Jalea surely is the most delicious and most popular deep-fried fish and seafood dish in Peru and one of the signature dishes of Peru’s northern coastal regions such as Lambayeque and Piura. As so many other Peruvian dishes it seems simple, but don’t be deceived. Jalea is absolutely scrumptious, full of Peruvian flavors, and exactly the right light meal to enjoy on hot summer days.
Peruvian Jalea dates back to the Moche culture which flourished in northern Peru from around 100 to 800 AD. Back in the day, with an abundance of fresh fish and other seafood on their doorstep, the Moche cut their catch into long stripes and dried them in the sun to preserve them for later. The name of this Peruvian fresh and savory treat derives from a Moche food preservation technique (and not from the Spanish word for “jelly”). Anyway, the Moche cooked these fish stripes over open fire, seasoned with aji and the acidic juice of banana passion fruits (limes and lemons only arrived in Peru hundreds of years later with the Spaniards) and most probably served the fish with yuca (cassava), corn, and sweet potatoes or squash.
Over the centuries cooking techniques developed and merged with those from other countries, new fruits and vegetables were introduced to Peru especially by the Spaniards but as well by other immigrants and the way of eating changed.
While in the late 19th century the fish for Jalea was still cooked over fire as over 1500 years ago, but on a grill, and seasoned with aji and lime juice and served with sweet potato, and corn, some time in the 20th century someone had the great idea to bread the fish and deep-fry it. Today’s Peruvian Jalea was born.
So, while there are hundreds of versions of Peruvian Jalea out there, the dish usually consists of breaded and deep-fried fish pieces, such as sea bass, grouper, halibut or cod, and other seafood, such as shrimps, prawns, squid, octopus and scollops which are topped with Salsa criolla and served with fried yucas, sweet potatoes, thick slices of fried plantains or chifles, choclo or cancha as well as additional salsas such as ají criollo, Peruvian mayonnaise and/or rocoto sauce. Absolutely delicious.
And the good thing, preparing Jalea at home is really simple, so we share below our basic recipe which you can, of cause, adapt to your liking. And while I love fried yuca, fried plantains and cancha with it, you could substitute with cooked sweet potato and fried green bananas. Enjoy!
LimaEasy’s Recipe for Peruvian Jalea
- 300g (10oz) firm, white-fleshed fish fillets
- 600g (20oz) seafood such as shrimps, prawns, squid, octopus and scollops; I usually use 300g (10oz) large shrimps and 300g (10oz) squid tubes
- 120ml (0.5 cup) milk
- 130g (1 cup) corn starch (or flour) for coating
- 2 plantains or bananas
- 300g (10oz) yuca (cassava) or sweet potato
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 or 2 (Peruvian) limes
- Oil for frying
- Salsa Criolla
- Thoroughly wash and clean the fish and other seafood. Cut the squid tubes into 2 cm (3/4 in) thick rings. To tenderize your squid rings let them soak for 30 minutes in the milk to which you added a teaspoon of salt. Cut the fish into 2.5 cm wide and 7.5 cm long (1 in x 3 in) stripes. Peel the shrimps and remove the dark vein.
- In the meantime, peel the yuca root with a knife and cut in quarters. Cut off the inner corner of each yuca wedge to remove the woody core and discard it. Cut the yuca into small pieces. Cook in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes.
- While waiting for the squid to tenderize and the yuca to be cooked, prepare your Salsa Criolla and peel the plantains and cut into thick slices.
- Back to the fish and seafood. Remove the squid from the milk and let drain. Then season the fish and seafood with salt, pepper and lime juice. Coat the fish and seafood with the corn starch (or flour). Shake off excess starch.
- Preheat oil and deep-fry the fish and seafood in batches until golden brown. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.
- In another pan preheat oil and fry the yuca pieces until crisp and the plantain slices until golden brown. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.
- To serve nicely arrange the fried fish, the fried yuca and the fried plantains slices on a large serving platter. Top with the Salsa Criolla and add the fried seafood. Drizzle a bit of lime juice over the Jalea and serve immediately with aji amarillo sauce, Peruvian mayonnaise and some canchas.