This sweet and sour fish fillet recipe is super easy to make and so delicious, just like the one you enjoy in Chinese restaurants (or even better). It will surely make the whole family come back for seconds.
Filipino cuisine is influenced by many different cultures of the world. Chinese is one of them having many migrated and established businesses in the Philippines throughout the years. Of course, with the ingenuity and creativity of the Filipinos, we have adopted some of these dishes and made them our own. Some examples are the Pancit, Siopao, Pata Tim, Kikiam, and our featured recipe, the Sweet and Sour Fish.
About Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet
Sweet and sour fish is a well-loved Chinese dish throughout the world. You will definitely find it on the menus of many Chinese Restaurants in the Philippines. However, it is traditionally cooked and served using whole fish, much like our local Escabeche. It is customary for them to serve whole fish on special occasions, as it symbolizes abundance and well-being. But we also love this battered fillet version of the dish. It is much easier to make as you can use frozen raw fish fillets. Plus, it is more kid-friendly because you do not have to deal with fish bones.
This recipe is will give you puffy, light, and crispy batter-coated fish fillets which are deliciously crispy on the outside while keeping the fish inside juicy and tender. It is then tossed with the rich red sweet and sour sauce along with some vegetables such as red and green bell pepper, onions, and pineapple chunks.
- Fish - I used cream dory fish fillet for this recipe, but you may use any white fish with firm flesh. You may use tilapia, cod, bass, catfish, haddock, or snapper.
- Lemon or Calamansi Juice- helps neutralize the fishy taste and gives it a better flavor.
- Flour + cornstarch – for a golden and crispy crust of the fish fillet
- Baking powder - for a lighter and puffier coating.
- Egg– serves as a binder. It helps the batter to coat the fish fillet better.
- Tomato Ketchup was used in this recipe. If unavailable, you may use banana ketchup, but you may need to adjust the sugar as it is on the sweeter side.
- Brown Sugar– If unavailable, you may use white sugar, and adjust the amount to taste as it is sweeter.
- Vinegar- I used white vinegar in this recipe, but apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar also works. However, keep in mind that the flavor of your sauce may vary slightly.
- Cornstarch – to thicken the sauce.
- Oil – you may use oil with a neutral taste such as canola, safflower, or vegetable oil.
- Bell Peppers + Red Onion + Pineapple Chunks – add vibrant color, texture, and flavor to the dish.
- Salt and pepper– season according to your taste.
- Cut the fish and vegetables in uniform sizes for even cooking.
- For a smooth and lump-free batter, sift the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder.
- Make sure your oil is between 350 and 375°F. If the temperature of the oil is too low, the fish batter will absorb too much oil. If it is too hot, the batter will burn before the insides are cooked. Additionally, make sure you keep your batter cold.
- When deep-frying, cook the fish fillet in batches and do not overcrowd the pan. Adding too many coated fish fillets to the pan might cause the temperature of the oil to drop, which will result in a less crispy texture.
- If you want to retain the crispiness of the fish fillet, you may serve the sauce on the side or drizzle it on the fish fillet before serving instead of simmering it in the sauce.
Secret to light and crispy fish fillet
Use cold batter. Make the batter with ice-cold water once everything else is prepared and just before you are ready to fry in the hot oil. Keeping the batter cold will prevent gluten from forming which can make the batter coating stretchy or rubbery (like in bread).
Adding baking powder. This leavening agent will give the cooked batter volume. Using cold batter will give it more time to expand while frying and will give you lighter and crispier breading. It also stays crispy longer.
Do not over-mix the batter and keep it thin. Mixing or working the batter too much will also result in more gluten forming. So keep this to the minimum.
Don't use flour alone. Mixing cornstarch or rice flour which is gluten-free instead of using purely flour will also give you crunchier breading that lasts longer.
How to Serve and Store
Serve and enjoy Sweet and Sour Fish as a satisfying lunch or dinner with steamed rice or stir-fried noodles.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
You may also prepare this dish ahead of time! Cook the sauce and refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks. You can prepare the batter and fry the fish on the day that you are serving it.
To reheat, pop in the microwave until completely warmed through.
Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet Recipe
- ¼ cup tomato ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 2-3 small bell peppers in assorted colors cut into strips
- 1 medium red onion cut into 1” cubes, loosened
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
FISH and MARINATE:
- 10.5 ounces fish fillet like cream dory cut into 2x2-inch or 2x3-inch
- ½ teaspoon salt -adjust to taste
- ¼ teaspoon white ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon or calamansi juice
- ¼ cup cornstarch for dredging
- 1-2 cups canola or corn oil for deep frying
- ¼ cup tomato ketchup, ¼ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, ¼ cup waterIn a bowl mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
- 2-3 small bell peppers in assorted colors, 1 medium red onion, 1 cup pineapple chunksCut the vegetables and set them aside.
- 10.5 ounces fish fillet like cream dory, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon white ground pepper, 2 tablespoons lemon or calamansi juicePlace the fish slices in a bowl or plate and season with salt, pepper, and lemon or calamnsi juice.
- 1-2 cups canola or corn oil for deep fryingHeat enough oil for frying, about 2-3 inches, in a wok or deep pan over medium heat.
- 1 medium egg, ½ cup flour, ½ cup cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt - adjust to taste, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ cup ice cold waterWhile oil is heating up, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder in a bowl. Add the salt and mix. Add the egg and cold water and whisk into a smooth batter. (Remember to keep the batter cold.)
- Check if oil is hot enough by dipping a chopstick, it should bubble immediately.
- ¼ cup cornstarch for dredgingTake a piece of fish fillet and dredge it in cornstarch covering both sides then dip it in the batter and then deep fry in the hot oil. Deep fry the meat in batches if needed, do not overcrowd. Turn them several times using a slotted spoon to achieve even cooking. Cook until golden brown.
- Remove cooked fish fillet using a spider or slotted spoon and place it on a plate for now.
- 2-3 small bell peppers in assorted colors, 1 medium red onion, 1 cup pineapple chunksEmpty the oil from the wok, no need to wipe it clean. Turn on the heat to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions and bell peppers and cook for some seconds. Add the pineapple chunks and cook for some seconds more.
- Pour the sauce into the wok and simmer until it has thickened to a paste-like consistency for about a minute or two.
- Add back the fried fish fillet. Gently toss and mix for some seconds just until everything is coated with sauce. Transfer to a serving dish.