The Happy Home Cook: Escabeche (Sweet-and-Sour Fish)

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 Escabeche (Source: Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2013))

Escabeche (Source: Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2013))

This dish has Spanish roots. The original Iberian version kept cooked fish in a seasoned sauce of wine or wine vinegar overnight. The Chinese interpretation, however, became the Filipino prototype: fried batter-dipped fish soaking in a freshly made sweet-and-sour sauce redolent with ginger strips, red pimiento and carrot flowerets [Felice Sta. Maria, The Governor-General’s Kitchen]. In Samar and Leyte, fish is first fried and served in a sauce that more sour than sweet, almost paksiw-like (vinegar-braised), but tinted yellow with turmeric.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 lapu-lapu (grouper) fillets (140 g each)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp (30 g) all-purpose flour
6 tbsp (90 ml) oil for frying, divided into 2 portions
4 cloves (20 g) garlic, slivered
1 small (60 g) onion, sliced
1 thumb-sized (15 g) ginger, peeled and julienned
1 tbsp (20 g) shredded green pepper
1 tbsp (20 g) shredded red pepper
1/2 tsp (2 g) ground turmeric
1/3 cup (100 ml) vinegar
1 tbsp (20 g) sugar
1/3 cup (100 ml) fish stock

Preparation:

Season the fillets with salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour.

Cooking:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a frying pan and fry the fish until cooked through. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  2. Wipe the pan, put back on the heat, then add the remaining oil. Saute the garlic, onion, ginger and peppers for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, vinegar, sugar and fish stock and bring to the boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  3. Just before serving, add the fish fillets to the sauce in the pan and cook for a minute, then transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

Serving suggestion:

Serve fillets on individual plates on in one large serving plate. Pour the sauce and the vegetables over the fish just before serving.

Tips:

It is a good idea to serve the sauce on the side or to pour it over the fish at the last minute so the fish stays crisp. Firm white-fleshed fish, such as tilapia, works well in this dish.

From Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, Expanded Second Edition (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2013)