Kinilaw a la Victor/Marketman


I don’t often declare a particular dish to be “the best” simply because it seems to eliminate the possibility of any further improvement, but this dish is as close to “the best kinilaw” as I think I will ever get. I prepared this kinilaw for the Anthony Bourdain shoot, and after a “practice session,” I was so thrilled with the results that I let Mr. Bourdain taste it right then and there. So once lucky, I was hoping I could replicate the dish for the marketmanila eyeball, and based on the numerous comments in the previous posts, the reviews seem to be unanimous… this was one of the best kinilaw na tanguigue, ever. :)


The key to a superb kinilaw, in my opinion, is superbly fresh fish, good native coconut vinegar, tomatoes, onions, ginger, salt, coconut milk (if using), chillies and a citrus source of acid. I have had the kinilaws that have used tabon-tabon as well, and while equally delicious, I am not sure why one would try to remove the “langsa” from a fish that was just recently alive, and by definition, should have no langsa-ness at all. At any rate, here is how to replicate the dish that we made during the eyeball. This includes every single step we took so that you can’t accuse me of leaving out any trade secrets… If you want to do it exactly as we did, you will have to start by crafting this wildly wonderful, 18 inch diameter glass bowl (totally optional, btw) by freezing some water at the base of a planggana, then adding another planggana and filling the first one with water while weighing down the second bowl. We have a huge chest freezer at the office so we got to experiment with this and ended up with wonderful ice bowls for the buffet… that is a “Marketman touch” and I won’t bore you with the details of how to get the ice less cloudy (boil the water, twice) and how long the bowl might last (several hours), etc., etc. :)


If the guests last Saturday had witnessed the arrival and slicing of the fish, they would have felt even more stongly about this dish. Here is how it all happened. Several hours before the eyeball, we got a call from our trusted seafood “scout” who was on the shores of Bantayan, where larger bancas were landing their day’s catch. He called us by cellphone to report that he had located two fantastically fresh tanguigue or spanish mackerels, one at 14.5 kilos and another at 11.8 kilos. These were pretty huge. The fish we purchased for the Bourdain episode was just 5 kilos in size. We decided to purchase the 11.8 kilo fish, snatching it away from scouts for Japanese buyers, and it made its way on ice (preferably packed with it in a position that mimics it swimming, rather than lying on it’s side. Once it arrived in Cebu early morning of Saturday, it was placed in the chest freezer for a couple of hours, just long enough to keep it very cold, but not freeze it.


Two hours before the guests arrived, we took the fish out of the freezer and about 30 minutes before the guests arrived, I sliced away the prime pieces of sushi quality meat and cut them into roughly 1 inch square pieces that were some 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch thick. We stuck these slices into a plastic storage container and kept them chilled in the fridge. The yield from the 11.8 kilo fish was roughly 4 to 4.5 kilos of sliced meat. The rest of the fish was saved for a terrific crew tinola (which I also enjoyed immensely) the following Monday.


Slice the fish with an incredibly clean knife and wash your hands well before starting the process. Note that we DO NOT wash the sliced fish pieces in any water. Just store this straight in the fridge. Now to assemble the kinilaw you will need the following items already prepared. Sliced small red onions. Chopped tomatoes. Chopped siling labuyo or bird’s eye chillies. Juiienned peeled ginger. Salt. Coconut milk (made by adding coconut vinegar to the grated coconut and squeezing the milk out of the grated coconut). If you use water on your grated coconut you will not get the same results. Good coconut vinegar. And the marketman touch… biasong and kaffir lime leaves. Millet, a reader from Davao, very generously offered to bring me a kilo of biasong in her luggage and she even dropped this off several hours before the eyeball. Mrs. MM came from Manila with the Teen the day before the eyeball and brought me some freshly harvested kaffir lime leaves from our garden…


The biasong adds a wonderful fragrance to the dish, a notch above kalamansi, in my opinion. But if you can’t get the biasong or real dayap, then go ahead and use kalamansi. The ulienned kaffir lime just adds added fragrance and some color. To assemble, get a clean bowl (glass or stainless). Add about 3-4 cups full of fish. Add say a cup full of coconut vinegar (I find non-native ones a bit harsh and too acidic), toss with your fingers and after about 10-15 seconds of “washing” the fish pieces, discard the vinegar. Next add the chopped onions, ginger, chillies, coconut milk (made with vinegar), tomatoes, salt, biasong juice and kaffir lime leaves and toss to mix well. Let this sit for roughly 3-4 minutes and serve immediately. I think one should consume this kinilaw within ten to fifteen minutes of making it…


We lined an ice bowl with banana leaves, put the first batch of kinilaw into it, and guests who had watched the entire process of preparing the dish (not the cutting up of the fish) dug in. Several guests were a bit surprised, I think, at the ease and speed with which this is made. And many expressed surprise at the taste. It’s quite hard to describe a good kinilaw, but essentially it is raw fish just bathed in vinegar and acid, soft, translucent and totally unfishy. The sauce should enhance it, with a touch of spice, a bit of smoothness from the coconut milk, and the hints of citrus and other ingredients used. I thought it was superb. Liked it almost more than the lechon…


