Inun-unan na Bilong-Bilong / Paksiw na Iwas / Fish Braised in Vinegar


A friend sent over some stunningly fresh bilong-bilong or iwas, also known as moonfish. And instantly Mrs. MM had it made into Inun-unan or paksiw. It was a nearly pavlovian response. Something borne out of a deep-seated set of pleasurable childhood memories eating this dish that was lovingly prepared for her by her yaya. My love for paksiw na isda is more recent, not something I fondly remember from childhood. To make, this was placed in a non-reactive pot, with some chunks of ginger, garlic, white vinegar, salt and sliced kamias. It was brought to a boil with the pot uncovered, then five minutes into the cooking a touch of vegetable oil was added, along with a couple of siling mahaba or finger chillies. The liquid was cooked down to nearly nothing (I actually prefer having a little more sauce) and it was served immediately with lots of rice.


The intensity of the flavor and aroma is memory jogging. I could identify this dish blindfolded. It is basic, sharply flavored and perfect comfort food with rice. But I do not think it is an easily acquired taste. Most folks have to have experienced this early to appreciate it later in life. I can see how this dish would taste even better if done in a palayok or clay pot. I have two other versions of inun-unan or paksiw in the archives, one made with bisugo and soured with dayap, here. And another version that Victor cooked up for us in Cebu, a few months ago, here.


56 Responses

  1. This is my very first comment. I’ve known your blog thru a friend. Been lurking eversince. Anyways, is inun-unan similar to “pinamarhan”? I’m from Passi Iloilo so “karay-a” gid ako. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us. Looking forward to your next post. More power to you!

  2. this is what i would call “pagkain ng matatanda” – in the same category as ayungin cooked in sampaloc, paksiw na bangus and fish cocido. i agree with you that if you never had it in your childhood then the simple pleasure is lost. pass the patis with sili please! yummy!

  3. In Quezon we call that fish hiwas, sapsap being of the smaller variety. You’re right it is so sarap and is reminiscent of my childhood. We like it paired with nilagang talong with tomatoes, nowadays it is called eggplant dip. Porkchop is a good accompaniment too.

    Somehow, I can’t duplicate that taste here, maybe the fish caught here is different, even if I use Pinoy suka.

    MM that recipe is a good break from rich-saucy foods. You certainly know how to plan your menu..


  4. Here in Manila this fish is called “iwas”. In Iloilo, we call it bilong-bilong.

    Sapsap is another species.

    Both are my favorite fish for making paksiw. Paksiw sapsap or bilongbilong paired with boiled, scrambled, or sunny-side up fried eggs for breakfast, yum.

  5. I can smell it from here……hhmmmmmm. Maasim. Inun-on that’s what we call it in Legazpi. That’s my dad’s favorite. I’ve got my eyes on Iba though. Now i miss ginataang kamias na medyo maanghang!!! Hope i can have it again pag uwi namin this May.

  6. i think inun-unan and pinamalhan in negros is just the same …i love bilong2 ma inun-unan or pinirito…but i thought bilong2 is different from sapsap…

  7. gosh ang sarap..
    MM can you please elaborate on a “non-reactive pot”, noon pa namin gustong bumili ng ganyan.. kasi they say when you cook in a non-reactive pot mas maganda daw…

    sorry for not commenting on the blog… but rest assured I always open this site everytime….


  8. MM, if the bilong-bilong is cooked with just iba and salt, sans vinegar, and cooking it until its natural juices have dried up, it will be called pangat.

  9. moni, cool, I did not know that… is that why the dish in Batangas with tulingan and iba is called pinangat? arlene, non-reactive usually means it will not adversely react with acid such as vinegar, tomatoes, citrus juice, kamias, etc. I usually refer to an enameled pot with is stainless steel or hard aluminum coated in a ceramic finish, a Le Creuset is the most name droppable one, but there are lots of others. Glass is also typically non-reactive as are good stainless steel pots. Cheap aluminum pots might be reactive, changing the flavor of the dish and possibly damaging your cookware. Oh, a palayok is probably non-reactive as well with respect to this dish and a nice way to draw moisture and concentrate flavor. Apparently, according to googling, anondized aluminum can sometimes be hard enough to be considered non-reactive, so some aluminum is okay…

  10. I love all kinds of fish and vegetables but sapsap and ampalaya are the ones I was happy to have tried, but not keen on doing it again.

    Give me something else hehehehehe. Anything with coco milk hehehehe

  11. That’s indeed a Hiwas or Chabeta or Bilong-Bilong. Sapsap is an entirely different kind of fish – flesh is whiter, oilier and softer and when the size becomes bigger, it’s called Taksay na. It’s three times pricier than Hiwas.

