Sweet and Sour Fish

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!

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

Helpful Tips

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.

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.

Storing leftovers

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.

Leave a Reply