Though Peruvians claim ceviche as their national dish, chilled, citrus-dressed seafood is a mainstay in homes and restaurants in Central and South America almost anywhere ocean meets coastline. A knockout ceviche is the result of a delicate balance of heat, salt, acidity, freshness, and crunch. Although it’s widely believed that soaking raw fish in an acidic liquid “cooks” the seafood, it actually just denatures the protein. As with any seafood recipe, it’s essential to use the freshest, most sustainably sourced fish and shellfish you can get your hands on, both for flavor and for the sake of food safety. After you’ve nailed the classic ceviche style in the steps below, have fun playing with different add-ins, toppings, and chips for dipping to create your own signature style. See a full step-by-step guide to making the perfect ceviche.