Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of several different types of cuisine, but it is said that 80% of Filipino dishes have been influenced by Spanish cuisine. The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898. Almost 400 years of Spanish rule certainly left its mark, many Filipino specialties are local adaptations of Spanish dishes.
One of our family favorites is Escabeche, or a Sweet & Sour Fish dish. Escabeche is a common Spanish dish that is popular in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Typically it refers to a dish of poached or fried fish that has been marinated in an acidic sauce before serving. It can also composed of other meats including chicken and pork, or vegetables. The Filipino version of Fish Escabeche is fried fish in a Sweet & Sour sauce. It is a favorite Filipino party food, specially when it’s made with a whole fish that’s artfully arranged on a platter and topped with colorful veggies and sauce.
I’ve made it the traditional way using whole fish, but my grandsons have difficulty with the small fish bones. To make it easier for them to eat I have started making Escabeche using fish fillets than have no bones. Any kind of white fish will work. We have used Tilapia, Flounder, Orange Roughy, and other white fish we find in the market.
Like many Filipino dishes Escabeche isn’t difficult to make, but it is “fussy” meaning its preparation requires several steps; in this case dredging, frying, chopping, and making the sauce. It takes about an hour or so tho cook so it’s not something I make very often, but when I do my family loves it!
6 – 8 Fish Fillets (any white fish: Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, etc.)
1 Large egg – slightly beaten
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 1/2 + 1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Ketchup
2 Tbls. Corn Starch
1 Large Onion Sliced into strips
2 Medium Green Peppers Sliced into large chunks
4 Cloves Garlic roughly chopped
Mix flour and spices in a shallow bowl
Place egg in another shallow bowl
Pat fish fillets dry with a paper towel
Heat oil in frying pan
Dip fish fillet in egg, then dip in flour mixture, shake off excess flour
Fry in hot oil until both sides are cooked
Remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain oil
Repeat with the rest of the fish
Keep fried fish warm by placing it in the oven at about 200 degrees
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup water and set aside
Place sugar, vinegar, water, and ketchup in a medium pot and bring to boil
Stir in garlic, peppers, and onions
Make sure cornstarch solution is still dissolved, if not stir until it is
Slowly stir in cornstarch solution until you get desired thickness. Sauce should be the consistency of gravy.
Place fish fillets on serving dish and pour sauce over it
Serve right away. It goes great with steamed white rice.
Escabeche - Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish
Popular Filipino dish featuring fried white fish in sweet & sour sauce.
Combine flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper and place in a shallow dish.
Heat oil over medium - medium high stove.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towel.
Dredge fillets in flour mixture and place in heated oil.
Fry fish until cooked and turns golden brown - about 4 - 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness
Remove from pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Set aside.
Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and 1 1/2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. About 10 minutes.
Mix 1/4 cup water with corn starch until smooth.
Slowly stir corn starch liquid into the boiling vinegar mixture to thicken. Reduce heat to low and let sauce gently simmer. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to get too thick. If it gets too thick add a bit of water to thin.
Saute onions in the oil you fried the fish in until it starts to turn a bit soft.
Add garlic, saute until cooked.
Add green peppers and cook until peppers turn slightly soft.
Return fried fish fillets to pan with veggies.
Gently stir fish mixture for about 3 - 4 minutes.
Arrange fish and veggies in a platter.
Pour sauce over all.
The most efficient way to make this dish is to start making the sauce while the fish is frying. Keep the sauce simmering over low heat while you finish sauteing the veggies. Stir the sauce periodically to keep a skin from forming on the top.
When you drain the fried fish and set it aside keep it warm by placing it in a warmer or on the stove top. Don't cover the fried fish, it will get soggy.
When you replace the fish in the pan gently stir it so that the fillets warm up a bit. Transfer fish and veggies on to your serving dish (or you can keep it in the frying pan) and pour the hot sauce over all.
This dish is perfect served with steamed white rice.
I love mochi! Mochi is that sweet sticky Japanese snack that’s similar to Turkish Delight, another sweet I love. Sweet Mochi usually has a delicate coconut flavor making it even more yummy. It can be plain, filled with sweet beans, or layered.
In Hawaii this particular plain mochi is usually called Chi Chi Dango. It’s very popular for Girl’s Day, the Japanese festival wishing girls health and well being. It’s celebrated on March 3 every year. In Hawaii it’s celebrated by everyone it seems, but is definitely celebrated by folks of Japanese or Okinawan decent.
Mochi is made with Mochiko,sweet rice flour, and dusted with Katakuriko, a fine flavorless potato starch, to keep its surface from being too sticky. You can find both flours in most Asian markets, unless you’re in Hawaii where you’ll find it in every supermarket.
It’s pretty easy to make, you mix everything in one bowl, pour it into a baking pan, and bake. So here’s the recipe, which by the way you can change the food color to green for a pastle green mochi or omit the color for a white mochi. Whichever color you choose to make your mochi it will be yummy!
1 Box Mochiko Flour
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 cups Water
1 Can Coconut Milk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
3-4 drops red food coloring or pink if you have it
Katakuriko for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°
Grease a 9×13 baking pan
Mix dry ingredients except the Katakuriko in a large bowl
Add liquid ingredients to the Mochiko mixture
Pour into baking pan
Cover pan tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour
Remove from oven and cool completely
When cooled cut into squares using a PLASTIC knife or a pizza cutter (I love using my pizza cutter to cut mochi and bar cookies, it makes it easier to cut perfect bars and squares)
Roll each piece completely in Katakuriko and shake off any extra flour
Store in airtight containers at room temperature, it should keep for 2-3 days, that is if the pieces don’t disappear in a day!
