The words “sweet and sour” have a special place in my heart. Sweet and sour chicken was one of the first Chinese dishes I ever tasted. It was when I was a kid and my parents splurged one night to take us to the only Chinese restaurant in our town. It was an upscale place, with lazy suzan tables that my sister and I couldn’t get enough of.
The combination of sweet and sour is not found in Greek savory dishes. So, for us, sweet and sour chicken was incredibly exotic. It was a main dish and a dessert all in one! Eventually, my mom found a recipe for a version of it and she would make it often enough that it became a little less exotic, though it still remained a favorite.
When I came to the U.S. to study, there were several food trucks on campus, and one of them was Chinese. At least once a week, I would pay them $5 and they would hand me a white styrofoam clamshell container, heavy and warm. I would open it as soon as I could find a place to sit. Inside it, waiting for me, was some white rice, topped with battered and deep fried nuggets of chicken, and smothered with that golden syrup, of sweet and sour fame. It was divine.
So, when Steve and I were going through the Jerusalem cookbook for a recipe to try out a couple of weeks ago, we were intrigued when we saw the name of this particular one. The colorful photo didn’t hurt either. So we gave it a try and, as with everything in this cookbook, we were not disappointed. The dish really is better after it sits in the fridge for a day or two, and is best eaten at room temperature. I did make one change though. I reduced the amount of coriander. It overpowered the dish and took away from that perfect combination: sweet and sour.Marinated Sweet and Sour Fish – Slightly adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices (350 g)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle
2 bell peppers (one red and one yellow or orange), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch strips (300 g)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or grated on microplane
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups (320 g) of dice tomatoes in juice (from two 14.5 oz cans, some will be left over)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cider vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
1 lb (500 g) white fish fillets (such as cod, halibut, pollock, etc.)
all purpose flour for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375º F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large ovenproof deep pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and crushed coriander seeds. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add peppers and cook for another 10 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, curry powder, and tomatoes and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate frying pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle fish with some salt, dip in the flour, then in the eggs, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer fish to paper towels to absorb excess oil. When all fish is cooked, add to pan with the peppers and onions, pushing the vegetables aside so that the fish is at the bottom of pan. Add enough water just to immerse the fish in the liquid.
Place the pan in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked. Remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature. The fish can be served now or put in the fridge, covered, for a day or two to let the flavors combine. Before service add salt and pepper, if needed.