Ceviche is a raw seafood dish that has Polynesian, Central and South American origins. The common ingredients are lime juice, chilies, onions and raw seafood. Here in Sabah, the Kadazan tribe has a raw fish dish called hinava that is very similar to ceviche. I have posted on hinava before but those posts were in the early days of this blog when my photos didn't do justice to the appetising dish.
The king mackerel, abundant in the waters around Borneo Island, is the most commonly used fish for hinava. People are getting more innovative and my friend F made a pork hinava recently. I couldn't tell that it was pork. I thought it was overcooked mackerel because it tasted coarser than usual. I never make hinava unless I'm very sure that the fish is caught by amateur anglers whom I (or my friends) know, to reduce the risk of getting chemically-preserved fish. King mackerel straight from the sea is very savory sweet and lime juice makes it even more delicious.
Hinava can bring your jaded taste buds back to life. This dish can be made in 5 minutes because there's no cooking at all. Make sure the fish is very fresh. Apart from contaminants, raw fish can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites which I don't have to (but still do) tell you can make you seriously ill. Just so I feel less uneasy about consuming raw fish, I do a quick blanch of the fish before marinading it with lime juice. The acid in citrus juice turns the fish an opaque white, almost like it's been cooked. You can blanch the fish longer but the 'mouthfeel' will be coarser and the fish can break up too finely. In fact, the fish is usually cut into small pieces and mashed up so that the fish is well-seasoned but I don't like that flaky mushiness. Cutting the fish into very small pieces increases the surface area so that the boiling water and the acid of the limes can max their effect. If you can't get dried grated bambangan seeds, it's okay. The seeds don't have much flavor but they do give the dish a salty-savory sweet taste. Too much bambangan seed shavings can ruin the dish too, making the fish taste coarse and giving a pull in the mouth.
1) Cut 500 gm of the freshest raw fish into small chunks. The larger the chunks, the more raw the dish. Traditionally, the fish is cut smaller than that in the photo but I prefer a chunkier bite. Pour boiling water over the fish (enough to more than cover), stir and immediately drain it. You can skip this step if you prefer a totally raw dish. Mix the fish with juice from 4 to 5 large limes. Cover and leave 10 minutes in the fridge.
2) Slice 200 gm (more or less, to your liking) bittergourd very thinly and rub in 1/2 t salt. Wait 15 minutes. Wash the salt away twice and squeeze all the water out. Sorry no photo.
3)Prepare the other ingredients: chop or slice into small bits 2 to 3 bird's eye chilies, 3 small red shallots, 1/2 T of very fine julienned ginger, 2 large chilies and 1 to 2 T dried grated bambangan seed (use less and add more later if needed).
4) Mix everything together in a large bowl. Season with more bambangan seed shavings, lime juice and salt if like. Chill until ready to serve.
5) Here's your bowl of hinava:
Traditionally, the fish is mushed up to blend the ingredients and seasoning and tastes good if you like flaky mushiness.
Salmon hinava (overload of bambangan seed gives a coarse, 'pull the mouth' feel).