Identify Costa Rican delicacies
September 19, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, and ate fish that appeared to be cooked but wasn't -- it was in some kind of juice that "cooks" the fish. What is this method of cooking called and how is it done? Also, I drank something that night that after a few hours made me feel a little nauseous and was accompanied by hallucinations (like rocks splitting open revealing water and snakes inside). Any idea what I could have drank? And where can I get more of it?
posted by indigo4963 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2008

Most likely the fish was some sort of Ceviche.
posted by pupdog at 9:36 AM on September 19, 2008

Was the drink Ayahuasca? Not sure if Costa Rica is too far north of the Amazon for that to be popular there.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:37 AM on September 19, 2008

Or, as some call it "escabeche". The fish is marinated in citrus, like lime. Plus peppers and seasoning. I am not expert in that dish, but I think it must marinate for quite a long time, as in overnight. Your psychoactive reaction sounds dreadful, but I have nothing to say about it. (Read Castaneda... sounds similar.)
posted by yazi at 9:38 AM on September 19, 2008

It definitely wasn't ayahuasca. You'd have known.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2008

According to wikipedia, the 'national liquor' is Guaro, which you can find at some liquor stores in the States as Cacique. There's nothing I can see about any psychotropic effects, but if it was contraband ,it might have been partially methanol, no telling what you might have seen then.
posted by pupdog at 9:52 AM on September 19, 2008

yazi, if you marinate your ceviche overnight it will become disgusting and mushy. As the wikipedia article correctly says: "Traditional style ceviche was marinated up to 3 hours. Modern style ceviche usually has a very short marinating period."
posted by gnutron at 9:55 AM on September 19, 2008

Escabeche isn't the same dish as ceviche. Escabeche is made with poached, seared or fried fish, which is then marinated overnight and served cool.

Ceviche (or cebiche or seviche) is raw fish, marinated for a few hours in a citrus-heavy mixture that may also include chili, herbs, coconut milk, etc. One common classic is lime, chili, cilantro. The flesh does indeed quickly become firm and opaque similar to being cooked by heat and is often referred to as being "cooked" by acid, though "pickled" is probably a more accurate description. (The squeamish and paranoid should note that this preparation would not kill any parasites in the fish.)
posted by desuetude at 10:12 AM on September 19, 2008

THanks. I did not know difference betw those two terms. I prefer pickled herring and pickled salmon, where the fish stays pickled in a jar but does not get mushy. The pickling medium must be quite different from that used for ceviche.
posted by yazi at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2008

Short of DTs, I've never known alcohol to cause hallucinations. Blurriness and tunnel blindness, yes, but not "rocks splitting open revealing water and snakes inside". My guess is it some kind of psychedelic, maybe indigenous, maybe something like LSD which, let's face it, the CIA have done a wonderful job of exporting to pretty much every corner of the world.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2008

The question wasn't about the safety of eating raw fish, so I didn't go into every imaginable illness associated with uncooked food. I just meant to clarify that fish "cooked" in acid are not actually cooked. I hereby state for the record that, as many menus in the US now note, "eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or seafood poses a health risk to everyone, but especially to the elderly, young children under age 4, pregnant women and other highly susceptible individuals with compromised immune systems. Thorough cooking of such animal foods reduces the risk of illness."

Indigo, Your hallucinations sound magic mushroom-like. Psilocybin mushrooms are certainly used in Latin America, especially Mexico, but also Central America. No idea what sort of ingestion methods are common, but it's not far fetched to imagine some sort of drink preparation.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 AM on September 19, 2008

Could the drink have been mezcal? From agave just like regular tequila, but tastes smokier and supposedly causes hallucinations in large quantities?
posted by clavicle at 12:26 PM on September 19, 2008

When I was in Fiji, we drank a drink called 'Grog' made from the Kava plant. It tasted a lot like tree-bark tea -- not too good. However, Wikipedia says: "Kava's active principal ingredients are the kavalactones, of which at least 15 have been identified and are all considered psychoactive." I'm not sure if this is available in Costa Rica, but sorta sounds like it could give you a similar reaction.
posted by chocolate_butch at 1:37 PM on September 19, 2008

When I was in Costa Rica a while back, I was told that psilocybin mushrooms grow naturally in many parts of the country. The kid we were visiting was friends with a bunch of the locals and told me that at a certain time of year (some time around the rainy season?) his friends would go out and pick tons of them. It's certainly easy to make tea out of shrooms and that would definitely account for your stomach ache and subsequent hallucinations.
posted by friendlyjuan at 8:10 PM on September 19, 2008

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