Filipino Escabeche: Uncover the Origin and Health Benefits

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What is escabeche?

Escabeche is a traditional Spanish dish that’s popular in Filipino cuisine. It’s a dish of fried fish or meat marinated in a sweet and sour sauce. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at what escabeche is, how it’s made, and how it’s served. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite escabeche recipes.

What is escabeche

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What Exactly is Filipino Escabeche?

Escabeche (full Filipino recipe here) is a type of dish that is commonly found in Spanish and Filipino cuisine. The word “escabeche” actually comes from the Arabic word “sikbaj,” which means “acidic food.” This dish typically consists of marinated and fried fish or meat that is then topped with a sweet and sour sauce made from vinegar, sugar, and other ingredients.

The Cooking Technique

The technique for making Filipino escabeche is relatively simple and requires only a few basic ingredients. Here’s how to make it:

  • Clean and cut the fish into serving-sized pieces.
  • Season the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge in cornstarch.
  • Fry the fish in oil until golden brown, then set aside.
  • In the same pan, sauté sliced onions and bell peppers until they are slightly softened.
  • Add vinegar, sugar, and a bit of ginger to the pan and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour the sauce over the fish and let it simmer until it thickens, stirring occasionally.
  • Adjust the seasoning as needed and serve with rice and vegetables on the side.

The Evolution of Filipino Escabeche: A Fusion of Spanish and Oriental Cuisine

  • Escabeche is a dish that originated in Spain and was brought to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period.
  • The original Spanish escabeche is a dish consisting of poached or fried fish marinated in an acidic mixture of vinegar, water, and spices.
  • Oriental versions of escabeche include pickled vegetables and meat.

Escabeche in the Philippines

  • In the Philippines, escabeche is a popular dish that is usually prepared with fish, but can also be made with meat such as chicken or turkey.
  • The local version of escabeche is effectively a fusion of Spanish and Oriental cuisine, respecting the original dish while incorporating local ingredients and modifications.
  • Filipino escabeche is typically made by frying fish until crispy and then serving it with a sweet and sour sauce made from a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and sliced onion.

Preparation and Presentation

  • The fish is usually boiled in water with strips of onion and colored with annatto oil to give it a distinct orange hue.
  • The fish is then fried until crispy and served with the sweet and sour sauce on top.
  • Other common ingredients in Filipino escabeche include garlic, ginger, and chili for a spiced kick.
  • The dish is best served cold and is often marinated in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • The acidic marinade also helps to stop the fish from spoiling and aids in conservation.
  • Escabeche is commonly available in canned or potted form for easy preservation and presentation.

International Representations of Escabeche

  • Escabeche is not only popular in the Philippines but is also a common dish in Latin American and Eastern cuisine.
  • In Yucatan, Mexico, escabeche is made with chicken and flavored with coriander and sour orange juice.
  • In the United States, escabeche is often prepared with poultry and served with butter and oregano for a crispy blonde finish.

Choosing the Best Fish for Filipino Escabeche

Filipino escabeche is a sweet and sour dish that is commonly made with firm, white-fleshed fish. Tilapia, snapper, grouper, and flat fish are some of the most commonly used fishes for this dish.

What are the Requirements for the Fish?

When making Filipino escabeche, it is important to choose a fish that meets the following requirements:

  • Firm texture: The fish should be able to hold up to frying and marinating without falling apart.
  • Big enough to cut into serving pieces: The fish should be big enough to be cut into serving pieces.
  • Plain taste: The fish should have a plain taste that can be enhanced by the sweet and sour sauce.
  • Not too expensive: While you can use any fish you like, it’s best to choose a fish that is not too expensive since you will be frying it and adding it to a sauce.

What Other Fishes Can Be Used?

While tilapia, snapper, grouper, and flat fish are the most commonly used fishes for Filipino escabeche, you can actually use any fish you like. Some other good choices include:

  • Red snapper
  • Sea bass
  • Cod
  • Haddock

What is the Best Technique for Cooking the Fish?

To make the fish for Filipino escabeche, you will need to:

  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  2. Dredge the fish in cornstarch.
  3. Fry the fish until golden brown.
  4. Remove the fish from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

How to Make the Sweet and Sour Sauce?

To make the sweet and sour sauce for Filipino escabeche, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make the sauce, follow these steps:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot, and ginger. Cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  4. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour the sauce over the fried fish and serve.

What is the Difference Between Filipino and Spanish Escabeche?

Filipino escabeche is a special dish that is commonly served during special occasions, while Spanish escabeche is an everyday dish in Spain. Filipino escabeche is typically sweeter and wetter than Spanish escabeche, and it is often served with fried fish. Spanish escabeche, on the other hand, is typically made with meat and served cold.

Let’s Get Cooking: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Sweet and Sour Fish Escabeche

  • Choose a firm, white fish such as tilapia or sea bass
  • Clean and slice the fish into medium-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper the fish to taste
  • Fry the fish until slightly golden brown and set aside

Cooking the Fish Escabeche

  • Heat oil in a pan and fry the marinated fish until slightly crispy
  • Add the vegetables and sauce to the pan and let it simmer for 2 minutes
  • Add a tablespoon of cornstarch to the pan to thicken the sauce
  • Let it cook for another 2 minutes

Serving and Enjoying

  • Serve the fish escabeche with a side of rice
  • Garnish with sliced scallions and cilantro
  • Enjoy the refreshing combination of sweet and sour flavors in every bite

Remember, cooking fish escabeche may seem like a daunting task, but with the right technique and ingredients, it can be an easy and satisfying dish to prepare. Don’t feel limited to just seafood, this recipe can be adjusted to work with pork or any kind of meat. In fact, escabeche is a common dish found in many countries such as Spain and even Chinese cuisine. So, don’t be pressured and start cooking!

