11 Mar2013


Is a South American ceviche markedly different from our own kinilaw? In many respects, they are similar, but I think there are some differences that make them distinct from each other. Many people feel that our own kinilaw may have been influenced by the arrival of the Spaniards, or more accurately, Mexicans and South Americans when the Philippines was a Spanish colony. However, Doreen Fernandez offers up some evidence that we were probably making our own kinilaw long before the Spaniards arrived, mostly with the finding in some ancient sites (diggings) of tabon-tabon, and fish bones, two key ingredients for kinilaw on the island of Mindanao. Personally, the logic of munching on just caught, near sushi-like or grade fish, cleaned and sliced on one’s banca bobbing somewhere in the Philippine archipelago, possibly with a dip in coconut vinegar and perhaps a sprinkling of local sea salt is a scene I can easily see going back hundreds of years… With some good fish on hand, I decided to make BOTH a ceviche and a kinilaw to see how they compared with each other…


The first prized “catch” was a rather smallish (say 2 kilo or so) baby yellowfin tuna at the Nasugbu market. The more common tulingan is plentifual on most market days, but every once in a while, a yellowfin tuna or two is available and they make excellent sushi or kinilaw, so I thought I would use this for my ceviche. I struggled a bit with the filleting, but this is the result of some sweat and a bit of cursing… :)


The meat of yellowfin tuna is paler than that of other tunas, and you must avoid the dark vein and bones near the center of the fillet. I eventually sliced the tuna and the fillet yielded a small plate of fish, trimmings reserved for a soup made with the head and other parts of the fish.


Chill the sliced fish while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.


Next up, I sliced a beautiful riot of colorful tomatoes, from Toscana Farms, Malipayon Farms and other sources. I get inspired and excited when there is a LOT of produce in the kitchen, and this little plate of sliced tomatoes not only photographed well, they tasted terrific!


The next critical ingredient for the ceviche were limes, and lots of them. This is perhaps the single hardest ingredient to find in Manila or elsewhere (except perhaps the Cagayan Valley up North and parts of Mindanao down South… I buy dayap whenever I find them in markets, and wish farmers would grow them in droves and consumers would use them frequently so that we would have a steady supply. I am a bit ashamed to say that I bought a net bag with some 20-25 limes imported from Mexico from S&R, for some ridiculous price, because I NEEDED to have limes for the photo shoot at the beach. But at least many of them ended up being used in this ceviche experiment. Even the Mexican sourced limes didn’t have enough juice however, so I wished I had access to the bigger western limes as well. At any rate, lime is critical… not lemon, not kalamansi, but the distinct flavor and aroma of green limes.


To make the ceviche marinating liquid I added some minced garlic to a bowl, lots of lime juice, salt, sliced chillies, shallots and tomatoes and let their flavors swim together for a while. Then I added the liquid to the fish (and there wasn’t quite enough of the lime concoction) and let this all cuddle for a while. Most recipes for ceviche suggest marinating the dish for at least an hour, so that the fish is truly and well “cooked” or pickled by the lime juice. Remember this point when I write about the kinilaw I made at about the same time at the beach… I didn’t quite wait the full hour but I did let this marinate for much longer than we would ever do with our house kinilaw…


To serve, I garnished with some thin lime slices and topped it all off with some of Gejo’s cilantro microgreens. I thought the dish looked spectacular. And it tasted very, very good as well. The lime juice provided a nice acidic punch filled with flavor and aroma, while the tomatoes and other ingredients provided texture and some sweetness and spiciness. If anything, the ceviche didn’t have enough lime juice, and versions in Latin America might have this “swimming” in dressing or the marinade. But maybe it’s just a bit of national pride/what I grew up with, but I like our house version of kinilaw more. :)



  1. Betchay says:

    Though I am not fond of raw fish, this looks so inviting!

    Mar 11, 2013 | 7:01 am


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  3. Emsy says:

    beautiful photos mm!

