How to cook: Filipino escabeche (fish with pickled vegetables)

Per Speedy’s request, dinner tonight was escabeche. I did as requested and cooked escabeche with a twist — I added slices of mango. Not soft and ripe mango but mango at that almost infinitesimal stage between unripe and ripe when it is still quite firm, subtly sweet and faintly tangy. The escabeche was so delicious, and so pretty with that burst of bright yellow, that I decided it was the perfect time to update my escabeche recipe — this post, originally published on October 9, 2010.

What is escabeche? The answer will depend on which version of escabeche you are referring to. A lot of Mediterranean and Latin American countries have their versions, each adapted to include local produce and ethnic food culture. In the Philippines, we have our escabeche too, part of our Spanish colonial legacy, which consists of fried whole fish served with pickled vegetables.

The easiest way to prepare escabeche is to fry a fish then top it with store-bought achara, pouring whatever sauce there is along with the pickled vegetables. Easy but you don’t get a lot of sauce from bottled achara. The obvious solution is to make your own, the fast way, and not in bulk but just enough to serve with the fish. It’s easy. And the ingredients are very basic.

I used alumahan (mackerel) for this version of escabeche; you can use any firm and fleshy fish. You can use one large fish to serve two or opt for two smaller pieces.

For the sauce, I used a combination of white and dark brown sugar for a richer and deeper amber color. »