Cooking with Vinegar in Spain’s Former Colonies

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This is tilapia escabeche from Tienda Morelos.

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In countries where refrigeration came late, freshly caught fish is often preserved for future consumption in Spanish-inspired techniques now associated with the Mexican ceviche. A variation is escabeche, lightly cooking the fish then marinating in vinegar and spices, a technique that works better when one lives inland or up in the mountains where fresh fish is not available.

In the Philippines, escabeche is a more elaborate affair. Fish, often cleaned and cooked whole, is fried then cooked in a sweet-sour concoction of vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, onion and maybe a little soy sauce to which are added chunks of sweet bell pepper, tomatoes, maybe slices of pineapple in syrup.

Raw fish preserved in vinegar we called kilawin, a technique used for other food stuff like pork ears, shrimp and prawn. Fish has to be really fresh. I remember tiny sardines that are quickly filleted then marinated in vinegar, finely chopped ginger, scallions and maybe a wee bit of garlic. The translucent flesh turns opaque when it is ready to eat. The finished product is used more like a condiment, in small doses often to accompany really rich viands like fried sole or mackerel steaks.

About orlando gustilo

Digital content producer, photographer, writer.
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