Fried fish or meat with a sweet and sour sauce of some sort is a favorite combination of mine. Escabeche style anything as a kid meant I could survive on the sauce and rice alone, even if the underlying protein was fried frog’s legs… Escabeche, according to Wikipedia, from the Spanish or Persian term for something “acidic”, evolved away from the typically cold dish in Spain, often marinated overnight in the sour sauce. In the Philippines, the term escabeche refers to anything slathered with this sweet and sour style sauce. Last weekend at the Nasugbu market, one of my sukis had these incredibly fresh 1 kilo red lapu-lapu’s (grouper) that I snapped up and decided to cook for lunch that day, escabeche style.
So many folks who head to the beach on a weekend are likely to bring their entire menu with them from Manila, often ignoring anything that might be available in the local markets. I realize it’s easy to do that, not having to worry about what they might or might not find in the local markets, but I prefer to leave a couple of meals completely to chance/serendipity. Sometimes you get lucky and in the worst of times, you eat modestly. This entire dish was based on ingredients all found LOCALLY. The fish was caught off the Batangas coast, the veggies were grown in the area, and everything looked as though they had been harvested within the past few hours…
We chopped or sliced up lots of fresh ginger, shallots that were so fresh they still had soil on them, white onions, green onions, garlic, red peppers and finger chilies or siling mahaba, seeds taken out to reduce the heat factor a bit. We used lots and lots of tomatoes and even then, we could have used more…
In a fish pan, heat up some oil (not quite enough in this pan, we ran out…) and season your fish with salt and pepper and cover it with a light dusting of flour or cornstarch and fry it until done, just a few minutes on each side unless the fish is really thick. Dry this on paper towels and transfer to your serving dish.
Meanwhile in another pan, heat up some oil, saute the ginger for a minute or so, add the onions and garlic and stir, add the tomatoes and render a bit of their liquid and stir for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the slices of peppers or chilies and saute a few minutes longer. Add some vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar), a little muscovado sugar, some water if required and season with salt and pepper. If you want to thicken the sauce add a touch of cornstarch. Cover the fried fish with the sauce and serve immediately with lots of rice… YUM!
We also purchased some brilliant looking slices of tanguigue and we fried those up as well until just cooked, still moist inside, not dry as cardboard as many are wont to do. We slathered that with the escabeche style sauce as well.
Garnish the dish with the chopped green onions. It never fails, this type of lunch is almost always totally wiped out in our household!