    Mar 11, 2013 | 9:07 am

  4. millet says:

    looks good! but and kinilaw purists here in davao do not like like a long marination period. in fact, most restaurants that serve kinilaw would just give you a bowl of raw fish cubes, and the kinilaw dressing on the side, so that it ends up being used as something in between a dip and a light dressing. much like sashimi. that’s because people want to taste the freshness of the fish. or could it also be because of davao’s long association with the japanese, i wonder.

    Mar 11, 2013 | 9:19 am

  5. Marketman says:

    millet, I have to agree with you, a few minutes AT MOST in the marinade is common to most Visayans. It’s the folks up North that tend to keep it in for hours, which I find results in rubbery, “overcooked” fish… but then again, I was born in Cebu though only belatedly took a liking to kinilaw in my 20’s… :)

    Mar 11, 2013 | 9:25 am

  6. pixienixie says:

    I am from Central Luzon (up North! hehe), and whenever my grandparents and parents prepare this dish they let the meat sit in the marinade for quite some time. Kinilaw na isda isn’t as popular in our family as kilawin na baboy at atay, though. For that we marinate pork and pork liver strips in vinegar, with lots of cracked (not ground) black pepper, and roughly chopped garlic and onions overnight. Then this is sauteed, patis is added, then the marinade, and then the final touch is mixed into the dish: fried finely chopped baga ng baboy.

    Mar 11, 2013 | 11:35 am

  7. Maki says:

    I love kinilaw.. I heard flying fish are excellent fish for kinilaw too but i think its just too small… can we make all kinds of fish for kinilaw MM? ty

    Mar 11, 2013 | 1:14 pm

  8. Mrs Froggie says:

    I love kinilaw. Here in the US because of the Mexican influence, I’ve learned to make kinilaw with raw shrimps, peeled, deveined, and diced. Add chopped cilantro; peeled, diced cucumber(pipino); diced red onion; chopped jalapeno pepper (siling labuyo); and diced roma tomatoes. Douse the mixture with a lot of lime juice and serve it with the flat crispy tortillas or tortilla chips. Salt to taste after marinating it at least an hour so you’re sure the lime juice has cooked the raw shrimps. You may use the imitation crab meat (pollack fish sticks), too, instead of raw fish or shrimp. SSSOOO good! For fasting and abstinence Fridays, it is a sin to eat this because it is no sacrifice (joke only)! Yummy… ;)

    Mar 11, 2013 | 2:44 pm

  9. vancalapano says:

    This looks really yummy. I haven’t eaten kinilaw for years now because my Visayan friends are no longer with me but given a chance I would be able to. If you will let me choose between kinilaw and another pork dish, I will without a second thought grab ng kinilaw. And gulp it before you start arguing.

    Mar 11, 2013 | 3:22 pm

  10. Apple says:

    i love kinilaw ( my dad is from Camiguin and it used to be a daily staple in our house). Whenever i miss having a tuna kinilaw, i go to a resto that has a Swiss-Bolivian chef to get my ceviche/kinilaw fix. It’s almost the same except ceviche is marinated longer and it is served with taro or cassava puree

    Mar 11, 2013 | 7:47 pm

  11. BenQ says:

    One of the ways we do kinilaw here in Cagayan de Oro is not to marinate (makes fish meat tough) but to wash fish with 7-up. Mixed with biasong, tabon-tabon, onions, sili, and gata. Yum Yum!!!

    Mar 11, 2013 | 7:54 pm

  12. EbbaBlue says:

    Ayy, try ko ito. Ayos pa ito sa salmon MM? Kung hindi sige tuna na lang ang bibilhin ko.

