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.
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
Ukoy or Shrimp Fritters is a popular Filipino street food. There are different types of fillers for this deep fried fritter but the common ingredient is shrimp; unless you want to make it vegan and just have veggies.
Ukoy can be made using grated squash, sweet potatoes, yucca, green papaya, carrots or just bean sprouts, my personal favorite.
Ukoy as I mentioned is a popular street food which can be eaten on the run, but it can be served as a side dish or as I do the main course with rice and a vinegar dipping sauce.
I’ve been trying to make Ukoy the way my Lola, grandma, used to make. Hers always had the perfect texture and the right crunch. She made it with fresh tofu, bean sprouts, and medium sized shrimp. Talk about yummy!
After many fails, I mean trials, I finally figured out where I’ve been going wrong. It was my batter! For reasons I can’t explain I’ve been using egg in my batter, possibly because egg is something that I put in all my batters. But that batter is always thicker and heavier. And the end result was more like a fluffy pancake, not crunchy at all.
Well the simplest solution was no egg batter! Don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner! Once I omitted the egg my Ukoy turned out perfect. Literally just like Lola’s Ukoy was!
Last month during my visit to my daughter and her family in Georgia there was an epic snowstorm in the East Coast. My grandson, Devon, requested I make him some “Sinigang”. I was surprised that he even knew what it was, but it seems that one of their friends makes it. Of course I said yes, after all that’s what Nanas do, cook for the grandkids! This Shrimp Sour Soup is the perfect comfort food for cold rainy (or snowy) days!
This was one of my favorite childhood dishes and I was happy to find out that my grandchildren love it too. Like many Filipino dishes this soup is very easy to prepare. Traditionally my grandmothers used tamarind (sampaloc) or the small Filipino limes called “Calamansi” to make the soup sour. These days it’s so much easier, you can buy the powdered soup base at most Asian markets or even order it on Amazon! (Affiliate Link)
This dish is typically eaten with steamed white rice with a side of “Patis“, Filipino fish sauce also available at Asian markets and on Amazon. It can be made with fish, shrimp, or meat with assorted vegetables like spinach, radish, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, or string beans. This time I made it with shrimp, spinach, radish, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno pepper. I like to add the pepper to give it a bit of spice, we all love spicy things in our family.
In most Filipino households this shrimp soup is made with whole shrimps, meaning shrimps with shells and heads on. I’m not a big fan of shrimp heads so I use shrimps with shells on. You can also use prawns if you have any handy.