September 19, 2007

escabeche (red snapper in sweet & sour sauce)

This is a favorite classic fish dish that I suppose most Filipinos are familiar with. In Manila, we usually get grouper, locally called "lapu-lapu", to make this. The fish is always bought and prepared whole, pan-fried until the skin is crispy and the fish is very well done. I made this again recently when I got a chance to get a whole fish the last time I was at the local fish market. It's not that close to home so a trip over there isn't always easy but I always look forward to the fresh catch available there. I have learned long ago that frying fish is best done outdoors. I got into the habit of doing this and I appreciate that I can fry outside using these great gas burners we got with our gas grill. It works very well and we're quite satisfied with it. A good tip I need to remember next time I make this is to make sure that the fish is cooked well done. The crispy finish is important in this particular dish so that the sweet and sour sauce will not make it soggy when it's poured over the fish. Making sure that the sauce is poured just before serving also helps keep the fish crispy and less susceptible to absorb too much sauce. I was actually looking for a smaller size fish to fit in the biggest pan I have, but couldn't find one. Sometimes what we do in the Philippines is we cut the fish in half, if it's too big, and fry the pieces separately then just join them on the platter. The colorful vegetable strips in the sweet and sour sauce are carrots, green onions, red and green peppers. The attractive colors remind me of fiestas and special occasions back in Manila. Julienned fresh ginger was first sauteed until toasted and fragrant in a little olive oil followed by some minced garlic and sliced onions. Then a mixture of vinegar and sugar was stirred in with salt and pepper to taste. The mixture was simmered before it was thickened with cornstarch which has been dissolved in water. I blanched the veggie strips ahead, drained them well and arranged them on the fish. Then I poured the hot sauce over and served the escabeche immediately.

blanched veggie strips were arranged
on top of the fried fish (above)

crispy fried red snapper (shown above)

frying the fish on our outdoor grill's gas burners

cleaning the fresh red snapper

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