    Mar 11, 2013 | 8:36 pm

  13. Rochelle says:

    Wow! sarap MM :) I am so craving for kinilaw right now :( but being 15 weeks pregnant apparently I can’t have raw fish, or too much of it :( my Dad is Gensan born so we grew up eating kinilaw alot! and yes I agree, down there, we don’t marinate it as much, the fresher the fish the better :)

    Mar 11, 2013 | 8:47 pm

  14. sUr says:

    yum! i cannot help but conflate my pinoy and hawaiian experiences [each feet are comfortably on both lands, if metaphorically ;-) ]; this post reminds me of the hawaiian raw fish salad called POKE [poh-keh] in which it skips the conceit of “cooking” in lime or lemon juice but embraces the raw + sweetness of the tuna [or other seafood]. mostly i eschew ceviches [unless i’m at top notch restaurants– rippert/nobu/et al] as the acid invariably ‘masks’ the main ingredient– they get rubbery; a good fresh fish needs the most minimum of interventions. http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/hawaii/poke/ or http://www.food.com/recipe/maui-ahi-poke-90880

    Mar 12, 2013 | 5:00 am

  15. Christina says:

    This is so interesting, I was just reading a book on Mexican-Filipino connections, and it attributes ceviche to Filipino influence. The author says Mexican historians are in consensus that kilawin predates ceviche.

    Wild, no? The book is “Manila Men in the New World” by Floro Mercene.

    Mar 12, 2013 | 10:04 am

  16. Rob says:


    What kind of limes did you use? Here in California we have a lot of limes from Mexico, some are persian limes, some are key limes. You should be using key limes which are sourer and the type of lime used in Peruvian ceviche, the best of all I’ve tried.

    Mar 12, 2013 | 11:00 am

  17. Marketman says:

    Rob, I used the key limes, which are smaller. And if you haven’t seen my previous posts on limes, they are actually related to our native dayap… which originated in the Philippines or Malaysia or thereabouts and found their way to Florida through the middle east many hundreds of years ago…

    Mar 12, 2013 | 11:54 am

  18. Marketman says:

    Christina, I would love to read that book and will buy a copy when I get a chance. I think its perhaps safe to say that raw fish dishes with some lime, vinegar or other souring agent were probably developed across the globe independently or possibly influenced by exposure. The South Pacific islands have similar dishes, so it’s possible they too figured out in a fit of hunger some thousand years ago that slicing up a fresh fish and dipping it in some lime or vinegar was a tasty treat… :)

    Mar 12, 2013 | 11:56 am

  19. lee says:

    I like my kinilaw really raw with just a slight skinny dip in marinade. I vividly remember Marketman preparing kinilaw at the first Lechon EB in Cebu and commanding us to devour the kinilaw in minutes. Which we did of course. Di ba Millet, et al?

    Mar 12, 2013 | 1:00 pm

  20. PITS, MANILA says:

    there’s a certain way to cut dayap (and other citrus), i am often told. to avoid having that bitter taste from the seeds, one avoids cutting through them … it ends up with 4 slices, totally avoiding the middle part where the seeds are.

    Mar 12, 2013 | 4:12 pm

  21. Kasseopeia says:

    @PITS, I think someone already pointed out that special “cut” in a post from way, way, way before. Not sure if it was Lee or Apicio. It was called a “tangential” cut. On second (third?) thought, it may have been Chef Chris B. Goldfish moment. =)

    Overcooked fish in kinilaw is a no-no for me, but I would eat a good ceviche anytime. But given a choice between that and a true kinilaw with just a “skinny dip” (as per Lee) – I will take the latter, even at midnight!

    Mar 12, 2013 | 8:06 pm

  22. Fred says:

    Pretty pretty pictures MM. You know its a good pic when you start to salivate. I just remembered I haven’t made kilawin in a while. Too lazy to wake up at 5am to visit the market during Saturdays. Don’t South American ceviche makers prefer the juice of citrus fruits over vinegars? I think in its most basic form, kilawin/ceviche is the same dish but variations cropped up due to availability of ingredients. Do they make coco vinegar in South America?

    Mar 13, 2013 | 8:56 am

  23. ChrisB says:

    It’s 5:40 in the morning and I’m craving kinilaw! I have to go to a japanese grocery soon to buy some tuna. I still have some dayap in the ref, my dad never seems to run out of them. When there’s a big harvest I’ll send some your way MM.

    Mar 15, 2013 | 5:50 am

  24. udo says:

    one of my favourite philippine dishes…
    gosh – anybody can mail me a portion ? :)

    Jul 12, 2013 | 4:32 pm


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