15 Apr2005

Dilis or Anchovies are a very common fish in Philippine markets. adils1There are at least a dozen different species of anchovies (Family Engraulidae) in Philippine waters, but it’s difficult to identify to species level so I will group them all together under the anchovy family. Usually found close to shore in estuaries, reef sheltered areas and shallow waters, they feed on plankton and probably multiply faster than rabbits. Also known as anchois in French and boqueron in Spanish, anchovies are common in the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Most commonly seen in the west packed with oil in small flat tins or alternatively in bottles with lots of salt, their intense flavor is used in Italian and French cooking and is a critical ingredient in modern Caesar salad dressing!

In the Philippines, anchovies are a key ingredient for making patis or fish sauce adils2(essentially fermented anchovies that are strained and bottled). Anchovies are also enjoyed raw or pickled in vinegar as well as fried or cooked in numerous different ways depending on the region. In a Batangas market recently, there was an abundance of reef fresh anchovies perfect for Kinilaw na Dilis or Anchovy Seviche. The first unsavory (at least for me) step is to clean the bloody buggers. You have to take each fish and remove the fillets while discarding the head, guts and bones. The dilis fillets are then washed and drained of excess water. It looks easy enough but is highly labor (not to mention smell) intensive and I would rather order a Big Mac instead of doing this step myself, frankly. So someone else, who is fond of the sea and its contents, cleaned the fish and prepared this dish. Hence, Kinilaw na Dilis a la Seaman.

To make the kinilaw, wash the cleaned anchovies in a bath of vinegar and squeeze gently to drain. adils3Repeat this step. Locals love using coconut vinegar but you can use any delicious native vinegar. You will notice that the anchovy fillets whiten with each successive vinegar bath as you are effectively cooking the fish without any heat. Place the washed and cleaned anchovies in a bowl, add peeled and smashed ginger, thinly sliced red or white onions, chopped siling labuyo or bird’s eye chillies, rock salt and lots more vinegar to essentially pickle or “cook” the dilis fillets. Add freshly cracked black pepper if you like. Some folks like to add a bit of kalamansi or dayap to brighten the flavor. Taste to ensure there is enough salt or heat (spice from the peppers). Allow the flavors to seep into the vinegar and anchovies and serve soon after. I am told this is best eaten with leftover rice (bahaw) and I guess it’s because this rice is drier and will sop up all the great vinegar and spices that come with this dish. I also like to eat this with tomatoes or sour green mangoes with salt as a side dish.



  1. peppon says:

    I have also tried a variation where they used bigger dilid fillets and soaked mostly in olive oil instead of vinegar. It was delicious! How is this prepared?

    Apr 15, 2005 | 2:36 pm


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  3. Karen says:

    Oh, the kinilaw must’ve been quite tasty! I’ve used our native dilis for pasta recipes and I’m satisfied with the results.

    Apr 15, 2005 | 6:54 pm

  4. schatzli says:

    I read yr salad nicoise yesterday so I bought some anchovy but I love my caesar dressing with anchovy on them.
    I deep fry mine squeeze lemons- the very greek way of doing it pair with feta.

    Apr 16, 2005 | 3:14 am

  5. Marketman says:

    The dilis fillets in olive oil sounds like a spanish style tapa. Boquerones in Spain are either anchovies or smelt that are deep fried, prepared with vinegar, oil and eaten as one of many tapas. Yum.

    Karen, how do you use native dilis in pasta? Fresh, fried or preserved? How intriguing…

    Schatzli – that sounds like an absolutely terrific salad version… let me get this straight – to lettuce and other veggies you add fried anchovies, lemon dressing and feta? I have to try that someday!

    Apr 16, 2005 | 6:56 am

  6. Karen says:

    Oh sorry Marketman! I wasn’t back early enough to catch the question. Fresh dilis are a bit of work so I use the dried, salted variety: soaked in warm water for at least half an hour then filleted.

    Apr 26, 2005 | 3:16 pm

  7. diaz says:

    My father prepares shrimp this way also, it’s very very
    good. Just peel, devien, and take the heads off of the
    shrimp, then add the rest of the ingredients and you’ll have
    a delicious shrimp ceviche :) Some people like to leave the
    head of the shrimp on but, I prefer them headless.

    Jun 15, 2005 | 6:06 am

  8. anonymous paul says:

    a handyman of ours prepared something similar to this but added coconut milk at the very end. sublime.

    Feb 13, 2008 | 10:47 am

  9. Romeo says:

    masarap ang dilis pag torta ang pagka luto…but how catch dilis through sa mga basnig

    Jul 23, 2009 | 11:06 pm


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