This nectar of the gods arises from the union of the fruit of Peru’s sea along with the best of its land, limejuice and fresh fish, joined by hot peppers and fresh cilantro leaves. The scent and flavor of this marine cocktail come together to bring an ecstasy of flavor to diners.
This is a very particular kind of cocktail given its intense flavor due to the concentrated taste of lime with fish and seasoning. It quickly becomes something you must have. But the little bit of hot pepper is the key to its success.
In our seafood restaurants it is a custom to ask for this dish as a first course. In this way your meal begins with a good foundation that lays the base for a ceviche or a rice with sea food (arroz con mariscos).
Its origin is in the preparation of ceviche. You could say that it is an extension of that dish. People have decided that before eating ceviche people would eat up the cubes of fish and then, with a spoon, scoop up the flavored limejuice that remained.
Since that liquid was so intensely flavored they had the idea of making a cup filled with this juice and enjoy it even more. This way they would not just have a few spoonfuls, after ceviche, they could have a glass full. As a result, this cocktail was born.
At first it was only drunk in the poorest places. Because of the limited investment of funds in acquiring product, initially only a few, crispy pieces of fried cuttlefish would be added. It was served in that way. People converted it into a kind of popular medicine to cure hang over after a night of drinking, thanks to the concentration of seasoning, lime, and fish. It has, after all, a high concentration of phosphorous and calcium which revive the body. That is why they call it a “raise-the-dead” (levanta muertos).
It is also considered an aphrodisiac. Drinking it augments the production of testosterone and we feel filled with energy.
Its popularity grew to such a point that it came to be found all over the country, not just in roadside carts, but also in the most expensive restaurants of Lima. It no longer included the bits of fried cuttlefish. The quality went up when cubes of fish, julienned, onions, and a few shellfish were added. In this way the dish becomes even more amazing.
Of course, the creativity of our chefs and cooks led to variations. You do not find only the classic tiger’s milk of lime; one of yellow aji was also developed. This one uses the past of this very flavorful pepper. Others made one with paste of rocoto peppers along with black clams. It is called panther’s milk because of the color that they clam gives it. Then there is also a gourmet form with olive oil. Although peculiar, this latter is filled with flavor the same as any tiger’s milk.
The height of its consumption comes with summer, the same thing with everything sea related on our coast.
Some cevicherías (ceviche restaurants) make a shot of it complementary in order to draw more guests in. South of Lima, the residents of the beach towns hold competitions to win the title of best tiger’s milk. The events draw a great quantity of people who wish to try glasses filled with flavor.
Thanks to the dreams and work of many Peruvians, these delights are now found on many continents, whether in restaurants or in food trucks. As a result, there is no excuse for not drinking down a tiger’s milk, whether in a luxurious restaurant or in the street, standing in front of a food truck. You too can become revived and leave with that amazing aftertaste that is beyond price.
Leche de Tigre (Tiger’s Milk)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
100 grams of white fleshed, fish fillets
½ cup fish stock
1 cup minced celery
1 limo aji finely minced without seeds or veins.
½ small onion diced in small squares
2 ice cubes
1 tablespoon of minced cilantro
1 teaspoon of ground garlic
Salt and pepper
Place in a blender limejuice, the fish in slices, the fish broth, the aji limo, the garlic, and briefly blend.
Pour into a receptacle to which you add minced cilantro, the ice, minced onion, salt and pepper to taste. Mix.
Serve in glass or cups. You can accompany this cocktail with toasted corn, highland style, or decorate it with shrimp tails and scallops.