Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

Escabeche is a dish of fried fish (usually whole) cooked in "sweet" vinegar sauce that is seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger and peppercorns. The acidity if vinegar is tamed with the addition of sugar. The taste of the sauce is similar to the sweet and tart taste of the pickling juice used for acharang papaya or pickled green papaya. Carrots and sweet peppers are usually added to the dish.  Escabeche is served with steamed rice as a main dish. It could be served for lunch and dinner.

There are several varieties of fish that can be used like tilapia, tuna, snapper, carp or mackerel. The dish requires whole, round or drawn fish. Fish steak or fish fillet can also be used. The latter requires dredging the fish meat with flour before frying.

From our recent trip to the Asian store in Orlando where we got several whole tilapia, I decided to prepare escabeche for dinner. This is how my grandma and mom prepares the dish:


  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-2 lbs. whole tilapia (cleaned and scaled)*
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large carrot, julienned or cut in florets
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • parsley (to garnish)*

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan over high heat. Fry the fish until golden brown. Set aside.
  2. In a separate saucepan,  bring vinegar to a slow boil.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, peppercorns and sugar.  Cook for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add carrots, onion and bell peppers. Stir and cook until tender.
  5. Season with salt. 
  6. Put the fried fish in the pan and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
* When using fish steak or fillet of tuna and mackerel, make sure to dredge the fish with flour first before frying it.
* Chopped scallions can also be used to garnish the dish.

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