Camarón rebozado. Pescado en salsa agrio-dulce. Morisqueta tostada.  You would most likely find these dishes on the menu in the first restaurants in Manila, which debuted back in Spanish colonial timesCamarón rebozado is batter-fried shrimp.  Pescado en salsa agrio-dulce is fish in sweet and sour sauce.  Morisqueta tostada is fried rice.  The food was clearly Chinese-influenced  — mostly fried and stir-fried in savory sauces as well as soups and noodles — but everything had Spanish names for the sake of the largely Spanish clientele.

The very first public eateries were called panciterias, a word derived from pancit, which is the Chinese word for noodles.   These panciterias mushroomed everywhere in the bustling city and in the quiet countryside next to panaderias and pastelerias as more and more Spaniards and affluent Filipinos discovered the pleasures of dining out.  Filipino food writer Doreen Fernandez called this interesting phenomenon Comida China, or Chinese food.

The Filipino favorite arroz caldo, rice slowly simmered with chicken or tripe, is an excellent example of Comida China.  The rice porridge, a popular comfort food among Filipinos, is obviously traceable to the Chinese breakfast congee or jook.  But like everything else that the Filipinos borrowed, the congee was indigenized.  The Filipino version of the rice soup is flavored with fish sauce and served with a sprinkle of local calamansi and loads of fried garlic. According to  Fernandez, this Chinese-influenced porridge bears a Spanish name because it “went public” during the Spanish regime.

So the next time you enjoy a comforting bowl of arroz caldo con pollo or a plate of crispy camarón rebozado drizzled with salsa agrio-dulce bear in mind the fascinating fusion of cultures in every bowl and in every plate: Filipino-style Chinese food with a Spanish name.

 

Camaron Rebosado

 

My mom makes her batter for camarón rebozado with all-purpose flour but I make mine with rice flour to give it a little more lightness and crispness when fried. Be sure to fry the camarón right before serving so that it stays light and crisp. I like to serve the batter-fried shrimp with a mango-pineapple sauce that is actually inspired by William Pilz’s sweet and sour sauce that he serves with his legendary lumpia in his Hapa SF truck. The sauce has sweet notes of fruit and a hint of heat from fresh red Fresno peppers.

Camarón Rebozado Recipe

12 to 15 large Tiger prawns, cleaned, heads and shells removed but tails intact, and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup rice flour, plus more for dredging the prawns
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten
canola oil, enough to fill the frying pan or pot with at least 2-inches of oil

Wash the shelled and deveined prawns and pat them dry with paper towels.  Be sure to leave the tails on.  Season the prawns with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine rice flour, baking powder, water, and egg in a small bowl.  All-purpose flour can be used instead but rice flour makes the batter lighter and crisper when fried. Whisk everything together to a smooth batter.   Spread the rice flour on a plate.  Dredge the prawns in rice flour and then dip into the batter, letting the excess drip off.  Fry the prawns in canola oil until brown and crispy, about three minutes.  Drain the prawns in paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately to enjoy the crispness of the batter-fried camarón.  Serve with mango and pineapple sweet and sour sauce or sweet banana ketchup.

 

Camaron Rebosado

Mango and Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 small ripe mango, finely chopped, about 1/3 cup
1/3 cup crushed pineapple, or chunks finely chopped
1 small Fresno pepper, seeded and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons

Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt, ketchup, mango, pineapple, and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the sauce simmer over medium-to-low heat until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Adjust the balance between sweetness and sourness by adding sugar or vinegar.

 

Camarón Rebosado

 

Learn the alphabet through our glossary of Filipino food words. So much is lost in translation, I know, but I hope this glossary will help those unfamiliar with Filipino food become more informed.

A is for Achuete
B is for Barako Coffee
C is for Camarón

  • http://twitter.com/thedailypalette The Daily Palette

    I love your series, Jun!  Camaron Rebozado is a favorite here at home, though I cannot enjoy it myself due to allergies.  However, I still make them often for the little man.  For a while now, I have been making my batter with corn starch, but will definitely try your batter next time.

    As usual, fabulous post, JB!

  • http://nappytales.blogspot.com abigail

    camaron rebozado a monthly requested dish here at home. I might print out alphabet flashcard version of your series to teach my son his alphabet and Filipino food too. :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/kotusmonica m. k.

    just got really hungry! very nicely done!
    love your photos, too!

  • Samantha

    Love the photography especially the pic of the shrimp in the ‘shot glass’ of sauce. Yummy! As always, I live the history lesson too. I still believe Filipino food is the original fusion cuisine.

  • chef_d

    Oh this is so delicious looking!  My grandmother used to cook this and it was one of my favorites.  Lovely pictures!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Samantha.  And I seriously agree — Filipino food is the original fusion: Chinese, Spanish, Malay, American, Portuguese, and a lot more!

  • Lisa H.

    These are gorgeous… mouthwatering prawns :D
    I want some….

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Ninang, I didn’t know you have allergies . Sayang.  Prawns and shrimp are my favorite shellfish.  But I love how unselfish you are by making it for Little Juancho.

  • http://GlobalTableAdventure.com Sasha (Global Table Adventure)

    Oh my goodness… love the flavor combination here. Will have to try that sauce on grilled shrimp (it’s already around 100F here, so I’m not doing much cooking in the house).  I’ll even make it on the grill burner :)  

  • Lemons and Anchovies

    I can’t wait to see the rest of your ABC series, Jun, but for now, I’ll enjoy looking at your camaron.  It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed these but I can still remember how fun they were to eat.  Gorgeous presentation. :-)

  • Tracey@Tangled Noodle

    This is one of my mother’s favorite dishes – consequently, I’ve had a chance to taste a variety. For the most part, I think it’s delicious; however, I love the sound of your recipe using rice flour as some of the batters I’ve tasted were a bit on the heavy side. As usual, your accompanying photographs do a masterful job of illustrating the simple beauty of Filipino food.

    Chinese dish, Spanish name but all-Filipino! 8-D

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  • http://psychosomaticaddictinsane.wordpress.com Iyassantos

    im not a fan of camaron rebozado but i love your recipe for sweet and sour sauce! gagayahin ko ‘yan! <3

  • http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com Winnie

    Beautiful photography and recipe, and I love that you make these with rice flour. The mango pineapple sauce sounds, fantastic too.

  • http://twitter.com/shootsandroots6 Melissa Beach

    One of the reasons I love your blog is because you introduce me to food that I have never heard or tasted before.  The way you write about Filipino food and your photos make me want to try every recipe :)

  • http://www.ollieandthegirl.com Kristy

    Love the presentation of the single shrimp in the glass. Looks tasty, too!

  • Joy_casiple

    i love the introduction..cameron rebozado  is one of my favorite..

     

  • http://www.skiptomalou.net skip to malou

     I have a camaron story.  Hubs and I were just trying to know each other at that time and I brought  camaron rebosado to a party. He loved it so much and siyempre I was pa-impress so I said I made it… weeks into the relationship, he asked me if I could make camaron again but at that time our cook left na.. so OMG nabuking ako hahah.  I think it’s not too late to redeem myself by cooking him Camaron again… this time, it’s going to be legit that I made it.  Thanks for sharing the recipe Jun!… so what’s D? Danggit? haha!

  • Lisa Crossett

    Jun – this looks absolutely delicious!!  Loved learning about the history behind the dish.  Your photography is stunning .  Have a terrific 4th of July weekend! :-)

  • Freight Audit

    Very delicious.. Little Camaron ..

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  • Inah1003

    Looks delicious.  thanks for sharing this info. 

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