Escabeche Lapu Lapu is easy to prepare for a family dinner, but fancy enough for special occasions. This Filipino-style sweet and sour fish with pickled vegetables and sweet and spicy sauce is delicious with steamed rice and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Escabeche Lapu-Lapu is one of my party favorites, but I don’t make it often because grouper isn’t always available in the Asian supermarkets I visit, especially ones big enough to feed a crowd.
While I think a chunky Lapu-Lapu would be more impressive at a special gathering, this Filipino sweet and sour sauce is delicious regardless of the size and type of fish you use. With a crispy fried whole fish topped with colorful peppers, sliced papaya, and a delicious and spicy sauce, it’s sure to be a hit!
What’s in escabeche
Escabeche is a dish popular in Latin and Mediterranean cuisine where meat or fish is marinated and cooked in acidic vinegar or citrus juices. Various vegetables such as peppers, onions and carrots are also commonly added for color and texture.
Filipino escabeche is a local adaptation of this Spanish dish. It consists of fish that is either poached or fried, simmered in a sweet and spicy sauce and garnished with tender crunchy vegetables such as bell pepper and crushed papaya.
This recipe for sweet and sour fish consists of three components, frying the fish, preparing the vegetables and preparing the sauce.
The recipe uses Lapu-Lapu or grouper, but any firm-fleshed fish will work, such as tilapia, red grouper (Maya Maya), tanigue, pompano, apahap, or talikitok.
Salt and pepper the cleaned fish to taste and fry in hot oil until golden and crispy. You can also steam or poach if desired.
I like to use a colorful mix of chopped papaya and julienned peppers along with garlic, onion and ginger for flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other vegetables that are great for pickling, such as carrots, red onions, radishes (labanos), cucumbers, celery, and cauliflower.
- For the best texture, cook the vegetables until they are soft but crunchy.
- The sauce is vinegar and sugar with added ketchup for color and cornstarch for thickening.
- If you prefer a less acidic and more fruity taste, replace some or all of the vinegar with pineapple juice.
- Since it will thicken more as it sits and cools, you may want to cook the sauce a little thinner than the desired consistency.
How to serve and store
Serve with steamed rice for lunch or dinner.
While other variations of escabeche can be eaten cold, this Filipino version is best enjoyed hot and fresh, or at least at room temperature, as the sauce tends to thicken as it stands. For the best texture, top fried fish with vegetables and sauce when ready to serve.
To preserve leftovers, wrap the fish tightly in foil and keep the vegetables and sauce in separate containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Escabeche Lapu Lapu
Filipino escabeche with crispy grouper, pickled peppers, shredded papaya and sweet and sour sauce. Delicious with steamed rice and perfect for holidays and special occasions.
- Preparation time: 15 min
- Cooking time: 30 min
- Total time: 45 min
- By: Lalaine Manalo
Course: Main entrance
- 1 (2 to 3 pounds) whole Lapu-Lapu
- salt and pepper to taste
- rapeseed oil
- 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and cored
- 1/2 small green papaya, peeled and grated
- 1 small red pepper, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 small green pepper, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons of ketchup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Clean and gut the fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the fish and cook, turning once or twice, until golden, crispy and cooked through. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Keep warm.
- Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Add the grated papaya and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but crunchy. Remove from pan and keep warm.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar and ketchup.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water. Mix until smooth. Add to the pan and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Place the fried fish on a serving plate and garnish with the vegetable mixture. When ready to serve, pour the sweet and sour sauce over the top.
Calories: 520 kcal, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Protein: 67 g, Fat: 10 g, Saturated fatty acids: 1 g, Cholesterol: 125 mg, Sodium: 909 mg, Potassium: 1982 mg, 75 2.7 U vitamins, Fiber : 2 mg, calcium: 128 mg, iron: 3.7 mg