Fried labahita (surgeonfish) with chili-pineapple sauce fried labahita with chili pineapple sauceThe combination of chili peppers and crushed pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce was something that had been playing in my mind for days. I knew that lemon juice in lieu of vinegar would create a wonderful aroma but I couldn’t quite figure out how to add a dash of color to the sauce without adding tomato paste which would just make the cooked dish a look alike of the traditional fish with sweet and sour sauce that is a mainstay in Chinese restaurants. Then, one night I was making a cup of tea for myself and for my husband. See, he never takes his tea plain. I do but he likes a teasoonful of sugar or honey in his. That was when I solved the puzzle. Honey with lemon juice… of course. How could I have been so stupid? I should have figured that out when reader Malou recommended the lemon and honey drink. Ah, well…

I had this fried labahita with chili-pineapple sauce for lunch last Tuesday. The kids were in school and their dad was at work and… well, they will just have to taste the dish through the photos. Nah, I’ll do this dish again soon with enough fish and chili-pineapple sauce for everyone. The honey gives the sauce a golden hue and the lemon juice imparts a pleasant citrusy aroma that you just can’t get from vinegar. Best of all, the old boring sweet and sour fish takes on an entirely new apprearance and a whole new gastronomic dimension.

Fried labahita (surgeonfish) with chili - pineapple sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 1
  • 1 whole labahita (surgeonfish) or any fleshy fish, about 200 grams
  • 1-2 siling haba, depending on how spicy you want your cooked dish
  • ½ to ¾ cup of crushed pineapple (canned)
  • ¼ cup of pineapple juice (from the canned crushed pineapple)
  • 1 tbsp. of onion leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp. of finely minced garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsps. of honey
  • 1 tsp. of starch (tapioca or cassava starch, if available; otherwise, corn starch will do)
  • salt
  • a cup of vegetable cooking oil
  1. Cut the fish on the diagonal into two pieces. Season inside and out with salt.
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. When the cooking oil is hot (it is hot enough when it starts to smoke), fry the fish until browned and the skin is a little crisp, flipping halfway through the frying to brown both sides evenly. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the pineapple juice, lemon juice, honey and starch.
  4. Cut the sili vertically in half. Scrape off the seeds and membranes; discard. Slice the sili finely.
  5. In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tsp. of cooking oil. Add the garlic and sliced chili. Stir fry for about 15 seconds (do not brown). Add the crushed pineapple and cook for another 15 seconds. Pour in the juice-honey-starch mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick. Off the heat, stir in the chopped onion leaves.
  6. To serve, arrange the fish on a plate about an inch apart. Spoon the chili-pineapple-garlic-onion leaves mixture between the two then pour the sauce over the entire fish.



  1. lemon says

    oh joy. you just solved my dilemma on what to cook tomorrow. thanks a lot, connie. hulog ka ng langit.thanks a lot!
    your cookbook is definitely on my must-buy list.

  2. says

    Thanks Paupau. There’s always time for “presentations” when I’m not in a rush. :)

    Hay, lemon, and I still have to retake so many photos for the cookbook. Which means I have to re-cook certain dishes.

  3. says

    naaliw ako sa sabi ni ludwig na naka sash daw isda,hehe buti nga sash lang eh kung minsan ako pag ganado sa presentasyones,may kapa pa,lol

    connie, may recipe ka ng fruit salad? been checking your archives,la akong mahanap, hilfeee!!

  4. LES says


  5. says

    o, di ba, cheh, kahit isa ka lang na kakain, feeling special pa rin. :)

    Yes, I am, Les. I’m looking into options to make it available online. Probably, or amazon. :) we’ll see what is viable.

  6. rs says

    your recipes are getting kinda boring.. not so Filipino anymore, sorry but I have to tell you an honest opinion.

  7. says

    why, rs, what is your definition of filipino food? you should read my about page. when i started this blog, i never intended to focus on traditional filipino dishes. too bad for you if you find that boring. what’s boring for me is to do what everyone else has done before and has been doing for decades. i’m glad not all readers are narrow-minded like you. majority of the readers are enjoying the variety.

    and you have a fake e-mail address too.

  8. says

    oohh great, you’re publishing a cookbook! do update us! i live in NY too and i always always go to your site for quick references. =)

  9. Fan in Saudi says

    Ang sarap naman nito!!!!
    Miss na miss ko na ang Labahita!!!
    This is very informative site especially its all about Filipino Cooking!!!

    Galing galing ni Ms. Sassy!!!!! Hurray to you and keep them coming!!!

    You made our cooking lives here in Jeddah super easy lalo na sa preparation ng food namin!!!
    Thanks to you Mam Sassy!!!! :smile:

  10. aida says

    i always check your site to see what i can cook for my family…they love this fish recipe…

    where can i order your cookbook? in cebu city

    • says

      It’s only available online — print on demand. And the shipping costs more than the book so I suggest that you buy the next one which, hopefully, will be on bookstore shelves.