  12. I like paksiw na hiwas aka bilong bilong with lots of kamias and we fry the leftover paksiw na hiwas but make sure not to overcook it otherwise the meat is a bit chewy.

  13. paksiw, inun-unan, pangat, what’s the difference? it’s true that liking paksiw is an acquired taste. when i was a kid i wondered why my parents and visayan kids would wolf down a kaldero of paksiw. i remember an older relative would tell us kids “dili ni para sa bata” or something to that effect, to drive kids away as competition to the ulam. maybe that’s why i never got to eating paksiw, except paksiw na tiyan ng bangus… yummy!

    my mother would make hiwas, sapsap, and ayungin (the small and matinik na isda) into paksiw. the small galunggong the size of fingers were then wrapped in banana leaves and braised in the same vinegar mix. ito naman yata yung tinatawag na pinais.

  14. I read somewhere that cooking acid (like vinegar) in an aluminum pot can actually be toxic (carcinogenic). In our market here in Paseo de Sta Rosa, I was able to purchase a black palayok. I think this one came from Quezon province. There are also cheap clay pots (P88) that may be purchased in the Japanese Home shops in the malls. Instructions indicate that you have to submerge the pot in “hugas bigas” overnight so it won’t crack easily.

  15. btw, are there other ways of preparing hiwas? nakakasawa na rin ang prito at pilitan pa ang pagkain ng paksiw, kahit na pasosyalin ko pa ang pangalan – fish braised/poached in cider. Ingles man daw ang pangalan, pareho pa rin ang lasa!

  16. hi diwata! the hugas-bigas, is that at room temperature, warm or cold? thanks… i always wonder if those claypots are foodgrade or pangdekorasyon lang…

  17. My mom’s family is Batangueno, we cook this similarly in a clay pot but without the vinegar, and using sun-dried kamias (which is a very deep green, almost black). I’ve always known this as “sinaing na sap-sap” but more frequently we use tulingan.

  18. I wish we can buy kamias here. Still remember our manang making tulingan with kamias. The more you reheat the dish the better it gets. Thanks MM for all the pinoy food posts. Another one I miss is pinangat; when we had a beach house in batangas we usually bought the fish “by catch” and cooked pinangat in a palayok.

  19. ntgerald and andykamatis, thank you so much for that clarification… I have mistakenly referred to bilong-bilong and sap-sap as the same fish and they are not. Turns out bilong-bilong is a “moonfish” or Mene maculata, while sap-sap are “ponyfish” or “toothpony” of which there are several very closely related species. Thanks!

  20. Mmmmm.reminds me of my Lola. So good…but it was usually paksiw or sinaing na sapsap…either with vinegar or kamias/native tomato. So good…but folks take note!! The price of sapsap has become expensive…a balikbayan once requested this and aside from it being harder to find,I was surprised at its price here in metro manila. It used to be so affordable when we were young. Sigh…

  21. ariel, we call that sinaing na tulingan. i make mine with tambakol because i dont know how to clean and remove the “kati” of a tulingan. we just wash the tambakol slices with salt to remove kati and lansa. then drain them and season again with salt. put some pork fats at the bottom of the pot or kaldero, then layer the tambakol slices, alternately with “pinitpit na bawang” and dried kamias and top it again with pork fats. we just cover it with water midway lang, then let it boil and simmer until done.or what the locals here say “hanggang magpatis.” my style naman, i pour kakang gata when its done, let it simmer for three minutes or until the kakang gata has the texture of taho. ayyy, sarap. btw, sometimes i put siling haba because i want it a bit maanghang na kaya din ng mga kids.

  22. thanks marketman for the info. i retired the old palayok given by a batanguena relative, because “napanisan” na siya. and the succeeding dish na iluto doon, napapanis na agad. i used to cook rice in palayok with dahon ng saging at the bottom and laced with pandan. haaay, ang sarap ng tutong niya.

    as a kid, i would drizzle sugar on the tutong and its my merienda na, or if may pera, condensed milk ang toppings (it was a luxury back then). i never liked cooking rice in rice cooker… walang tutong.

  23. thanks diwata. so safe to say na food grade sila at pwedeng serve-an ng ulam… sige, bibili na ako nun, ang cute din kasi tingnan. :)

  24. This reminds me of my childhood days. Mama, used to cook this and I would eat this with “linugaw”. Mmmmm, one of my favorites. Namit guid.

