With origins in the Arab world, the Escabeche de Pescado, or Peruvian Pickled Fish, is a colorful dish that combines fresh seafood and local hot peppers in a sweet and sour sauce that is spicy and refreshing. This method of preserving food with vinegar is centuries old, and introduced to Peru by the Spanish, it is used for seafood, meats, poultry, and vegetables. Since Winter in San Francisco has been warmer than usual, this Escabeche de Pescado was perfect for lunch on a sunny day.
The inspiration for this recipe came from Gaston Acurio who named his dish Escabeche Doña Teresa in honor of one of Peru’s most loved chefs — Teresa Izquierdo. In this recipe, I pan fried four thick pieces of cod, and for the pickling sauce I used red wine vinegar, aji panca, a habanero hot pepper, some local honey, and fish stock. With just a few ingredients, this dish is easy to make, and is best enjoyed after letting the fish sit in the sauce at room temperature for an hour before serving.
The day after making the Escabeche de Pescado, I had some leftovers for lunch, and the flavors had really been absorbed by the fish, which took on a colorful orange hue from the aji panca hot pepper and the vinegar in the pickling sauce. Served over a bed of lettuce, with a round of cooked sweet potato, a wedge of hard-boiled egg, a Kalamata olive on top, and a sprig of fresh oregano for garnish, all the colors hinted at the spicy and refreshing flavors of this traditional seafood dish from Peru.
- 1 lb. cod
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon aji panca paste
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1 red onion
- 1 habanero pepper
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 cup fish stock
- 1 bay leaf
- fresh oregano or 1/8 teaspoon dry oregano
- 8 lettuce leaves
- 1 egg
- 1 sweet potato
- 4 Kalamata olives
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need pots to cook the sweet potato and hard boiled egg, one skillet for the fish, a separate skillet for the pickling sauce, and a deep dish for letting the fish sit in the pickling sauce before serving.
- Cook the sweet potato in boiling water until it’s fork tender, remove from water, peel, cut in rounds, and set aside. Cook the hard-boiled egg, remove from water, peel, cut in quarters, and set aside.
- Slice the hot pepper in half, wash, and remove veins and seeds before cutting into long thin pieces. Peel and cut the onion into thick leaf-like slices. Mince the garlic.
- Clean and cut the fish into 4 pieces, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Coat each piece of fish with flour, shake off excess flour, and pan fry the fish in a skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium to high heat. Cook each piece until it’s a golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, or until fish is cooked through. Use a spatula to carefully turn over each piece. After cooking the fish, transfer the pieces to a deep dish and set aside.
- In a separate skillet, prepare the pickling sauce by sautéing the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, aji panca paste, and habanero pepper. Mix well and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Add the fish stock, honey, red wine vinegar, bay leaf, and 8 small leafs of fresh oregano. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Pour the pickling sauce with the onions over the pieces of fish in the deep dish. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
- On each plate, arrange two pieces of lettuce, a round of sweet potato, a wedge of hard boiled egg, and a piece of fish. Pour some of the pickling sauce over the fish, and garnish with an olive and a sprig of fresh oregano.
Though I used cod, you can use any firm flesh white fish. When pan frying the fish, I used a non-stick skillet and worked in batches of 2 pieces at a time with 1 tablespoon of canola oil for each batch. The Ingredients & Markets page lists some places where you can find aji panca paste, alternatively you can try using some cayenne pepper.