Forget take out! This sweet and sour fish recipe is super easy to make yet so tasty. Bite-sized fish are fried to golden perfection and then tossed in a sweet, tangy, and sticky sauce with colorful bell peppers for a flavorful dish!
Table Of Contents
- What you’ll need
- Helpful tips
- How to serve
- Storing leftovers
- More fish recipes
- Sweet and Sour Sauce Fish
Sweet and sour dishes trace their origin from Chinese cuisine with the original sweet and sour sauce said to have come from Hunan, a province in China. It was a combination of light vinegar and sugar and was initially used as a condiment or dipping sauce for meat and fish rather than cooking.
In the Philippines, the sweet and sour sauce or agre dulce is cornstarch with water, salt, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and pineapple juice. The mixture is cooked until thickened and is commonly used as a sarsa for dipping or dousing over meat or fish.
There are so many ways to enjoy this dish. The sweet, tangy, and sticky sauce goes well with almost any protein, from juicy meatballs, tasty pork, lean chicken, meaty fish to crispy tofu.
The traditional Filipino version uses whole fried fish, much like the escabeche. This recipe cuts tilapia fillets into bite-size pieces which are then lightly battered, deep-fried until golden and crisp, and then tossed in the sweet and tangy sauce called agre dulce with bell peppers and onions.
While entire fish might present better in a banquet, this version is easier to eat without the troublesome head and bones to pick through.
What you’ll need
- Fish– the recipe uses tilapia fillets as they’re meaty and relatively inexpensive. Any white fish with firm flesh such as catfish, cod, bass, or dory are also good options.
- Soy sauce– marinates the fish to lend a savory boost of flavor
- Flour and cornstarch– creates a golden, crispy crust
- Beaten egg– helps the breading stick
- Oil– use oil with a neutral taste and high smoke point such as canola, safflower, grapeseed or vegetable oil
- Bell Peppers– adds color and texture. Feel free to use a mix of red and green bell peppers for more vibrant presentation
- Pineapple Juice– adds a fruity sweetness to the sauce
- Rice Vinegar– type of vinegar made from fermented rice and has a mild and slightly sweet flavor. In a pinch, you can use apple cider vinegar as a substitute.
- Ketchup– tomato ketchup was used in this recipe. If using banana ketchup (which is usually sweet), I suggest mixing the ingredients for the sauce together except the sugar and then add the sugar according to your preference.
- Brown Sugar– has a less concentrated sweetness and contains molasses. If using white granulated sugar, adjust amount to taste
- Cornstarch– thickens the sauce
- Salt and pepper– season to taste
- For the best crisp, maintain oil at the optimal temperature of 350 F to 375 F when deep-frying. Too high and the outside coating will burn before the inside is thoroughly cooked; too low and they’ll absorb more grease.
- Do not overcrowd the pan and fry in batches as needed to keep the oil temperature from plummeting.
- You can also add pineapple chunks along with the bell peppers for the extra flavor and texture.
What makes a good sweet and sour sauce
This sweet and sour sauce is indeliby sweet, piquant, and punctuated with vinegarish nuances. It is one of my favourite versions, and is a treasured, tested Cantonese recipe.
It has the perfect consistency. Thick and sticky, and much like a sweet caramelised glaze, this sauce deliciously clings to, and coats all the ingredients in the dish.
I’ve had many wonderful compliments and positive feedback on how delicious and authentic it tastes, so this sauce recipe is definitely a keeper!
How to serve
- You can finish off the sweet and sour fish in two ways. You can drizzle the sauce just before serving to keep the fried fish nice and crispy, or you can simmer them in the sauce to soak it up.
- Serve as a main entree for lunch or dinner with steamed rice, steamed veggies, and stir-fry noodles
- for a filling Asian-themed meal at home.
- Store leftovers in a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until completely warmed through.
- If you’re planning for future meals and want the best texture, you can make the sauce ahead of time and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Batter and fry the fish when ready to serve.
What fish to use?
First of all, let’s talk about which fishes are more suited for a dish like sweet and sour fish. You might already have your favourites. If these fishes have little to mild flavours and have firm flesh, then these should work quite well.
By far, my favourite choice is the the red snapper. Other popular choices include sea bass, grouper, catfish or dory, perch and trout. Fishes with very delicate or flaky flesh aren’t as suitable. That’s because the flesh can come apart easily during frying.
The basics of a sweet and sour sauce
Preparing homemade sweet and sour sauce is very easy. The simplest sweet and sour sauce uses as few as 3 ingredients. A decent one just needs tomato sauce or ketchup, vinegar and sugar.
To be honest, I started out with many 3-ingredient sweet and sour sauce recipes. But then I wanted to replicate restaurant-style sweet and sour dishes. I love the complex, sophisticated flavours of that wonderfully ambrosial sweet and sour sauce!
These often involve several ingredients, as many as 5 to 6, each adding nuances and layers, creating a robust flavour disposition.
What is the difference among Afritada, Kaldereta and Mechado?
One principal difference among the three is the main ingredients we use to create their unique flavors. While all use up tomato sauce to create that orange color, only Kaldereta utilizes liver spread (and peanut butter in some regions). We cook it alongside tomato sauce to enhance its savory flavor. And Mechado uses up vinegar (or a bit of calamansi or lemon) for a subtle sourness. And it is more commonly known to use either pork or beef. Afritada is the only one out of the three that uses chicken in its original recipe as the meat ingredient. Meanwhile, Kaldereta shows off beef as its meat counterpart.
But one thing you should also be familiar with when it comes to Chicken Afritada is the good it can bring for your body.
What are the health benefits of eating Chicken Afritada?
With just how packed it is with vegetables, you might have already guessed that our recipe contains pretty much all you’ll need in a good meal. It has a great deal of protein and carbohydrates to get you going. But it’s also filled with vitamins and minerals you might not be aware of in the ingredients it puts together. Let’s count down a couple of the ingredients in this dish that could be great to integrate into your diet just a big more:
One significant ingredient in this dish is our velvety, rich tomato sauce. It adds a certain level of depth to our stew’s flavor. And it is undoubtedly a very versatile component that works with many ingredients. However, we can also credit it largely for its nutritional value. Firstly, tomato sauce is a great source of Vitamin A. This can aid in maintaining a person’s eye health, while also being great for reproductive health.
Tomato sauce is also widely known for being rich in lycopene, a great antioxidant. This can help in preventing cancer, as well as heart disease. You can also find a good deal of chromium in tomatoes. This can be beneficial in maintaining one’s blood sugar levels. And the list goes on, as the fruit, and its sauce counterpart, is also a great source of Vitamins K, B1, B3, B5, B6, B7 and C. Among many others, one of the benefits brought about by Vitamin C is improving one’s skin.