Fish with Sweet-Sour Onion Sauce
con Cipolla Agro-Dolce”
“Tunnina Cipuddata ca’ Acitu”
In Sicily, tuna fish is very abundant from the month of May
to the end of June.
Tuna is boiled in big chunks and preserved in oil and
stored for the winter months.
At this time of the year, or when fresh tuna is available,
a well-liked dish is tuna fish with sweet-sour onion sauce. It is very tasty, very convenient because it can be
kept refrigerated for a few days, and mostly because it is very appetizing and delicious.
Sweet-sour sauce was a traditional way of cooking in the
Jewish households to preserve food for the Sabbath, when cooking was prohibited.
Up until the year 1492, prior to the Spanish occupation of
Sicily, a large colony of Jewish people lived there and prospered in the commerce of exporting Sicilian products,
in many types of manufacturing and in retailing.
This practice of cooking with wine and honey, and later
with sugar, was applied in the preparation of meat dishes and vegetables and after the Jewish communities left the
Island, this practice was expanded to become part of the conventional Sicilian cuisine.
Some of the jewels and well known dishes of sweet-sour
Sicilian cooking and part of this site are:
Caponatina – Eggplant
Cucuzza C’acitu –
Ficatu Agru e
duci – Liver in Sweet-sour Sauce
‘ncipuddatu – Fried Fish covered with Onion-vinegar Sauce
At Joe’s of Avenue “U”, the Focacceria Palermitana, we
occasionally cooked this special and delicious tuna fish in sweet-sour sauce: it had a sweet and pungent taste, it
was sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and raisins and we served it with a side dish of caponatina.
- 4 slices of tuna fish, 6 oz.
- ½ cup of oil for
- ¼ cup of olive
- 3 large onions thinly
stems of fresh mint or ½ teaspoon of dry mint
cup of vinegar
full tablespoon of sugar
- Salt and pepper to
- Few sprigs of mint for
- 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
Optional Preparation for Cooking the Tuna
To eliminate some
of the blood from the flesh of the tuna fish in order to enhance and improve its taste, flavor and appearance,
place the tuna in a glass or stainless-steel container and barely cover it with water, add 4 tablespoons of lemon
juice, a pinch of salt and keep in this marinade for a few hours.
Or just keep in
cold lightly salted water for a few minutes.
Before cooking rinse the fish in running
water, place in a colander and drain for a few minutes. Gently pat dry well with a clean dish towel or
In a large skillet (12 ½ inch wide) place the ½ cup of frying oil
and over a high heat fry the slices of tuna fish cooking it 2 ½ minutes on each side. Fry the tuna 2 slices at a
time and use a large spatula when turning it; set aside in a large plate and sprinkle with some
Discard frying oil and in the same skillet, over a medium heat
place ¼ cup of olive oil and the sliced onions. Cook the onions for 5 to 7 minutes, until they are translucent, and
start to get a light brown color. Add in the sugar, mint, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Increase the heat to
high and add in the vinegar. Continue cooking until some of the vinegar has
Lower the heat to a medium, place the tuna fish on top of the
sauce and scoop some of it on the top. Cook until the vinegar evaporates, (1 or 2 minutes); taste the onion sauce
and adjust for salt, and if needed add more sugar or vinegar to suit your taste.
Place in a
serving dish, scoop the onion sauce on top of the tuna fish and garnish with mint