Our mission to find the best aguachile in Mazatlán

Aguachile is a chili-spiked Mexican ceviche that's not for the faint of heart. Read about our journey through Mazatlán in search of the best aguachile!

Aguachile is a chili-spiked Mexican ceviche that's not for the faint of heart.
English 10/11/2016 21:34 Natalia de la Rosa Hilario Mazatlán, Sinaloa Actualizada 21:42
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The temperature is above 86 degrees on this warm and sunny autumn day on the coast of Mazatlán and I'm enjoying a stroll up and down the city's main boardwalk, one of the biggest in the country and in the world. I finally make it to Mazatlán's Pacific Pearl and I'm welcomed by the city's peculiar taxis. The best way to describe them is as golf carts that were turned into taxis. A radio at the taxi station is blasting a typical Mexican corrido and one of the drivers is singing and humming at the top of his lungs. You can sense his lively spirit that's typical in Maztlán and it becomes contagious; I almost want to join him and sing along with him, but I don't actually know the words to the song.

Then I remember why I came to Mazatlán in the first place: I'm here to find Mazatlán's famous aguachiles, which is a chilli-spiked Mexican shrimp ceviche that's one of Sinaloa's most famous dishes.

Chapter I. It all begins on a boat

To discover the famous shrimp Aguachile from Sinaloa, we interviewed crew members of the commercial shrimp trawler the Pesca Siglo XXI. “A fishing trip usually lasts around 35 days at a time,” we're told by Don Guillermo Alonso Félix, the trawler's director. “These boats stay near the coast, two to three miles at the most. We do our work while always following the rules: we respect species-primarily sea turtles-, protected zones and nature reserves. We do not work in the Santa Margarita bay because whales go there to mate, just as an example.

For Sinaloans, fishing is an important source of revenue and employment. In the 2015-2016 season alone, approximately 790,000 tons of catch was reported. One shrimp trawler consists of a maximum of 8 crew members: the captain, operator, helper, marines and the “turkeys, which are the apprentices of the trade,” said don Memo.  

This season has been a little slow. According to don Guillermo, “we're just recovering from the El Niño phenomenon, where sea temperature rises one or two degrees and affects the population of wildlife, including shrimp.” However, during the 6 month-long season, the trawlers haul in ton after ton of all kinds of shrimp: brown shrimp, white shrimp and blue shrimp. Blue shrimp, according to don Memo, is the top export, “gringos love blue shrimp, and the Sinaloa coast is the best place for this kind of shrimp, which is also the best kind for making aguachile.” 

After our conversation, we headed over to the dock, where all the boats unload their catch. Here, brown shrimp-the most plentiful this season-are unloaded in plastic crates, headless, because “that's how foreigners like them.” They are then frozen to preserve their freshness. After enjoying a small feast of shrimp, crab, aguachile and cevice in the boat's small blue kitchen, we learn about how shrimp are processed: the shrimp is unloaded from the boat; washed in cold, fresh water; they're classified by species and weight; and lastly, they're frozen in quick freezing line. It can't get any fresher than that. 

Chapter II: Aguachile and ceviche

Eating in Mazatlán means wandering the streets from one ceviche stand to the next. Many of them, thanks to their success, have gone from being small street stands to formal businesses. Ceviche in Maztlán is usually garnished with a variety of spicy red salsas and the ingredients are usually basic: tomato, red onion, avocado, cucumber, lemon and salt. You can eat your ceviche with saltines, tostadas.

El Changuirongo, El Beto and Los Polines are ceviche stalls that are still curbside but that now have their own formal restaurants inside. The menus at these classic gems include aguachiles, which is a simple ceviche of cucumber, tomato, red onion, shrimp and, the special touch, a very spicy lemon juice. You can also order all kinds of dishes that include shrimp, octupus, abalone. Surely many Mazatlán adventures end in a corrido. I'll have to find one that suits the moment about the sea and all its abundance. Viva Sinaloa!

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aguachile ceviche Sinaloa
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