Kinilaw or seviche is best made to order. That means that you only add the vinegar and spices to the freshest fish a la minute or just before it is brought to the table. If the fish soaks in the vinegar too long it gets rubbery and tough and in my opinion, inedible. I was in Bohol the other day and had one of the best kinilaws I have eaten in the past 10 years. It was really superb. It isnâ€™t often that I find fresh malasugi (swordfish) in the markets or at restaurants so that alone was reason to be curious about the kinilaw on offer at M-R Seafoods, a restaurant on stilts on the way to the Tagbilaran pier. We ordered one dish of grilled squid and decided to try a Kinilaw na Malasugi or Swordfish Seviche.
To make, they started with very fresh swordfish that was cut into manageable cubes â€“ perhaps a large handful and put this in a bowl. To this, they added sliced red oinion, smashed ginger, sliced native tomatoes, siling labuyo (birdâ€™s eye chilies), calamansi (calamondin), salt and some good tuba (palm vinegar). It was garnished with chopped green onion. I think the key was the palm vinegar which is a little cloudy, sour but sweet in a way and with all those wonderful vinegar eels still squiggling aroundâ€¦ The resulting kinilaw was â€œreef freshâ€ and the marinade a perfect balance of salt, acid, chili and ginger. Delicious.
I am told that this same restaurant serves some other great dishes like vegetables in coconut milk, steamed seafood and various preparations of seaweed. We were there between lunch and dinner and the place was deserted but I am told it fills up for main meals. Hygiene, or lack of it, did cross my mind for a moment but I did better there than at a recent meal at a swanky private club in Manila where a friend and I came down with bad reactions to a poorly made bangus that was just chockfull of bacteria and the friend ended up at an emergency room for a serious shot of antihistamines! The kinilaw was PHP150 for a small bowlâ€¦that seemed a tad steep but it was worth it!