Peru’s coastline is 1500 miles (2400 km) long and the Pacific ocean here is one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. It’s no wonder then that fish and other seafood are a big part of modern Peruvian cuisine.
Jalea means “jelly” in Spanish so if you’re familiar with the language but not the dish, it’s easy to mistake this for some form of dessert. But this fried, savoury dish is strictly for the main course, starter or appetizer.
And as with other Peruvian seafood dishes, limes play a big part in adding a tangy, bitter bite. In the case of the Jalea, lime juice marinates the accompanying onion, pepper, and corn salad to create a fresh, mildly spicy addition to the rich fish, shrimp, octopus, and squid plate.
The batter is important in Jalea. Simple flour is one option. Beer batter is another. In this recipe, we’re using for cornstarch (the starchy ground powder from corn) but you can go super-Peruvian style and use potato flour (known as chuño).
While cornstarch is flavorless, it’s great for adding a delicious crunchy coating to the chunks of seafood. Trust me when I say that it’s irresistible.
Jalea Peruana is one of the best fried fish dishes one can eat. It’s certainly a popular dish in Peruvian restaurants around the world but it’s not too difficult to make at home. We’ve created an easy-to-follow recipe for jalea that will make you a superstar in the kitchen.
- 700 g white fish fillet we prefer Mahi-Mahi
- 300 g shrimp peeled and shelled
- 8 medium prawns 150 g
- 150 g octopus tentacles
- 150 g squid
- 250 ml vegetable oil
- 1 cup corn starch or chuño flour
For the marinade:
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 cm ginger root
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 juice of lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the accompaniment:
- 2 limes
- 3 peppers
- 1 purple onion 50 g
- ½ cup corn kernels
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- Rocoto pepper slices to decorate
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 or 3 green bananas 250 g
- 1 kg cassava
- 250 ml vegetable oil
Prepare the fish and shellfish:
- Wash the fish thoroughly. Remove the bones and dry well with a kitchen towel. Cut into cubes of approximately two centimeters each and set aside.
- Clean and cut the squid in rings.
- Wash the octopus very well under running water. Remove all the bits of tentacle suction cups. Cut into small pieces and set aside.
- Peel the shrimps. With a sharp knife, open the shrimp loin and remove the dark vein. Rinse, dry and reserve.
- Wash the prawns very well, do not remove their shell because they will be used as adornments in the final dish.
Prepare the seafood marinade:
- Mash the garlic. Peel the ginger and grate it. Then, in a small bowl, mix the mustard, lime juice, salt, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Stir it until you get a homogeneous mixture.
- Pour this mixture over the fish and seafood.
- Preferably keep them separate because they have different cooking times.
- Octopus and squid require 5 to 7 minutes to fry. Fish 3 to 5 minutes and shrimp, maximum 3 minutes.
- Reserve the seafood for at least half an hour while it absorbs the flavor of the marinade.
- Meanwhile, wash the yucca roots and peel them. In a pot, with enough water and a tablespoon of salt, boil the yucca over high heat for at least 30 minutes until they are soft. You will know that they are cooked because they tend to open. Drain the hot water and let them cool. Then open the yucca, remove the hard root from its center and separate them into quarters.
- Peel the bananas and cut them into thin wheel-shaped sections.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil, and fry the bananas, turning on both sides until they are completely golden brown. Remove from the pan and place on a plate with absorbent paper. Repeat this procedure with all boiled yucca roots. Cassava should be cooked beforehand because it is the only way to soften it. You can use the same oil to fry fish and seafood.
- Place the corn starch on a flat plate and add salt and pepper. In twos or threes, dip or roll the pieces of seafood through the corn starch, ensuring that they are completely covered.
- Remove excess starch by shaking a little, and fry until golden brown on all sides. Remember that shrimp should not be cooked for more than 3 minutes.
- Finally, fry the prawns on both sides, approximately two minutes on each side.
- To prepare the salad, finely chop the peppers and purple onion. Mix the onion, chili peppers, cilantro, corn grains, lime juice, vinegar, and salt. Put aside to serve over seafood.
- On a large plate, place the lettuce leaves (optional), the fried yucca roots, bananas, seafood, and fish. Finally, pour the salad over the fish and enjoy!
- If you wish you can add a rocoto pepper for an extra bit of color and flavor.
- Other seafood such as octopus, choros (mussels), and prawns make great alternatives to the main protein.
- You can also use more than one type of fish. Halibut and cod are good choices.
- Julienned tomatoes are a good addition to the salad.
- Add some ground bread to the seafood for an even more crunchy taste.
- Tartar sauce or mayonnaise are perfect sauce accompaniments for Jalea.