Crudo is the Italian combination of the two culinary concepts sashimi and ceviche. Obviously, it involves raw seafood and it made with some acidic component, olive oil and sea salt. Ceviche differs in that it’s actually a cooked dish, the cooking coming from marinating seafood in an acidic liquid, usually citrus based. It’s usually cut into smaller pieces or is assembled from various raw seafood such as small shrimps, calamari or small, bite-sized pieces or fresh fish. Crudo, on the other hand, isn’t actually marinated in anything other than olive oil. The acidic component is added at the last minute, whether on the plate or drizzled over the fish or actually applied by the diner fresh from the fruit. Any additional ingredients other than what I outlined are usually limited to some sort of aromatic herb such as basil, parsley or fennel. Also, it’s usually presented more like sashimi, with slightly larger pieces. Ceviche, on the other hand, features smaller cuts of seafood, either diced or cubed in order to facilitate the “cooking process”. It also usually features onion or shallots and can also have additional ingredients. Different regions have different variations, including ingredients like corn, chiles, etc. Sashimi is basically just raw fish, sliced to show off the grain of the fish and is served with minimal accompaniment, i.e. a little sliced daikon, cucumber or ginger and usually is served with a dipping soy-based sauce that might or might not include wasabi.
Crudo is simpler than ceviche and slightly more involved than sashimi.
As more and more chefs discover crudo as a “new”, “fresh” culinary product, the tendency has been to add additional components, or use crudo as an ingredient in a larger dish. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but the key to a successful crudo is two-fold, find the freshest saltwater seafood (because, let’s face it, raw seafood is potentially dangerous), and the KISS concept, Keep It Simple Stupid. The star is the seafood, not the things that you might pile onto it. Well, that and the combination of the olive oil, sea salt and acidic component. It’s almost like a very simple, deconstructed citrus viniagrette, or gastrique. Some chefs also use various vinegars in addition to the citrus juice.
If you keep in mind the simple concept that ceviche is actually a cooked dish and sashimi doesn’t have a “sauce”, but a dipping sauce, it’s easy to keep them separate.
Not many restaurants serve crudo, but who knows? You might encounter it some day and I hope that you get the chance to try it at some point. It’s a fresh, clean dish that is almost a palate cleanser.
Hamachi crudo with avocado