The Virgin Stove

Making everything for the first time

Project Miki: Escabeche (Sweet and Sour Fish)

Last night, C suggested seafood. “Let’s do something with the cod.” I’ve eaten cod a few times but I’ve never tried cooking it. I tried looking for an appropriate recipe in The Filipino Cookbook and I found one in minutes.

Technically, a whole lapu-lapu — red grouper fish — should be used for authentic escabeche. But according to Ms. Garcia, alternatives like red snapper, cod, carp and bass could be used. Talking about the dish eventually led to this discussion:

Me: Lapu-lapu is also the name of one of our heros. He killed Magellan.
C: Ferdinand Magellan? Do you know how famous that guy is?!
Me: Um… yeah. (doh!) Everybody does.
C: I didn’t know he died in the Philippines.
Me: He did. They refused to bow to Spain and pay tribute so LL killed Magellan with a bolo and pestle.

Chris thinks it happened a lot like this: (see 1:40 onwards)

I could just imagine Magellan arriving all cocky and rudely interrupting Lapu-lapu who’s making dinner. Next thing you know someone yells “Pay tribute to WHO!? F*** YOU!” just before Ferdie gets brained with a pestle. Hero or not, I bet Lapu-lapu’s wife made him buy a new one.

Of course, that’s what not really happened but I like my version more than the official one.

Back to food. It’s the first time for me to make sweet and sour fish so I was worried that it would fail big time. Making Chris eat Filipino food is an experience. He’s still traumatized about that time when I made him eat dinuguan (pork blood stew) and now he thinks I’m going to feed him random innards when I say “Pinoy food.”

Cod is a very light, creamy fish that easily absorbs flavor. But it could just as easily fall apart if overcooked. Luckily, my escabeche was not bad at all.

Note: Red text means I changed or used a substitute for an ingredient.

Escabeche
Sweet and Sour Fish

from The Filipino Cookbook by Miki Garcia / p. 75

4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed calamansi or lime juice – I used juice from half a lemon

1 tablespoon salt
2 pounds (1 kg) whole fish, scaled, gutted and cleaned OR 1 1/2 lbs (750 g) fish steaks or fillets (grouper, red snapper, carp, cod or bass) – I used 1 lb cod fillets
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
1 onion, sliced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely sliced – skipped this since I used the last of our stock for salabat hehe
1 bell pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely sliced
3 tablespoons Filipino cane vinegar (suka) – Due to the unavailability of Datu Puti suka, I used 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons of water – Used approx. 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon banana ketchup – No Jufran here 😦 so I used tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Combine the lime juice and salt in a small bowl and stir until the salt is dissolved. Place the fish in a large casserole dish and pour the salted lime juice over the fish. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the fish for 10 minutes on each side or until cooked. (It only took 3-4 minutes each side for the cod fillets.) The fish should be flaky when done. Transfer to a serving platter and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the garlic until lightly browned. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the ginger, bell pepper, and carrot and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in vinegar, water, soy sauce, sugar and banana ketchup. Bring to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve with steamed rice.

Miki’s original recipe could serve 4 but my revised one serves 2-3.

[print recipe]

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