Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Snapper and coconut ceviche

David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

When growing food, I often need to steady my hand to stop picking fruits or vegetables before maturity. If I take a zucchini in flower, it will never see its full potential. Young herbs are more tender and palatable when they are immature, but they don’t offer the same intensity or, for that matter, nutrition. This highlights an interesting quandary that applies to most food items, but it also shows the capacity for each product to be used in different ways through their growth cycle. Broad beans can be eaten from leaf through to flower, in the pod and all the way to mature and dried beans. But to halt them in these early stages can affect yield, so choices must be made mindfully.

Watching and tasting is key to learning how to use ingredients in each stage. Tomatoes or strawberries can replace the acidity of citrus when they are green, but you need to slice them finely or the texture and acidity can become overwhelming. Using both mature and young coconuts is a great way to get texture, but it can also be so coconutty it feels a bit like licking sunscreen.

Making coconut milk is absolutely worthwhile for this recipe. Canned coconut milk is often sweetened and very often contains emulsifiers that give it a very different mouth feel. Mature coconuts provide a hell of a lot more fat than anything that has already been processed, so if you do want to make the milk, don’t skip straight to packet desiccated coconut or you will be left with an insipid liquid. Also, it’s worth spending some time researching the coconut tools that can make the process much more simple than reverting to a fork.

Ceviche is a beautiful dish of South American (or most island nations) origins. More broadly, it’s a dish of seafood that is effectively cured in citrus. Some recipes contain stocks, some oils and coconut, but it is without doubt the most refreshing way to begin a meal.


Serves 4 as a starter

Time: 2 hours preparation + 10 minutes cooking

  • 1 immature coconut
  • 1 mature coconut
  • 200ml ice-cold water
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 50ml fish sauce
  • 20g raw sugar
  • 600g snapper fillets (or a fish of your preference that is suitable to be eaten raw)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 200ml light olive oil
  • 1 bunch curry leaves
  • 2 makrut lime leaves
  • 3 spring onions
  • salt
  1. Crack the young coconut and open it to extract the water. Scoop out the young coconut flesh, cut it into small dice and reserve.
  2. Now crack open the mature coconut (I use the back of a tomahawk) and scrape the mature flesh out using a tool or, worst-case, a fork.
  3. Soak the mature coconut flesh in the coconut water and chilled water for an hour, then blend it all up in an upright blender. Pour this mixture into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid. Make sure you squeeze out every last bit, as the last third is what contains the most fat. Store in a jar for one hour, then scoop off the top third, which is the thickest and most fatty. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar to this coconut cream.
  4. Dice the fish into pieces that are appropriate for the variety. I like slightly oily fish, such as Spanish mackerel, for this style of ceviche. For this fish or tuna, I tend to dice it larger. Snapper I dice about the size of a fingernail.
  5. Roll the fish through the coconut cream mixture and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. While this is resting, dice the garlic finely. Add it to the oil in a small pot and bring this to a high temperature. Agitate the pot regularly to ensure the garlic browns evenly. Just before the garlic turns brown remove the pot from the heat and let it cool.
  7. Once cool, strain the oil off, set aside the garlic, and put the pot back on the heat with the saved oil. Fry the curry leaves until they are vibrant green.
  8. Very finely shred the lime leaves and the spring onion and fold them through the fish mixture.
  9. Add the dried young coconut and check the mix for seasoning. Serve flat onto a plate and top with the fried garlic and curry leaves.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 19, 2022 as "Raw factor".

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