Fried Chicken is a favorite dish in most familys. Its tender and juicy on the inside and has that perfect satisfying crunch on the outside. What’s not to love?
Most folks picture KFC like chicken or Southern Fried Chicken (that’s delicious by the way) when they think of fried chicken. Of course Southern Fried Chicken served with homemade mashed potatoes, thick gravy, and melt in your mouth biscuits are delicious, but there are other equally delicious versions of fried chicken.
One of my favorites is Mochiko Chicken or Japanese Fried Chicken. It’s battered with Sweet Rice Flour giving it a bit of sweetness along with a nice crunch on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Served with steamed white rice and Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy it makes a nice healthy meal.
This dish is marinated in the refrigerator overnight, that’s what makes it so tasty and gives it a nice crunch.
4 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken thighs cut into thirds
2/3 Cup Cornstarch
1/3 Cup Mochiko Flour
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce
1 Tsp. Sesame Oil
1 Tbs. Garlic Minced
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Onions
Oil for frying
Sesame Seeds and chopped Green Onion for garnish
Combine all ingredients expect garnish and oil for frying into a large ziplock bag. Batter will be thick, it will thin overnight.
Shake bag to coat all chicken pieces.
When you are ready to fry you will find that the marinade has thinned and possibly separated. Shake to recombine marinade and coat chicken.
Heat oil and fry each piece until chicken is cooked and batter is golden brown and crisp.
Drain on paper towel.
Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion.
Serve with hot rice and vegetables of your choice.
My all time favorite Filipino dessert is Cassava Cake. What you may ask is Cassava Cake? It’s a sticky dessert made from the Cassava (Manihot esculenta) a starchy tuberous root widely cultivated in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It is a staple in the developing world. When it’s dried its to a powdery or pearly extract we call it tapioca!
In the Philippines cassava is grated and used as the main ingredient for desserts including Suman, a sticky dessert wrapped in banana leaves. I like that too, but my favorite is Cassava Cake the way my grandma used to make. This so called cake isn’t really a cake, at least not in consistency. It is not “cakey” or “spongy” at all, instead is has a sticky consistency similar to “mochi”.
I’ve had several versions of Cassava Cake, made by different friends hailing from other provinces of the Philippines. From what I have observed it seems that different regions prepare it differently. I like our version the best, the bottom part has that same sticky consistency, but it has an almost custardy top layer. My version is also pretty sweet, just perfect for my sweet tooth. I do have to say that Cassava Cake may be an acquired taste, some folks love it and others can’t stand it.
This recipe has been in our family for years! The only difference in we’ve “modernized” it. Back in the day my grandma and aunts would spend a day grating the cassava and coconut, then the evening soaking the grated coconut and squeezing out the milk. These day we buy the frozen coconut milk and grated cassava, so much easier. You can use canned coconut milk instead of the frozen one, but my aunt insists the frozen coconut milk is best. You can buy both the frozen grated cassava and coconut milk at most Asian markets. I hope you like it!
1 16 oz. bag frozen grated cassava, thawed
1 16 oz. bag frozen coconut milk, thawed
1 Can Evaporated Milk
1 Can Condensed Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
6 Egg Yolks
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
Mix all ingredients is a large bowl. Stir well to make sure sugar dissolves and milks are well blended.
Pour into 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
Place filled pan into a larger roasting pan.
Fill roasting pan with water until is reaches the half way point of the panning containing the cassava mixture.
Place both pans in a 350 degree oven and steam for about an hour or until the middle is set.
Since many of us are still in the pandemic lockdown, self-imposed or mandated, deciding what to cook has become a chore. Many of us are probably planning out weekly menus to cut down on grocery runs, which many of you know can be a daunting experience with masks, lines, and empty shelves; and I won’t even get into disinfecting all the groceries we bring home! Such is our new “normal” at least until this scourge passes.
Another main concern for many of us is a disrupted food chain caused by virus outbreaks at many of the meat packing plants nationwide. Not only is this virus causing meat shortages, but it puts plant employees considered essential workers, and their families at risk. I know we all want to do our part to stop the spread and also hopefully keep folks from hoarding meat. (Remember the Toilet Paper back in March? I don’t think the factories have caught up yet!) Anyway to show our support for meat packing plant employees and hopefully lessen the demand for meats workers’ advocates are calling for Meatless Mondays. So you might want to plan your weekly menus to include at least one meatless day, it’s good for your health as well as one small step in stopping the spread. So I thought this month I’d share some meatless recipes with you.
One of my favorite seafood dishes is Salt & Pepper Shrimp, we used to order it every time we dined at a Chinese restaurant. Since I found a recipe for it we can enjoy it at home. I modified it to fit our tastes and I think made it a bit simpler to make. Served over steamed white rice it’s yummy!
1 lb. Medium to Large shrimp – peeled and deveined
1 tbls. sea salt
1/2 cup corn starch
2 tbls. ground white pepper
2 tbls. ground black pepper
1 tbls. garlic powder
3 tbls. chopped green onions
2 tbls. minced garlic
1/4 + cup peanut oil
Place shrimp in a small bowl and cover with warm water
Add sea salt and let soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour
In a shallow bowl mix together corn starch, 1 tbls. each of white and black peppers, and garlic powder
Drain shrimp and lightly pat dry with a paper towel
Heat peanut oil in wok or large frying pan on medium heat until hot
Coat each shrimp in cornstarch mixture and place in wok
Cook until shrimp turns pink – turn halfway for even cooking – you may need to add more peanut oil if it gets too dry
Place cooked shrimp on paper towel to drain – Do not turn stove off
If pan is dry add a tbls. more peanut oil – add mince garlic and stir until it starts turning golden
Add fried shrimp back into pan
Add chopped green onions and stir til green onions turn bright green and starts to soften