I just got back from a trip to the Pacific coast of Baja California, Mexico. It’s a beautiful place, not the least because it’s home to some of the most mind-blowingly good ceviche tostadas you’ll ever eat. With the luck of geography, a cold current brimming with pristine fish runs straight from Alaska to Ensenada. It’s why lucky locals, high-flying chefs, and culinary travelers like me all line up on a sidewalk in the blazing Mexican sun to get their hands on the best of the best: a cup, a shell, or a crackly tostada from the Ensenada food cart La Guerrerense. It’s the ultimate street food experience.
To be sure La Guerrerense can be a hectic encounter. Be prepared for shouted questions and fast-paced answers – all in Spanish. But be brave. Navigating the hungry crowd and elbowing your way to a spoonful of La Guerrerense’s signature salsa may seem intimidating. But one look at all this fresh local fish and you’ll be happy to stand in line with the rest of us. Once you’ve gotten these treats in hand be prepared for an explosion of flavors as the shell shatters and the toppings fall all over your plate, your hand, and your shirt. These tostadas ceviche de mariscos have been proclaimed among the best in the world by the Sultan of Street Food himself, Anthony Bourdain. For me La Guerrerense is a must stop anytime I’m anywhere near the vicinity of Ensenada, Mexico.
Located on the corner of Lopez Mateo and Alvarado, La Guerrerense is not too far from the cruise ship terminal. So, thanks to the many accolades from across the world, La Guerrerense and her tostadas ceviche de mariscos has become the first stop on many a cruise ship shore excursion. A word of warning, however. Try not laugh when I tell you this, but you have to be careful. A sneaky competitor is trying to steal a bit of the La Guerrerense fame. As you walk along Alvarado from the harbor you’ll come across another food cart with seemingly similar wares. It’s stealthfully called Le Guerrero and the line is quite long with folks, I’m afraid, who had their hearts set on La Guerrerense!
Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell
What to order when you find yourself at the front of the line at the authentic La Guerrerense?is popular and the Sea Snail Ceviche is award-winning. You should also know that La Guerrerense’s most famous tostada is a Sea Urchin Ceviche with clam on top. I get it every time I go. Savory is the only way I can describe it. Deeply, intensely savory. It’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I would love to make this tostada at home. However, there’s no way I could deconstruct the recipe, I don’t even know where to begin. Some things are best enjoyed in their place of origin.
So I choose to offer a recipe as close to La Guerrerense’s Clam Ceviche served on the Half Shell as I can. The La Guerrerense version is pictured above. It’s a perfect balance of flavors – sharp and focused, sweet like the sea – these clams are marinated in lime juice with a hint of chile and cilantro. All elements that already suit my Southern California palate. It’s cool and refreshing and packed with vibrant flavors.
While I wasn’t given a recipe for these clams from La Guerrerense herself, I do feel I did a more than adequate job of recreating her Almejas en Su Concha (Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell) here.
La Guerrerense is open from 10:00–5:00 all week long (except Tuesday). If you’re down that way don’t miss it. GREG