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Escabeche is the name for a number of dishes in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines which can refer to a dish of fish (escabeche of chicken, rabbit or pork is common in Spain) marinated and cooked in an acidic mixture (vinegar) and usually colored with pimenton (Spanish paprika) or saffron. In central or South America the recipes differ from country to country, sometimes including the prior frying of the ingredient to later marinate. It is a common conservation technique, requiring a pH of 4 or lower to effectively stop the putrefaction of the product.
The dish is common in Spain and has evolved with local modifications in the Spanish-speaking world. It is well represented in Portugal, and France. The dish is also popular in the Philippines and Guam, both former Spanish colonies, where it is the closest to the original Spanish version: just adapting the type of fish used to the ones locally available, but respecting the original technique.
In international versions, escabeche is usually poached or fried, then served cold after marinating in a refrigerator overnight or longer. The acid in the marinade is usually vinegar, but can also include citrus juice. Escabeche is a popular presentation of canned or potted preserved fish, such as mackerel, tuna, bonito or sardines. In the New World, versions of the basic marinade are often used with foods other than fish and meats, for example cassava or green bananas with chicken gizzards (Puerto Rico), jalapeño peppers (Mexico), etc. The origin of the word escabeche is Persian, and was brought to Spain by the Arabs during the Moorish conquests. The word derives from al-sikbaj, the name of a popular meat dish cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, usually vinegar and honey or date molasses.
The dish is also known as escoveitch or escoveech fish in Jamaica, and is marinated in a sauce of vinegar, onions, carrots and scotch bonnet peppers overnight, since it is a traditional breakfast dish. It is also known as escabecio, scapece or savoro in Italy, savoro in Greece (especially Ionian islands) and scabetche in North Africa.
The dish is not to be confused with an unrelated soup made from chicken, onion, and spices and served in Belize, sometimes referred to as Belizean escabeche. However, like the other escabeches, Belizean escabeche is based upon an acidic marinade—in this instance, onions marinated in vinegar.
- Ceviche, raw, rather than cooked, fish in an acidic marinade
- Brathering, a German version, often served for breakfast
- Lagasse, Emeril. "33 Spanish Starters." 33 Spanish Starters | Food Network UK. Food Network, n.d. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
- Etymology from Medieval Arab Cookery by Maxime Rodinson, A.J. Arberry & Charles Perry. ISBN 0-907325-91-2