  25. My mother in law make’s a good sinaing na Galungong. She will paksiw the GG with a bit of sugar and simer it till it is very tender then deep fried of course I will eat some of it before she fried the rest. Serve with kamatis and sibuyas as dip…YUMMY!!!!!

    BTW do you guys notice that tomatoes taste different if you cut it with knife than if you smash it with your bare hand?

  26. hi jun! is that why i am told by the batanguena relative to tear the kamatis with my fingers into the sinigang and not to slice it with a knife? i think the reason why it tastes differently because the acid in the tomatoes react to the eleemnts in the knife. pero, paano kaya kung plastic knfe ang gagamitin, may epekto kaya sa lasa? :)

  27. chris: To remove the “kati” of tulingan – or, to be more precise, to prevent the build-up of histamine that causes the “kati” – simply twist the fish’s tail so that it is more or less dislocated, or make an incision near the tail (on the underside). That should do it.

    MM, ampalaya and eggplant are good additions to inun-unan. Oh, and bell pepper too, added moments before you turn off the heat. Yum!

  28. We just made sinaing na tulingan at the house yesterday and it’s my lunch for today although I prefer it fried.=)I like to dip mine in smashed tomato with patis.

    My dad loves this dish but he prefers it with kalamansi as pampaasim. I don’t eat it though. I only go for paksiw na bangus with garlic fried rice and scrambled eggs on the side.

    Now tha Mr. Jun mentioned it, there is indeed a diffrence between the taste of a smashed tomato to a chopped one. The former is more juicier. The tambakol version of chris’ sinaing with coconut is just mouthwatering. Our Bicolana househelp makes a mean one too, sans the pork fat.

    Just want to ask if the Batangas folks fry their now plump dried kamias from their “sinaing”? It was a treat when I was younger and was vacationing in my uncle’s home in San Pascual. Me and my cousins would fight for those fried pieces together with the pork fat.

  29. Hi Alexena!

    Yes we fry our plump dried kamias from sinaing together with the other “pampaasim” like, “kipil na sampaloc”. It’s a special treat after several times of “pagpapainit”, that’s why we keep those “pampaasim” and the “namuyag” versions of sinaing para we can fry it. Pero for me, the best pa rin kainin ‘yung kamias on its sinaing stage because of its soft texture. And yes, I agree with you…I like the smashed tomato than the chopped one, my version naman is with salt only. I don’t know why, but the more you “smash it”, the more sha masarap (hehehe).

    My Mom always buy “hiwas” everytime she finds it available in her “suki”. It’s not always available kc kaya when she finds one, hindi pwede na wala shang “hiwas”. Sometimes we make “sinaing” and fry some pieces at the same time (esp. if it’s “sariwa”).

  30. In the Visayas bilong-bilong is cooked inununan (with vinegar). After which it is then fried crisp. My grandmother used to do this all the time. It is really the best of comfort food. The flavors become so intense in sourness and then made crisp. I have not eaten this in ages since my grandmother passed away.

    With sap-sap, it was not only cooked with vinegar but often soured further with kamias (Iba). There was another variation of making inununan which I recall in my childhood. They would cook gurayan (small fish with the silver stripe across, dilis perhaps?) the same way wrapped or clay pot lined with guava leaves. Tthe aroma of guava would seep into the fish. I have not tasted anything since then.

  31. we sometimes fry this till crisp similar to fried galunggong… but “sinaing na hiwas” or “tulingan” paired with kulawo (eggplant with a smoky coconut cream sauce) is the ultimate home food for me… uncomplicated and honest…

  32. Medyo nalilito ako. Can someone help me. Ano ba ang difference ng paksiw, pinangat, at sinaing? Pinangat ba ang tawag nila sa paksiw sa Batangas? Kasi what I grew up with ang paksiw na isa niluto sa suka or kamias, yung pangat sa kamatis or kamias (walang suka), yung sinaing, tambakol or tulingan na niluto sa palayok tapos yung sabaw ang tawag patis. Iba-iba kasi ang tawag ng food dito sa Pinas, Maiba ka lang lugar iba na ang tawag.

