Sweet and Sour Fish

There are four kinds of fish that we typically buy from the wet market.  Bangus (deboned), Hasa-hasa, Lapu-lapu (grouper?), and Labahita.  I like tilapia but D doesn’t like it.  Usually, I have the labahita filleted in the market, but last time I told them to just clean it and give it to me whole, as I had planned on making some sweet and sour fish.  Labahita has a distinct taste and smooth but firm texture.  We prefer it because it is not usually served when we eat out, and because it is cheaper compared to the grouper.
Fry the fish whole, making shallow incisions on both sides to make sure that the fish is fully cooked.  Also, make sure that all the innards are taken out prior to cooking.  I find that they contribute to a bitter taste if not fully removed.  When the fish is cooked, strain it to remove excess oil.  I know some people who use kitchen paper towels, but I prefer a strainer.  Using tissue to absorb the oil will make the fish soggy.  Does that make sense?
To make the sauce, boil the vinegar and dissolve sugar in it. I had planned on using canned pineapples for the sauce, so I experimented with placing some pineapple syrup from the can into the boiling vinegar first.  It tasted different, so I added sugar.  Add some tomato sauce for color, and adjust flavorings according to taste.  When I was young and my dad taught me to cook sweet and sour sauce, he would use a pinch of soy sauce and ketchup instead of tomato sauce.  I’ve switched to tomato sauce because I find it better.  I understand that it’s more of a hassle because you would never consume an entire pack of sauce just to make sweet and sour.  But the taste difference is worth it in most occasions.
To serve, ladle the sauce on top of the fish and add sliced ginger and leeks (or spring onions, if you prefer).  I fried the ginger strips alongside the fish earlier, but that’s completely optional.
Add pineapples on the side, and enjoy!

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