Escabeche Lapu Lapu with crisply-fried grouper, pickled bell peppers, and papaya in a sweet and tangy sauce. This Filipino sweet and sour fish is easy to make for family dinners yet fancy enough for special occasions.
I was going to update these old escabeche lapu lapu photos for our 24 Days to Christmas special series, but I couldn’t find a big enough fish at the Asian supermarkets I frequent. Of course, any type or size of firm-fleshed fish such as tilapia, red snapper (Maya Maya), talikitok, apahap or tanique is fine to use in this recipe, but I just think a hefty grouper is more party-worthy and would look more impressive on a holiday table.
Anyway, I am not going to sweat about how badly these pictures need reshooting. After all, it’s all about the taste and this Filipino-style sweet and sour fish is amah-zing! With crisply-fried whole fish smothered in colorful bell peppers, shredded papaya, and a perfectly sweet and tangy sauce, it is sure to be a crowd favorite.
What is in Escabeche?
Escabeche refers to a type of dish popular in Latin and Mediterranean cuisine wherein meat or fish are marinated and cooked in an acidic mixture such as vinegar or citrus juices. Assorted 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 consisting of either poached or fried fish which is smothered in a sweet and sour sauce made of vinegar and sugar with ketchup added for color and cornstarch for thickening. and garnished with tender-crisp vegetables such as bell peppers and shredded papaya.
Although other variants of escabeche can be served cold, this Filipino version is best enjoyed hot and fresh from the stove or at the very least at room temperature as the sauce tends to congeal.
Escabeche Lapu Lapu
- 1 (2 to 3 pounds) whole Lapu Lapu (grouper)
- salt and pepper to taste
- canola oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1/2 small green papaya, peeled and grated
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- Clean and gut the fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a wide pan over medium heat, heat about 2-inch deep of oil. Add fish and cook, turning once or twice, until golden, crisp, and cooked through. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Keep warm.
- In a pan over medium heat, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add grated papaya and bell peppers and cook, stirring regularly, until tender yet crisp. Remove from pan and keep warm.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine vinegar, sugar, and ketchup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
- In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Stir until smooth. Add to the pan and continue to cook, whisking continuously, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce thickens.
- Place fried fish on a serving platter and garnish with the vegetable mixture. When ready to serve, pour sweet and sour sauce on top.