Escabeche a fish dish with vinegary sauce

A pan-seared snapper is finished cooking in escabeche sauce, a spicy pickling liquid. Here, it's served with black fried rice, creamed kale and sweet onion slaw at Sea Island Grill at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms.

Escabeche (es-keh-BEHSH)

A popular summertime preparation in Spain and Southern France, escabeche originated in Persia as a one-pot meal of meat, vinegar and pomegranate molasses.

The molasses was long ago dropped from the standard recipe, but vinegar is a defining ingredient of the cold dish, which is kin to ceviche. To make escabeche, cooks poach or fry fish, then marinate it overnight in a vinegar-based sauce.

The sauce's exact composition varies with geography: Filipino recipes call for sugar and bean curd, while olive oil and saffron show up in Spanish escabeches.

Sea Island Grill at The Boardwalk Inn, Isle of Palms (Atlantic snapper, fried black rice, creamed kale, spring onion salad and escabeche sauce, $29)

Where to buy it

Plenty of supermarkets sell tinned fish in escabeche sauce, but the stand-alone marinade is harder to find. Fortunately, the legacy of the time Spanish colonizers spent on Jamaica in the 16th century is escovitch, a closely related sauce of vinegar, onions, chayote and Scotch bonnet peppers. Look for it at a Caribbean grocery, or order online at

Escabeche isn't especially common in and around Charleston, but Mike Lata's crew has helped make up for the dearth. FIG has subjected a variety of seafood to the escabeche treatment, including red porgy, shrimp and mackerel, which the restaurant served at the 2012 Charleston Wine + Food Festival Opening Night party. Escabeche also sauces a hummus wrap at Kiawah Island Golf Resort's Loggerhead Grill, and the Oy Vey brisket taco at Sullivan Island's Taco Mamacita

Hanna Raskin