Fried Pomfret with Sweet & Tangy Sauce
What is Escabeche
The Origin story is nicely written by guampedia.com. I was so fascinated by this information. The origin of the word “escabeche” is Persian. The Arabs brought the word “escabeche” to Spain in the 8th Century. The word is derived from “Al-sikbaj,” a popular meat dish that was cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, usually vinegar and honey or date molasses.
It can be said that Spain brought escabeche (eskabeche in Chamorro, the native language of Guam) to the world as it is found in the cuisine of most former Spanish territories from Europe to the Americas, the Philippines, and Guam. (from guampedia.com)
After reading this information it made me think, what is Paksiw? From my own knowledge, it’s poached fish cooked in onions, garlic and it’s seasoned with salt and pepper. That’s it. That seems a lot closer to the original recipe of Spain without any vegetables, right? There are still so many questions and soul searching about Filipino cuisine in general. I am so fascinated and so intrigued to know more about my cuisine than ever! It has become my personal goal to find more history about Filipino food as I continue on my cooking journey. It’s a little difficult to search while I am in London, UK but the internet so far has been a great tool to find out crumbs of information.
SO many unanswered questions like, when did they introduce ketchup and thickening to the sauce? Or why add bell peppers?
I have a story, in search for more history or background about Filipino food I contacted an organisation apparently preserving Filipino cuisine. I asked for help and advice for a book I’m writing. I wanted some guidance so that I am not on a path that is moving away from my culture. The person who responded to me sadly passed me another name who I could contact, fair enough that person might be more knowledgeable than him but surely the person who I contacted has their own views and opinion. Anyway I’m digressing.
I think you can probably feel the frustrations I have about my cuisine and the lack of information about our food history. BTW I found a book that apparently talked about Philippines culinary history, guess how much it costs as it’s rare? £200+!
Back to Filipino Escabeche…this dish from what I remember growing up as a child in the Philippines was a centerpiece dish, a statement and a way to show abundance. It’s usually served at Fiestas and special occasions. The most common fish used for Escabeche is Lapu Lapu fish (a whole fish), this is pretty expensive but some can use Tilapia too for a cheaper option.
Escabeche in the Philippines is only cooked with fish but other Spanish colonies might use meat too.
Let’s talk ingredients
For the fish I used Pomfret, this is not an affordable option. I realised that when I was paying a 500g fish at the counter which cost me £12 quid. You can use any fish for this really, I have used Mackerel before and Tilapia. Both are delicious! Pomfret fish is very tasty too and my family really enjoyed it. When you fry it make sure that the oil is hot or else the fish will stick, you will know that it’s ready to flip when the skin doesn’t stick to the pan and it’s not so noisy anymore.I hope that makes sense! Haha!
The thickening sauce is optional because I think it doesn’t really need it but for aesthetics Filipinos usually see this dish with a thicker sauce. It’s really up to you which you would prefer.
What vinegar to use? I used the Filipino brand vinegar Datu Puti (not sponsored) but you can use any vinegar available to you. I’m not sure about white wine vinegar or balsamic as I haven’t cooked with them before. Alternatively you can use malt vinegar or cider vinegar.
Typically bell peppers are used and sometimes with carrots too but you can add any vegetables that you like. I do love the bell peppers with Escabeche, the texture and freshness it brings to the dish really adds to it.
As this is a sweet and tangy sauce, there is a lot of sugar to get the balance but you can add less sugar if you like and less vinegar. You can try half of sugar & vinegar and half a tablespoon of salt. You can always add more if it doesn’t seem balanced.
Here’s the video
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For the sauce
Heat some oil in a frying pan, once it’s hot fry the fish on each side until golden brown. Once cooked, take it off the pan and onto a serving plate for later.
To make the Escabeche sauce, in a pan or pot, heat some oil. Cook ginger for a minute followed by onions for another minute and then garlic for another minute.
Next, add both bell peppers. Cook for 2 minutes, pour the water into the pan, add vinegar, ketchup, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Then add sugar and mix them all well. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the thickening sauce. When adding the cornflour mixture, make sure that you are stirring while you pour the mixture to avoid lumps in the sauce.
Turn the heat off and pour and spoon the Escabeche sauce on top of the fried fish you cooked earlier. Now it’s ready to serve!