29 Apr2008


My father was a HUGE fan of guinamos, all manner of small fish (sometimes shrimp), mixed with salt, and allowed to rot to the desired level of pungency. It was the color of death, and death in a bad way, or at least I always thought so as a squeamish kid, but was smart enough to never say it out loud. It sounds like a horrific process, the slow decay and disintegration of a fish in salt, not to mention the naturally gray color… I believe what you don’t see made, bothers you less… and this supports my personal theory why almost everyone loves patis and that less than 5-10% of the readers of this blog have seen it made, which can sometimes make one’s stomach turn inside out… But my recent post on small fish with beady eyes, which I also think are anchovy fry, set off a lively discussion in Mrs. MM’s Cebu office and one of her crew mentioned that he had a “tita” that made a fantastic guinamos sinabado… and like magic, a week later, while I was in Cebu, this small but incredibly pungent container of the stuff showed up on my desk at the office in Cebu, made just a day or two before…


I must say, the first whiff of this sinabado was not one of love… it reeked! And in an unappetizing way. Older guinamos have had time to mellow and the smell is less vivid, the taste more salty and less fishy. Nevertheless, I had to take this on a plane as baggage, so I had the guinamos re-packed into 12 oz jam jars and covered with plastic and sealed for the ride to Manila. The reason it is called sinabado is that it last from Saturday to Saturday, or roughly a week of fermentation and you should have pretty much consumed all of it in that time. And it is left out on the kitchen counter, not stuck in a refrigerator. I am convinced this is one of our most basic local dishes, and its use probably anti-dates the shard of a 500+ year old blue and white ceramic plate from China (in top photo) dug up from someone’s grave. Folks then caught lots of fish, and kept any excess in a clay jar or jug and figured out salt would help preserve it and extend its life. Then they ate it with whatever starch they had access to such as rice, bananas or root crops.


I associate guinamos most with blanched pili fruit; since my lolo was from Bicol and my lola was from Lapu-Lapu, my dad would enjoy his pili fruit dipped in guinamos. At the time, I felt the guinamos was the lesser of two evils, but today I can completely understand the wonderful pairing between the fibrous flavorful pili fruit flesh with the briny fish sauce. Mrs. MM, on the other hand, associates guinamos with sneaking into the back of the house and swiping guinamos from her yaya who enjoyed it with rice and a vegetable soup. A day after I got back to Manila, I opened one of the bottles of guinamos to a slight pop of pressure, it seems the fermentation of the fish was giving off gasses and the contents had seemingly “grown” in the 12 hours of confinement. We decided to try two different sawsawan. The first, a mixture of guinamos (several pungent tablespoons worth) with chilli vinegar and chopped siling labuyo or bird’s eye chillies. The second sauce we made was guinamos with chopped tomatoes, onions and the juice of several kalamansi. Both were wonderful. The acid from the vinegar and the kalamansi neutralized the raw flavor of fermenting fish and resulted in a sauce that was much better than the sum of its parts. Delicious with some steamed rice or even boiled corn or linupak or unripe saba bananas. Ah, the things we love to eat… Many thanks to Randy’s tita who sent this fantastic guinamos!



  1. kasseopeia says:

    YUM! Ginamos is best paired with boiled saba. Or mixed with siling labuyo and kalamansi as a dip for cold lechon. Hehe. Or with spiced vinegar for inihaw na bangus with lato.

    I watched patis being made in Dagupan. Yes, stinky… but worth it. I can’t imagine my nilaga without patis and kalamansi nor could I cook tinola without it.

    Is Sinabado similar to young bagoong Pangasinan? The ones sold in bottles have aged, I think, as they are less smelly and the salt is more intense. I also tried a guinamos made of (I think) either young oysters or barnacles from Iloilo. Do people still make that stuff? That was great with just fried fish and sliced tomatoes!

    Apr 29, 2008 | 2:09 pm


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  3. Homebuddy says:

    You have to be Pinoy to enjoy guinamos! Paired with boiled bananas, camote , cassava, tinola, linat-an, heavenly!

    In some parts of Leyte, do you know that it is present when there is Lechon? Its an unusual and contrasting pairing don’t you think? But I noticed that with the Lechon, boiled bananas, cassava and camote are also served. This is probably why its there in the first place or can it be a reminder that you can’t have lechon everyday, hehe.

    Apr 29, 2008 | 2:15 pm

  4. jenny says:

    MM, did the Kid like this too? :)

    Apr 29, 2008 | 3:11 pm

  5. Marketman says:

    jenny, NOPE, not the kid’s type of food at this point, and I can’t blame her… :)

    Apr 29, 2008 | 3:45 pm

  6. Lyna says:

    am curious, does it taste and smell like Thai patis? or worst?

    Apr 29, 2008 | 3:59 pm

  7. Marketman says:

    lyna, by itself, it is much more pungent, raw, decaying and off-putting than Thai Patis… much more pungent. It mellows with age.

    Apr 29, 2008 | 4:04 pm

  8. nina says:

    I like buro – fermented rice with rice or shrimp paired with inihaw, mustasa or boiled eg plants, bitter melon or okra. Is Guinamos Sinabado pure anchovy?