Spanish vs Filipino Escabeche: What Makes Them Different?

While Spanish escabeche is typically made with fish, Filipino escabeche can be made with a variety of meats, including pork and chicken. Filipino escabeche also tends to be sweeter than its Spanish counterpart, as it commonly includes sugar or cane syrup in the recipe. Additionally, Filipino escabeche often includes vegetables such as onions and bell peppers, which are not typically found in Spanish escabeche.

Reviews and Opinion

While both Spanish and Filipino escabeche are delicious dishes, they have their own unique flavors and styles. Some people prefer the simplicity of Spanish escabeche, while others enjoy the sweetness and heartiness of Filipino escabeche. It all comes down to personal preference and what you are in the mood for. If you want to try something new, give Filipino escabeche a try and see if it satisfies your taste buds.

Is Filipino Escabeche a Healthy Choice?

The good news is that Filipino Escabeche can actually be a healthy choice if you choose the right ingredients and cooking techniques. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Fish is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health.
  • Tilapia, one of the commonly used fishes for Escabeche, is a lean protein source that contains less fat and calories than other types of fish.
  • Using fresh ingredients such as ginger, garlic, and onion can add flavor and nutrients to the dish.
  • Adding vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers can increase the fiber and vitamin content of the dish.
  • Using a small amount of oil for frying and removing excess oil after frying can make the dish less calorie-dense.

Things to Watch Out For

While Filipino Escabeche can be a healthy choice, there are some things to watch out for:

  • The sweet and sour sauce can be high in sugar, so it’s important to use it in moderation.
  • Some versions of Escabeche may contain ketchup, which is high in sugar and sodium.
  • The cornstarch used to thicken the sauce may contain additives and preservatives, so it’s important to choose a plain and unflavored type.
  • The dish may be limited in terms of its nutritional value if it’s served as a main course without any other side dishes.

Affordable and Easy to Make

Filipino Escabeche is a special dish that is commonly served during special occasions, but it can also be an everyday dish that is affordable and easy to make. Here are some reasons why:

  • The ingredients are commonly found in most Filipino households and are relatively cheap.
  • The cooking technique is simple and requires minimal preparation time.
  • The dish can be adjusted to use cheaper cuts of meat or other types of seafood.
  • Leftovers can be saved and reheated for another meal.

Other dishes you might enjoy

Looking for an easy and delicious pork recipe? Try making Pork Hamonado! This Filipino dish is made by marinating pork belly in a sweet and savory sauce made with soy sauce, pineapple juice, and brown sugar. It’s then roasted in the oven until it’s tender and caramelized. Serve it with rice and steamed vegetables for a complete meal.

Chop Suey

If you’re looking for a vegetable dish that’s easy to make and packed with flavor, try making Chop Suey. This Chinese-inspired dish is made with a variety of vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, and bell peppers, stir-fried with meat or tofu. It’s then seasoned with soy sauce and other spices for a savory and satisfying meal.

Bubble Tea

Looking for a new and exciting drink to try? Give Bubble Tea a shot! This Taiwanese drink is made with tea, milk, and tapioca pearls, which give it a unique texture and flavor. You can customize your Bubble Tea by choosing different types of tea, adding fruit flavors, or adjusting the sweetness level. It’s a fun and refreshing drink that’s perfect for a hot day.

Pan-Roasted Garlic Mushroom Potatoes

If you’re looking for a side dish that’s both easy and delicious, try making Pan-Roasted Garlic Mushroom Potatoes. This dish is made by roasting potatoes with garlic and mushrooms in a pan until they’re crispy and golden brown. It’s a great side dish for any meal, and it’s sure to be a hit with your family and friends.

Nilagang Baboy

If you’re looking for a comforting and hearty soup, try making Nilagang Baboy. This Filipino soup is made with pork ribs, potatoes, and cabbage, simmered in a flavorful broth made with onions, garlic, and peppercorns. It’s a great dish to make when you’re feeling under the weather or just need some comfort food.


If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you’ll love Katsu. This dish is made by coating meat or vegetables in breadcrumbs and frying them until they’re crispy and golden brown. It’s often served with a sweet and savory sauce and rice. It’s a delicious and satisfying meal that’s sure to please everyone.

Cheese Ice Cream

Looking for a unique and tasty dessert? Try making Cheese Ice Cream! This Filipino dessert is made with cream cheese, condensed milk, and heavy cream, which are whipped together until they’re light and fluffy. It’s then frozen until it’s firm and creamy. It’s a great dessert to make for a special occasion or just when you’re in the mood for something sweet.


If you’re looking for a fancy and expensive dish to impress your guests, try making Comp. This French dish is made by layering thinly sliced potatoes with cream and cheese, then baking it until it’s golden brown and bubbly. It’s a decadent and indulgent dish that’s perfect for a special occasion.


So there you have it- the history, ingredients, and preparation of Filipino escabeche. It’s a delicious, savory dish that you can enjoy with rice and vegetables.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.