There is precedent of Mexico being group leader at the FIFA World Cup, and that is the current situation of the Mexican team, after the final score of 2-1 against South Korea last Saturday, combined with Germany’s 2-1 victory over Sweden. Which two, out of these four teams, will qualify for the next round, will be determined this Wednesday, June 27, when Germany plays against the Republic of Korea, and Mexico faces Sweden. To get inspiration for my third World Cup fusion recipe, I checked “The Official Site of Sweden” where, amongst the top ten things to know about Swedish food, pickled herring (sill) and crispbread (knäckebröd) were second and third, respectively. Then, I found a recipe with a light approach on sommarsill (summer pickled herring with vegetables), served on round crispbread. When I saw the photo at the top of the recipe, showing shredded carrots and finely sliced onions pickled in vinegar along with the fish, and served on crispy and thin rounds, I immediately thought of tostadas de ceviche de sierra, a traditional preparation from the Northern Pacific Coast of Mexico, consisting of raw fish in lime juice (ceviche) and served on crispy tortillas (tostadas); what makes it unique is that the fish meat is ground, not chopped, and mixed with … shredded carrots and onions! I learned to make this dish while visiting one of my brothers in the – then – small town of San Blas, in the Mexican state of Nayarit; he lived there working as a teacher for many years, and one time, my mom and I went to visit him together (literally last millennium.) One evening, he had bought freshly caught sierra (a type of mackerel), cleaned and sliced it into two filets, and proceeded to scrape the meat off the filets with a spoon, while my mom and I shredded carrots and onions. A generous amount of lime juice cooked the ground fish, and after mixing with the vegetables, my brother served his creation on tostadas, with a splash of Huichol™, a local bottled red sauce … ‘sigh’ images of beautiful beaches, “La Tovara” National Park, and cachoras (Lepidodactylus lugubris, translucent lizards) come naturally to mind when reminiscing about San Blas …
Back to my fusion recipe, both the Swedish and Mexican dishes call for fish, carrots, and onions pickled in an acidic medium, and are served on a thin crispy round. Since I was not sure I could find raw fish that would be fresh enough for ceviche, using pickled herring was the logical choice; I bought the simplest flavour I could find, without additional herbs or cream, just white wine and onions:
For balance, I chose tostadas as the base. I saw some crispbread from Finland at the supermarket, not round though, but I still got a package, just to compare texture and thickness with the tostadas:
Both dishes used shredded carrots and onions, so they remained as the common ingredients, while seasoning with lime juice and bottled red sauce gave my creation its final Mexican touch.
Sommarsill Tostadas – Pickled Herring and Vegetables on Crispy Tortillas
6 large carrots, washed, peeled and shredded (about 4 cups)
½ red onion, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 jar pickled herrings
Cucumber and avocado, thinly sliced
Bottled red sauce, such as Huichol™, Tapatío™, or Red Hot™
Mix carrots and onions with lime juice, and season with salt; cover and refrigerate for 1 hour:
Meanwhile, drain herring and chop very finely, as well as some of the onions from the jar; set aside:
If packaged tostadas are not available, day-old corn tortillas may be lightly brushed with vegetable oil, and baked in a 400°F (205ºC) oven, just until crispy. I very briefly baked the tostadas in the oven anyway, to freshen up their taste from the package. To assemble: top each tostada with some of the carrot mix and chopped herring. Decorate with cucumber, avocado, and a pinch of pickled onions. Serve with the bottled sauce, salt, and lime wedges on the side:
Fun Facts: Back in 1958, Mexico and Sweden played against each other for the first (and only) time at a World Cup, with a final score 3-0 for Sweden. Mexico was eliminated in the first round, but Sweden made it to the final, finishing as runner-up after losing 2-5 against Brazil. Also unprecedented, Sweden was the host nation, and the legendary Brazilian player Pelé (aged 17 that year) made his debut at a World Cup.
Fast-forward to 2018, will Mexico be able to turn the tables around, sixty year later?
“Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba … Mexico, Mexico, rah, rah, rah!”