Fish & Seafood

Sweet and sour boneless tilapia fillets

According to a local magazine, tilapia is St. Peter’s fish. Whether that has some historical connotation (Jesus and his disciples were fishermen, right?) or just a name given out of whim, I wouldn’t know. But I do know that tilapia is one of the most common fish sold in Philippine markets–relatively cheap, meaty and, when cooked correctly, juicy and tasty.

The going price of tilapia is PhP 60.00 to PhP 90.00 a kilo, depending on the size. The bigger ones are more expensive. The change in seasons (rainy or dry) does not affect the prices that much because tilapia is abundant in the country. Laguna de Bay and similar fresh water areas are favorite sites for tilapia breeding and raising.

Small fish like tilapia are sold whole in the wet markets–heads, tails, fins and even entrails. You can have them gutted, scaled and cleaned but they will be weighed before any parts are removed. The bigger ones are sold by the kilo, either as cross-cuts or fillets, but not small ones. It all really translates to how much in a kilo of fish is actually not edible. Unless you’re making a stew or a soup and you want the fish heads to flavor the broth or sauce, it’s really cheaper to buy fillets.

Hence, when I saw these boneless tilapia fillets in the supermarket, I couldn’t resist. At PhP 78.75 per kilo, the price tag was really, really good.

casaveneracion.com boneless tilapia fillets

I’ve tried cooking stir fried dishes with fish fillets but not tilapia fillets (see my stir fry recipes for bangus and broccoli, fish and togue, tuna and tofu with quail eggs and my smoked salmon and tofu). The meat of tilapia is soft and I was wondering if the fillets could be cut into smaller pieces without crumbling.

casaveneracion.com sweet and sour boneless tilapia fillets

Well, it’s possible. The sweet and sour boneless tilapia fillets in the photo is evidence of that.

Ingredients :

750 g. of tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
flour
a carrot, peeled and cut into thin rings
about a cup and a half of chicharo (snow peas, snap peas), ends and sides trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, cored and diced
a large white onion or 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
half a head of garlic, peeled and crushed
a small piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb), cut into thin strips
3-4 c. of cooking oil

For the sweet and sour sauce :

1 tbsp. of tomato paste
vinegar (lemon or kalamansi juice tastes better and is more aromatic)
water
sugar
salt
pepper
tapioca or corn starch

Cooking procedure :

Heat the cooking oil in frying pan (a wok is ideal).

Cut the tilapia fillets into 2-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off the excess, and fry in batches (do not over crowd the pan) in very hot oil until crisp and golden. Drain on absorbent paper towels.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce. Go by your preference. Some like it more sour than sweet; others, just the opposite. Normally, you will need about a teaspoonful of starch for every 3/4 c. of water for a rather thick sauce. Of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule since the quality of commercial starch varies.

Pour off the cooking oil until only about 2 tablespoonfuls remain. Reheat. Stir fry the carrot and chicharo for about 30 seconds. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Return the fish fillets to the pan. Pour in the sweet and sour sauce and cook, stirring, until thick and clear.

Serve at once with hot rice.

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