Do you see this truck?
Here, let me help you. This truck…
This is one of the handful of Hugo’s Ceviche trucks dispatched from the brick and mortar restaurant on 7a calle to set up shop on several of the busier streets in La Antigua, Guatemala on any given Friday thru Sunday. From about 10am to 3pm, they sell several varieties of ceviche, including camarón (shrimp), concha (conch) and caracol (snail), served in plastic containers with saltines . It’s pretty reasonably priced (a quart of ceviche with 4 types of seafood costs about $11 bucks) and guatemaltecos come from all over to sit on plastic stools on the uneven, broken sidewalks of Antigua to eat and chat and joke with the chavos who work the truck. I have heard it’s some of the best ceviche in Guatemala. Have I tried it? Nope.
This is because they serve something better than ceviche. The best thing on this mobile ceviche-ladened Ford is not a food, but a drink, a picocita.
Now, a picocita is a another one of those fun beer-combined-with-other-ingredients combo, like a chelada or a michelada, but better. It starts with a beer, usually Gallo Draft, which is produced in Guatemala but sold dirt cheap in Mexico. I have heard that to obtain it in Guatemala, one usually needs to import it illegally… Anyhow, you start with a Gallo Draft in a small paper bag. The bartender/ceviche slinger will ask you to take a few sips before the magic begins. Then you hand your Gallo back, he lines them up and fills them with ingredients in this order – a spoonful of salt, a spoonful of chile/chopped onion mix, a generous squeeze of lime, a generous squeeze of Worcestershire sauce and another good dose of lime juice. This concoction is handed back to you, the paper bag wet from collecting condensation from the (normally) ice-cold Gallos, to be enjoyed once again on those plastic stools on the uneven, broken sidewalks of Antigua.
Rarely did a weekend pass by in Antigua without picocitas. On Saturday or Sunday mornings, maybe after a long night at the bar the night before, I would get a text from Morgan or Nate (or both) asking…
Morgan and Nate are two of my dearest friends in Antigua. We met one mild and lovely December night in the bar I was working at, and except for a brief wrong-number snafu, we have basically been inseparable ever since. About a month ago, with all of our departures imminent, we made it our mission to spend as much time together as possible. Impromptu luncheons at the San Juan house and beach trips and wine-bar outings and slurping caldo in the mercado to cure nuestras resacas (our hangovers), there are few memories from the last thirty days that don’t involve these two. On the weekends, just in time for picocitas, Morgan’s boyfriend Jose (aka Brócoli) joins us and after a few cans, we are feeling pretty darn good.
How good? Good. Good enough to pose for photos in the brilliant Guatemalan light. Good enough to hang out with a pug in a blue apron with a bow. Good enough to have matching friendship bracelets made (which I have not even considered wearing since about 1999). Good enough to attempt a sun salutation – in a dress – on one of those broken sidewalks of Antigua.
Our last picocita together in Guatemala was a bittersweet one. The chavo at the truck didn’t even wait for us to order. He just handed us four beers, which we gladly accepted and drank our required two to three sips and handed them back. He knew our order and executed appropriately – three extra spicy, one with less salt. We stood there on that broken sidewalk in Guatemala sipping our picocitas a little less merrily than on past weekends. All of us were off to different parts of North and Central America. Me to New York, then Maine. Nate on a motorcycle road trip to Panama and then back to the States for school. Morgan to Canada for vacation then back to Guate and Brócoli again. It’s a sad thing, saying that ‘so long, see you in a minute’ goodbye, but every time I make picocitas this summer and well into the fall, I will think of Morgan and Nate and Brócoli, our ceviche truck on that broken sidewalk in Antigua and all the crazy memories that stemmed from those cans of illegal Gallo Draft.
Active time: 5 minutes, inactive time: 30 minutes; Serves 4
1/4 small onion
1 jalapeño pepper
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 cans Mexican or Guatemala (good luck find that) beer, like Corona or Dos Equis
Chop onion and jalapeño very fine (if you have a mini food processor, you can use this). Mix with 1/4 cup white vinegar and water, mix and let set for 30 minutes or overnight.
Open beers. Pour out or have your guests take three sips to make room for ingredients. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less, if you prefer) onto the rim. Spoon 1 tablespoon or more onion and chile mixture onto rims and into can. Cut one lime in half and using a citrus press or juicer, divide juice among cans. Add one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce onto each rim. Cut and squeeze one more lime and divide juice between cans. Let your guests mixture on their own, eat the chile and onions first, lick the Worcestershire sauce first – with picocitas, anything goes. Enjoy!
Evidence of Picocita Revelry