Sweet + Sour = heaven to Filipinos
Authentic Filipino cuisine is defined iconically by two qualities: either you put sweet twist to it or make something with soup so sour that it makes you wince albeit with pleasure. On one hand, Filipinos’ affinity for sweet foods is not limited to desserts: their sweet tooth gave us the Filipino spaghetti with its signature sweet banana sauce. In fact, almost any Filipino dish is made sweet by mixing in banana (saba), coconut milk, glutinous rice, or sugar. On the other, the acerbic punch of sour base from kamias, tamarind, mangoes, or vinegar will make one forget they are already on second cup of steamed rice. And that explains the place of Sinigang as the quintessential Filipino favorite next to Adobo—Filipinos just love slurping on mouthwatering tamarind soup.
As National Geographic pronounces: “When nature handed this Southeast Asian country lemons—and a tropical bounty of other acidic fruits—the Filipinos made lemonade.” Quite literally. And when Filipinos crave for something sweet to comfort the soul, they make sure they bite through layers or different degrees of sweetness.
So, what happens when you combine the two main flavors of the Philippines? Sweet and sour, of course. Depending on the region, sweet and sour dishes exhibit distinguishable ratio of sweetness and tanginess, sometimes even made more traditional with the addition of red chili pepper. While sweet and sour is originally hallmark of Cantonese cuisine, Filipino cuisine has its own version of the sweet and sour chicken/pork with its own watery blend of the sauce drizzled over poached or grilled/fried fish.
Escabeche is the Filipino adaptation of the Spanish and Mediterranean tradition of cooking or seasoning fish or meat in mixture of vinegar or citrus juices and spices. Through its Spanish heritage, the Philippines inherited the dish and infused the Cantonese flair in making fish escabeche. For example, Escabeche Tilapia typically turns the ordinary fried tilapia into a savory dish when coasted in sweet and sour sauce and topped with crispy fresh strips of peppers and carrots. When trying this recipe from Foxy Folksy, you may substitute tilapia with red snapper (Maya-maya) or grouper (Lapu-lapu).