Personally, I love our own Visayan style version of kinilaw, with some coconut milk. It’s perhaps what I am most used to, and thus I may be biased, but put head to head against a lime-based seviche, here were some observations. The pinoy style kinilaw had more layers of flavor, from the good coconut vinegar, the coconut milk and the slivers of ginger. Also, I preferred the mere seconds of marination, to the long slow cooking in lime juice — this resulted in a supple, fresh almost sashimi quality to the fish, rather than rubbery cooked chunks of fish. I have made kinilaw several times before, and you may refer to this recipe, or this version if you wish to make this dish at home.
Before you attempt your kinilaw, make sure you have AMAZINGLY FRESH fish, in this case, a newly caught then filleted tanguigue or Spanish mackerel. Use the best locally made vinegar possible, and squeeze your coconut milk together with the vinegar. Marinate your ginger and onions for a few minutes longer in the dressing, before adding the fish, tomatoes, etc. And if you access to these spectacular cilantro flowers, you can experiment with over-the-top garnishes like the ones in the plating in these photos. Frankly, the garnishing did little for the dish, but it was just nice to have cilantro microgreens AND flowers to jazz up the dish.
I was a bit amazed at the initial results of the current poll question, where roughly 30% of readers either haven’t tried kinilaw or don’t like it. For me, sinigang, adobo and kinilaw are perhaps the three most important dishes of Philippine cuisine… A properly made kinilaw is sublime, and a stunning exercise in simplicity, freshness and the importance of using only the finest ingredients. I strongly encourage folks who haven’t tried it to seek out a great kinilaw or to make one at home… :)