (juices of ceviche) by cutting fresh fish and marinating it for a few hours before serving.
However, things have changed with the modern way of making ceviche.
Now it takes just minutes to marinate fish before serving and does not come with the milky juices anymore. The milky juice is produced independently from fish stock.
Before Leche de Tigre became so popular, people used to take the leftover ceviche juices and transfer it to a cup before drinking.
As it became popular, some restaurants began selling it separately. There are many variations of it as people continue to tweak the recipe to their taste.
Today ceviche and Leche de Tigre are famous across the Americas and Europe, with each country having its unique twist of the original.
Leche De Tigre Variations
Leche de Tigre is a famous drink throughout Peru, and it’s rapidly gaining traction in local restaurants across the United States and the rest of the world.
There are several variations of the Leche de Tigre that have come up over the years.
The main differences come from the flavors, the method of preparation, and a slight change in the recipes used.
Every family in Peru has its recipe, while American chefs have developed their ways of making it for their customers.
The method does not have a standard formula, and you can start from anywhere.
Here are a few variations of Leche de Tigre:
- Japanese ceviche is also known as Tiradito and is almost similar to the tiger’s milk. It is now a popular delicacy inspired by Peruvian influence. It features a raw sashimi tuna draped in lemon juice, orange juice, and spiced with Amarillo chiles. It’s served best with potato chips. The Japanese immigrants in Peru developed it.
- Another variant that differs slightly from the traditional Leche de Tigre is also common and is more traditional with a touch of Peruvian history. The main ingredients include sweet potatoes, sliced onion, corn, and corn nuts for an extra crunch.
- Some cooks make a flavor-rich cocktail by mixing the tiger’s milk with white wine or coconut milk. Others blend fish into the drink to make it creamier. This type of Leche de Tigre has a substantial amount of citric acid. Some chefs prefer adding marinated fish or milk to create a balanced flavor with the spices.
- Another particularly interesting recipe variation is the Latino food website Que Rica Vida, whose recipe entails the use of salmon and avocado to make Leche de Tigre.
Even in Peru, there are many variations of ceviche, depending on the ingredients used. All of them are made from fish.
They are also made using seafood, red meats, vegetables, and crustaceans. Some of the common variants include mixed ceviche, Ceviche de conchas negras, Shrimp ceviche, Octopus ceviche, and Amazonian ceviche.
There are many ways to prepare tiger’s milk. However, Leche de Tigre without the fish, citric fruits, and seasoning are incomplete regardless of how you do it.
Leche De Tigre Means a Lot to Peruvian Nationals
The Peruvian tiger’s milk is popular among the citizens, and it is customary to ask for this drink whenever you visit a Peruvian restaurant.
Leche de Tigre is a highly valued by-product of their ceviche, a national treasure with a holiday declared in its honor.
Every year, June 28th is a national ceviche day in Peru, a day to commemorate ceviche- a dish that has become part of its national heritage.
How to Prepare the Peruvian Leche De Tigre
Preparing a tiger’s milk is a simple process, but many people get confused because there are several recipes.
Different cevicherías have different methods of preparations, and so do various families.
The following are appliances you need to have:
- High power Blender
- A mesh strainer
Here are the ingredients needed:
- 2-3 cups fresh lime juice
- Fresh white fish scaled and chopped or cubed, e.g., fluke, flounder, halibut- contact your local supplier and find out what’s available.
- 1 cup Fish stock
- ½ cup Coarse chopped celery
- Yellow chopped onion
- Three large cloves of thin-sliced garlic
- ½ cup minced or grated ginger
- 4-5 tablespoons sugar
- Habanero pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2-3 cups ice
- Fine cilantro stems, chopped
- Aji limo paste one tablespoon
How To Make Leche De Tigre
Here are the steps on how to make Peruvian Tiger’s Milk:
- You need to set a mesh strainer on a large measuring cup or a bowl.
- Place lime, garlic, the freshly minced ginger, fish stock, garlic, celery, sugar, and habanero in the blender for five minutes. Remember to add ice while blending to preserve the freshness of the mixture. The mixer mixes everything so well that you won’t need further manual mixing. You need to blend until it’s well combined and liquefied.
- Marinate the fresh fish pieces in the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
- Using the mesh strainer, remove the marinade from the fish. Make sure you remove every chunk of solid.
- Add salt, cilantro, and serve. Or, freeze it for 1-30 days. Before using you need to thaw it completely
Note: Blending the fish with the mixture is also acceptable if you want to make the liquid creamier. When storing in a refrigerator, either cool it for just one day or freeze it entirely for a month.
We have covered a lot about Leche de Tigre, its history, how to prepare it, what it means to the Peruvian culture.
Bookmark this article or share it with your friends and family so that you won’t forget to get a glass or two next time you visit a Peruvian Restaurant or perhaps Peru itself.
Are you familiar with Peru’s unique and traditional cooking method? Read Pachamanca, A Peruvian Cooking Method That Rocks.
- Culture Trip: The 10 Best Seafood Restaurants In Lima
- Wikipedia: Peruvian Ceviche
- The New York Times: American Chefs Adopt a Peruvian Staple: Tiger’s Milk
- BBC Good Food: Fish Stock
- Panca: Menu
- Chotto Matte: Menu
- Food and Wine: Tuna Tiradito with Ají Amarillo Leche de Tigre
- Coastal Living: Peruvian Ceviche with Leche de Tigre
- Wikipedia: Cocktail
- Que Rica Vida: Salmon Ceviche with Avocado and Leche de Tigre
- Cuesa: “Leche de Tigre” Lime-Marinated Ceviche
- Saveur: Tiger’s Milk (Leche de Tigre)
- Global Traveler: Peru Ceviche
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