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Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

Escabeche made of whole fried fish slathered in a delicious perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce. This recipe requires no deep frying. The sauce is not too sour and not too sweet. Made of pineapple juice, vinegar, and spices. It’s a perfect dish to serve at your family gatherings, New Year, or fiestas.

how to make Escabeche Filipino

Escabeche – Filipino Style Sweet and Sour Fish

Sweet and sour fish is almost always served as a whole fish in the Philippines. In fact, almost all Filipino fish dishes are served as a whole–bone-in, head intact. It just tastes better that way–the flavor is deeper and the fish texture is better. I personally enjoy the whole process of eating it. Yum!

In Filipino, we call the dish Escabeche. Is it of Chinese influence or Spanish? Probably a mix of both?

Escabeche is a popular dish served during festivities and special occasions. While the kids are happily enjoying their fried chicken and spaghetti, the grown-ups are busy having good conversations while deboning and eating the fish.

What is the best fish for Escabeche

In this recipe, I used Asian sea bass or Apahap in Tagalog. Other fishes you can use are Tilapia, Snapper (Maya Maya), Pomfret (Pampano), Grouper (Lapu-Lapu), Barammundi/Sea Bass.

Avoid fishes with too many bones like milkfish (bangus), small whole fish like sardines or galunggong.

Sweet and sour sauce Ingredients

And here’s what you need to make Escabeche:

Ingredients of Escabeche

  • Canned Pineapple juice and Vinegar –  is basically what makes this dish sour and tart. Use pure pineapple juice, not the syrup. For the vinegar, I often use rice vinegar but can also be substituted with apple cider, red and white wine vinegar, cane vinegar, and coconut vinegar.
  • Sugar – the main source of sweetness in this dish. Brown and white sugar can be used alternatively.
  • Ketchup – not only adds the “reddish” color but also a bit of tanginess.
  • Worcestershire sauce and Oyster Sauce – are the two secret ingredients you shouldn’t miss! These add depth of flavor (a.k.a. UMAMI) that balances the sweet and the sour. You only need a small amount to work their magic!
  • Cornstarch slurry thickens the sauce. This helps the sauce stick or cling to the chicken and not go everywhere.

How to Make Filipino Sweet and Sour Fish

Tips for making Fish Escabeche

  • Use only fresh fish – check for the signs: eyes are clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh is firm and shiny (it should bounce back a bit when touched), gills should be bright pink/red and wet (not slimy or dry).
  • Have the fish vendor clean and de-scale the fish for convenience. Some may not trim off the fins or make the slits. This can be easily done at home. Use kitchen scissors for the fins and a sharp knife to make the slit.
  • Wash the fish and pat dry before scrubbing with salt. A wet fish will cause the hot oil to splatter all over while frying.
  • Adding ginger to the sauce enhances the flavor and helps lessen the fishy smell. So don’t skip it!
  • Let the sauce gently boil before stirring to prevent the vinegar from becoming too sour.

Serve with warm rice and drizzle the sauce all over! Enjoy!

More delicious recipes for special occasions!

how to make Escabeche Filipino

Escabeche – Sweet and Sour Fish

Whole fried fish slathered in a delicious perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce. This recipe requires no deep frying. The sauce is not too sour and not too sweet. Made of pineapple juice, vinegar, and spices. It’s a perfect dish to serve at your family gatherings, New Year or fiestas.
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Servings: 3 -4 servings
Author: Mella
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 700 grams / 1.5 lbs whole fish (cleaned and de-scaled, see notes)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil (I used canola)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Vegetables and aromatics

  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 1 small red onion (sliced)
  • 1 -inch ginger (peeled and thinly shredded)
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper (slice into thin strips)
  • green onion (chopped, for garnish)

Cornstarch Slurry

Instructions

  • Rinse the fish and pat dry using a kitchen towel. Cut two slits across the top on each side, about one inch apart. Season with salt and pepper inside and out. Fry each side of the fish in hot oil until golden brown. Transfer to a serving dish deep enough for the sauce not to spill out.
  • In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients of the sauce. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Taste and adjust the sugar and vinegar according to preference.
  • In a pan, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil. Saute garlic, ginger, and onion until fragrant. Add bell peppers. Cook for 1 minute. Pour sweet and sour sauce. DON'T STIR until it starts to gently boil. Taste and adjust seasonings salt/pepper/sugar as needed.
  • Pour cornstarch slurry. Stir until sauce thickens. Pour half of the sauce over the fried fish just before serving. Garnish with green onions. Pour the remaining sauce in a bowl and use as extra sauce.

Recipe Notes and Tips:

  • Use only fresh fish - check for the signs: eyes are clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh is firm and shiny (it should bounce back a bit when touched), gills should be bright pink/red and wet (not slimy or dry).
  • Recommended types of fish: Tilapia, Snapper (Maya Maya), Pomfret (Pampano), Grouper (Lapu-Lapu), Barammundi/ Sea Bass (Apahap). Avoid fishes with too many bones like milkfish (bangus), small whole fish like sardines or galunggong.
  • Other types of vinegar you can use apple cider, red and white wine vinegar, cane vinegar, and coconut vinegar.
  • Pineapple juice: Use pure pineapple juice and not the syrup to get the perfect tart and sweetness.
  • Let the sauce gently boil before stirring to prevent the vinegar from becoming too sour.
Course : Main Course
Keyword : escabeche, filipino sweet and sour fish
Nutrition Facts
Escabeche – Sweet and Sour Fish
Amount Per Serving
Calories 534 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30g46%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 187mg62%
Sodium 409mg18%
Potassium 793mg23%
Carbohydrates 21g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 15g17%
Protein 42g84%
Vitamin A 680IU14%
Vitamin C 24mg29%
Calcium 51mg5%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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