Sweet and sour fish: don’t forget the ginger

Deep in the archive of Home Cooking Rocks! is a recipe for sweet and sour fish. I used whole tilapia and took photos with my first digital camera — a point-and-shoot 1.3 megapixel Olympus. That entry was posted in April 2003, one of the first entries in my food blog. I look at that entry now and realized that cooks do get better with practice. The same thing is true with photography buffs.


While the recipe itself has stayed pretty much the same, I have picked up a few techniques here and there that makes this version of sweet and sour fish just a little bit better. Why better? For one, I have learned how to keep the shredded vegetables tender-crisp even after they get in contact with the hot sauce. Second, I have learned to fry the fish properly so that the outside is crusty even after the sauce is poured over. Most importantly, I no longer underestimate the importance of ginger in this dish. Instead of using just a bit of ginger, I now used ginger liberally on my sweet and sour fish.

Serves 4 to 5.

Ingredients for sweet and sour fish

1 whole fleshy fish, about 1.5 kg. in weight
1 carrot
1 small bunch of onion leaves
1 onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger
2 to 3 c. of cooking oil for deep frying

Ingredients for basic sweet and sour sauce

1/3 c. of rice vinegar (use more or less if using a variety other than rice vinegar)
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
1 c. of water
1/2 c. of sugar (more or less)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 tbsp. of tapioca or corn starch
1/2 tsp. of sesame seed oil

Clean the fish by removing the scales, gills and guts. Make two to three half-inch deep incisions on each side. Take one piece of ginger, peel and rub all over the fish including the crevice and incisions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat the cooking oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot (smoking), deep fry the fish about 8 minutes on each side. The heat should be very high all throughout. Do not cover the frying pan so that no condensation forms. Condensation will affect the crispiness and crustiness of the fish. Take care not to overcook the fish too. You want the outside to be crispy and golden but you want the white flesh to remain moist.

While the fish fries, prepare the sauce and the vegetables.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce. Cook over medium heat in a small sauce pan until thick and clear. For best results, cover, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes longer to make sure that no starchy taste remains.

Peel the carrot and remaining piece of ginger. Cut into matchsticks.

Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic.

Cut the onion leaves into one-inch lengths.

Take a tablespoonful of hot oil from the frying pan and coat the bottom of a small frying pan. Lightly fry the vegetables for about two minutes.

When the fish is done, scoop out of the oil and lay on a serving platter. Pour the sweet and sour sauce over the fish then sprinkle the vegetables on top. Drizzle with sesame seed oil and serve at once.


  1. beng says

    one of my fondest memory as a kid is my mom’s escabecheng lapulapu. reading your entry reminds me of the taste and happiness…

    speaking for your daughters, i’m sure sa mga putaheng niluluto mo para sa kanila they would have loads of memories to cherish and recount sa susunod na henerasyon nila.

  2. says

    Indeed, ginger improves a lot of dishes. A pity that it’s so expensive nowadays.

    btw, your fish in pinapple (with mustard) sauce continues to be a hit with my family and friends. Thanks!

  3. EbbaMyra says

    One of my most favorite dish. It reminds me of my dad, who after cooking this meal (which I really loved), ask me if I want to learn how to cook it (I was then 1st year highschool), I should saved my daily allowance to buy all the ingredients we need. You see to him even though this is just fish, it is one of the dish that is out of daily budget food. With all those ingredients, mahal daw ito lutuin.

    When I visited Philippines last year, and I wanted this dish, I cheated, I use the bottled atchara that I bought in a local market in Lemery Batangas. I just added lots of ginger, and the fish are huge maya-maya. Sarap, everybody loves it.

  4. says

    Hi Miss Connie!

    You continue to inspire me everyday! Thank you! This dish seemed so intimidating before but I never knew I could make it and it’s so good! I am starting to have some confidence in cooking now. Salamat sa iyo talaga!

  5. Cherry says

    Hi, Miss Connie.

    Greetings from Taipei, Taiwan! I’ve always been a BIG fan of pinoycook. Just a question about the Sweet n Sour sauce- is pineapple juice okay to use in place of vinegar and sugar? Thanks a lot!

  6. celmcruz says

    of all the recipes i’ve tried for the sweet and sour lapu-lapu this is the best and the easiest recipe.it really tastes great and looks fine on the dining table.thanks a lot.

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