Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

In Spain, escabeche is fried fish marinated in vinegar or citrus. The dish, along with the name arrived in the Philippines during colonial reign. Simultaneously, Chinese restaurants were serving their own version. Given that the preparation for both were strikingly similar, the name became used interchangeably. However, in Filipino households the Chinese-style recipe is more common today.  Recipe and food history inspired from 7000 Islands cookbook.


  • 1 whole snapper (or tilapia), scaled and cleaned
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed with skin
  • 3 cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into julienne
  • 4 large red shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 green chili, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Filipino brand soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or Filipino brand white vinegar
  • 3 sprigs of chives sliced lengthwise for garnish

Recipe Preparation:

  1. Pat the fish dry using paper towel, then season generously with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper. *Fill a large, deep frying pan or wok with enough olive oil to come halfway up the side of the fish, about 2 cm. Place over medium–high heat until very hot but not smoking. Cook the fish for 5 minutes on each side, or until the skin is golden and crisp and the fish is just cooked. Transfer to a serving platter.
    *Another option will be to grill the fish if you do not wish to fry.  This is the method I opted for.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a separate frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the carrot, shallots, chili, soy sauce and sugar, increase the heat to medium–high and stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender but still have a slight crunch. Add the vinegar and stir-fry for a further minute or until syrupy. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the vegetable mixture on top of the fish, then pour over the sauce. Scatter with chives and serve immediately with steamed rice.