    Apr 29, 2008 | 4:08 pm

  9. Vanessa says:

    Now THAT looks ripe! I can definitely visualize saba right beside it. Afternoon merienda fare in the province! :-)

    Apr 29, 2008 | 4:53 pm

  10. Toping says:

    I have long dropped “foul” from the list of adjectives used to describe the smell of guinamos. My only requirement is that it has to use baby anchovies. Good fried with lots of onions and tomatoes too. Yum!

    Apr 29, 2008 | 6:03 pm

  11. chinky says:

    I enjoy boiled green saba dipped in ginamos mixed with kalamansi and chopped tomatoes for merienda when i was a kid. Our cook prepares this sauteed in extra virgin oil, lots of onions and tomatoes to lessen the saltiness—great as an accompaniment to rice and whatever viand–truly rice-intensive when served!!!

    Apr 29, 2008 | 7:25 pm

  12. gq says:

    In Bicol, we have that’s seem to be similar to guinamos but it’s called “kuyog”. Like your dad, we eat kuyog w/the pili fruit flesh or just mix it w/tomotoes and lemon juice.

    Apr 29, 2008 | 7:42 pm

  13. paoix says:

    growing up guinamos was not on top of my list (still isn’t). but i will have to be brave and try it again. :)

    Apr 29, 2008 | 8:36 pm

  14. millet says:

    i learned how to eat “fresh” guinamos like that through my husband’s aunt, who puts lots of grated ginger, shallots and chopped sili. never acquired the taste for boiled green bananas, though…. i find them too starchy and “cardboard-y”.

    Apr 29, 2008 | 9:36 pm

  15. The Steak Lady says:

    i love Guinamos!! as a kid, we enjoyed a (deadly) lunch of Danggit from bantayan, salted egg and tomatoes, and my lola’s version of the guinamos. YUM! =)

    Apr 29, 2008 | 9:40 pm

  16. perkycinderella says:

    Ilonggo version – add kalamansi juice and it’s the favored sawsawan sa boiled cassava

    Apr 29, 2008 | 10:10 pm

  17. Abby says:

    yum-o! I love, LOVE guinamos! I love it with vinegar, calamansi or lime. best with fried fish and nilagang baka.

    Apr 30, 2008 | 5:25 am

  18. choy says:

    with my hypertension issues, i am strictly forbidden to partake of this scrumptious appetizer. but whenever the wife isn’t looking, i will eat guinamos- sinabado (which is the ultimate in fermentation) or otherwise. with saging na saba, fried fish, lechon-anything. guinamos (lawlaw in waray) is glorious!

    Apr 30, 2008 | 8:21 am

  19. kyang2x says:

    Awww…I’m on my first trimester and I’m drooling while staring at the pix! =) My paternal grandparents had a fishing business before and we have sutukil (sugba-towa-kilaw) for breakfast after the day’s bounty arrives. They used to make their own ginamos and I do believe that the longer it is fermented the better it tastes…we put vinegar or tuba together with the ginamos and of course nilagang saba. My lola said that the added “worms” that grows in the ginamos gives that distinct flavor, and one wouldn’t know the difference coz it blends well with the fish. hahaha

    Apr 30, 2008 | 11:06 am

  20. CecileJ says:

    Kyang2x, i was just about to ask MM kung tinutubuan ng worms ung guinamos…. you just answered my question! So dapat lutuin ung guinamos to kill the worms?

    Apr 30, 2008 | 11:18 am

  21. kyang2x says:

    CecileJ, actually, they seldom cook it, but sometimes, they saute it with some garlic and tomatoes, but that rarely happens and it doesn’t taste as good…=)

    Apr 30, 2008 | 12:09 pm

  22. sallyg says:

    Hi MM and fellow readers…

    What’s the difference between ginamos and bagoong?

    Apr 30, 2008 | 1:46 pm

  23. Marketman says:

    sallyg, guinamos and bagoong are similar in process and ingredients… salt and seafood and slight to extreme fermentation. I think guinamos is mostly made up of small fishes, though shrimps are sometimes used. While bagoong can be shrimp or fish. Also, the amount of salt matters. And in many places, bagoong is colored with achuete or artificial food coloring…

    Apr 30, 2008 | 1:53 pm

  24. Miguel says:

    I’ve always been neutral to guinamos as a kid, though I knew a lot about it, since my mom’s Ilongga and used it on occasions. One day, without knowing what will happen, I used it to salt my munggo. I would just say that it was the best flavored guisadong munggo I’ve ever done. I would never go back to salt or patis to flavor my munggo.

    May 1, 2008 | 8:09 am

  25. lyna says:

    thanks MM, then I am sure I will not like it.

    May 2, 2008 | 1:26 am

  26. diday says:

    Why don’t we call it Guinamos Dip. Tzatziki, the traditional Greek dip, the Mexican Guacamole dip and Salsa dip, Blue Cheese dip, Smoked Salmon dip. The Cebuano Guinamos Dip, WHY NOT?
    My mother and sisters prefer boiled saba and boiled okra in Pulang Bato guinamos dip, of course.

    Oct 12, 2008 | 5:59 am

  27. baying says:

    I so love guinamos with boiled saba. Great also with steamed rice and fish. You should also try SISI from Catbalogan Samar :-)

    Nov 20, 2008 | 2:35 am

  28. kristine says:

    hi..do you have the recipe for pili pulp as vegetable? gulay? with gata ata yun. :) thanks

    Feb 12, 2009 | 6:15 pm


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