  33. kulasa, you aren’t the only one confused. For me, inun-unan, paksiw are with vinegar or other souring agent available. I think the batangueno fish dish in a claypot is with kamias only, no vinegar…

  34. Hello Kulasa!

    I’m not speaking for the whole Batangueño’s hah..I’ll just share what is the difference according to what my Lola and other elders cook for us. Iba-iba talaga ang tawag nila, would you believe…there are times na pinagtatalunan ‘yang mga “tawag” na yan while eating. Anyways, hope this info will help:

    Pinangat is different from Paksiw. We use kamatis (tomatoes) as “paasim”. We usually have this if the “isda” is sobrang sariwa kc manamis-namis sha. But mas maganda if konti lang and “ipangat” as in pwedeng maubos kagad because madali sha mapanis due to kamatis. Unlike sinaing, the more na tumatagal the more na masarap. Patis nga ang tawag namin sa sabaw ng sinaing which we save sometimes for our “Bulanglang” which is masarap na ka-partner ng Sinaing na Tulingan. I remember pa nga when my cousins are coming, aside from the Lola would cook Adobong Baboy with Atchuete plus of course our Bulanglang. As for the Paksiw, normally vinegar nga lang ginagamit namin with “siling haba”.

    Hope my info, somehow helps…but then again, I just based it from what know. Inputs from other Kababayan’s are welcome.

    Thanks MM for your great posts!!

  35. Thanks Badette. That’s exactly how I know them. But no matter what their called – talagang masarap kainin.

  36. MM, thank you for posting about moonfish or chabeta as we know it–it’s our fave next to bangus and tilapia!

    To our batangueno experts, how do you cook sinaing or pangat na isda with pork fat? Haven’t tried it. It should really be good since a simple paksiw na isda is already good.. Masarap kasi umuulan na naman lagi.

  37. Hey there Joycelyn… they way we do it we put the fat at the bottom of the pan before layering the fish… this protects the fish and at the same time add another dimension to the finished dish…

  38. @Jocelyn= you may refer to chris’ post somewhere on the top on how to cook “sinaing na isda” sans the coconut milk. It is how Batangueños do it, which my mom’s family taught us how too.

    We do tulingan in our house. It’s best if you use some pork fat that will melt while cooking and really good dried kamias/kalamias. The garlic gives additional flavor. All you need is some salt and pepper to season. The trick is to slowly cook it. You’ll know you’re there if you can easily smash the fish bones with a fork.=)

  39. regarding difference of paksiw and pinangat i’m with badette, we cook it like that too. i have not tried sinaing na fish mukhang masarap nga sha. =) How I eat paksiw/inun-unan or pangat? i need mainit na garlic rice and i mean madaming garlic! I then generously shower it w/ the sabaw ng pangat or paksiw then nakakamay mo himayin yung fish then i have on the side crushed finger chili & patis dip (w/ pangat an addition of crushed kamatis on my patis) hay sarap lalo na umuulan try nyo mas masarap! =)

  40. My late Lola (she was from Siquijor and Zamboanga del Norte) introduced Inun-unan to me as a child. I have lived in Mindanao and 3 towns in Panay island and I have seen how different they all cook this dish. Basically, it’s paksiw (cooked in vinegar) but while Inun-unan has a distinct flavor with all the extra vegies you mix in it, other versions only have vinegar and garlic; while others put ginger in it for another less ‘fishy’ flavor. Yum!

  41. The difference between paksiw and pinangat is one ingredient,,,ginger. Paksiw will always have ginger, while pinangat doesn’t have it. That’s how Bulakeno’s do it.

  42. Whatever it is pinangat, paksiw or sinaing, I enjoy the dish the day after it’s cooked with lots of garlic fried rice. Of course, palayok is my choice of cooking vessel or corning ware.

  43. We call this dish nilingta and our souring agent is usually a very unripe na manggang kalabaw. The flavor is so intense, I can finish half a caldero of rice for one piece of fish, hehehe!

  44. Vinegar naman ang difference sa amin. Paksiw requires one while Pinangat does not require vinegar. our paksiw doesn’t have ginger actually water,vinegar,fish,finger chili seasoned w/ patis is paksiw na. Mas masarap if with ampalaya. While Pangat naman water, fish, tomato, drops of oil seasoned with patis pinangat na. I am also a Bulakeña. =)

  45. Ted…my MIL will beg to disagree with me and with you! She puts GINGER in anything…paksiw, pangat, nilaga, even suman (the Chinese jungz), Chinese adobo…I bet if I turn my back wwhen I make guinatan bilo bilo , she will put GINGER in it as well!!!…she always, says it is good for me!

  46. Ready for more confusion? If I remember right, in Pangasinan
    Paksiw(our:Inaksiw or Aksiw) is your Sinaing-cooked without vinegar but only kamias or green mango and ginger over
    banana leaves in a clay pot.

    Pangat(our:Impangat) is with vinegar.

    I am sure somebody from there is ready to challenge those
    terms and cooking method-

  47. the best inun-unan is “tangigue” ……add olive oil to your usual receipe…ka lamiiiii…ma miss mo ang Cebu



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