Kinilaw served in restaurants is often “overcooked” in my opinion, it has been sitting in vinegar for hours and is sometimes tough as meat. If you ever get to taste this version of a kinilaw, you may have difficulty going back to the restaurant versions ever again. This is definitely one of my top 10 favorite dishes to make for myself or guests at the moment. Once I had finished the first batch of kinilaw, Victor prepared another 3-4 batches and they were served in the large ice bowl pictured at the top of this post. I am curious what guests at the eyeball thought about this kinilaw and encourage you all to leave your impressions of this first dish you tasted at the eyeball…


80 Responses

  1. Gawd, MM, you are unsufferable ! Such attention to detail, but the process must have been as enjoyable and thrilling as the perfect kilawin reaches the dining table. Wonder how Anthony Bourdain reacted to it.

  2. can biasong be substituted with limes? not really familiar with it. Ive always liked kinilaw but wary when i go home to the philippines of getting food poisoning. Also, can the fish be substituted like say swordfish.. or is it best with spanish mackerel?

  3. Yeah, MM! I second RobStar…I will definitely maake this next spring when my brother goes fishing…have to substitute halibut for the fish though. He only goes halibut and/or salmon fishing.

    What are you talking about “no fresh fish” there, Natie. You are in the heart of FOOD CENTRAL…New York/Jersey….I’ve heard that those seafood buyers are wheeling and dealing as early as 2 a.m…..on second thought Natie, I think that’s what I’ve seen in the movies…or is it on TV…can’t remember now!!!

    RobStar…maybe Key limes?…

  4. Freshest kinilaw could be! And to keep the freshness served in carved ice bowl cannot get any better than that. Freshness is right in there by definition, look and usage!

  5. The expression on my face in the photo above is the expression of bewilderment and confusion — trying to understand why the kinilaw tastes so dang good.

    I second the motion, MM. I don’t know how I can enjoy restaurant-made kinilaw now.

  6. “boil the water twice”, a scout for the freshest fish…”

    bettyq, you’re right, after reading these, i do not know anyone aside from MarketMan, either, who would go to such great lengths to prepare a feast like this, for 50 people, a lot of whome he has never met.

    and talking about the kinilaw -it couldn’t be any fresher, but the flavors were very distinct, and there was not a trace of fishy-ness at all. the coconut milk was not overpowering at all (like some kinilaw with gata that i have tried), but simply provided a silky mouthfeel to the “sauce”.

    what could have enhanced it further, i think, would have been a few very thin slices of biasong thrown into the mixture, to stretch the fragrance factor a bit. although i’m not sure about this, it may turn the whole mixture bitter, instead. maybe it’s time for another taste test, MM!

  7. robstar, cebuanos generally make kinilaw with tanguige, but davaoenos use yellowfin tuna or blue marlin.but anything may be kilaw’d – even samll anchovies are very good kinilaw. it’s not the fish, it’s the freshness.

  8. RobStar…snapper? …that’s it…not halibut season now but I have access to freshly caught snapper….just like what Millet said above-“it’s not the fish…it’s the freshness!”

  9. OMG… that’s my favorate… i can eat those things the whole day.. yum2x….. huhuhu….

    i will join your next EB MM… I will…….

  10. Lee you’re so caught in the act and waitlisted Joey ! hahaha MM, my husband Jojo said it was the best kinilaw he ever tasted because the ingredients just seem to skim off your tongue, leaving your palat wanting for more of the taste. I DONT eat raw fish because i hate to taste the langsa of fish but for this EB I made the exception because you made it yourself! And it was gooood! I’ll definitely have it again if you serve it in the next EB. Squeezing the coconut with vinegar made the mixture yummier and not watery, great trick there.

  11. hi joan that was my third, fourth or fifth chunk. seventh if i have to be extra honest.

    The kinilaw we had was the closest we can get to eating something with the freshest ingredients. The best option would be to dive in the ocean, chase a tangigue, and take a bite while taking care not to spill your mouthful of vinegar, gata and spices.

    i hope now you understand Fabian’s bewilderment, Felipe’s eagerness, and the 2 Joey’s nearly identical smiles.

  12. Visayans can quickly detect an excellent kinilaw nga tangigue at first bite. In MM’s demo, we learned that the technique is to mix the native coco vinegar with the grated coconut to squeeze the milk. Besides the fact that the freshest of ingredients were used, it was this subtle blending of coconut milk and native vinegar which brought about the great flavor sans the fishy taste. Millet is right. MM’s kinilaw at the EB was so delicious and the biasong,coconut milk and vinegar did not scream for attention. The fish and the rest of the ingredients were so fresh so what more could we ask? I had 4 chunks of the kinilaw. Kudos and thanks MM.

  13. Thanks MM for explaining the real function of the tabon-tabon– pang-alis lang ng lansa. Hinahanap ko pa naman. I always thought, because it clouds the vinegar upon application, the tabon-tabon functions like gata or mayonnaise (!! yes some add that to kilawin) to “round-off” the sourness of the vinegar and to add a certain creaminess to the dish. So if fish is really very fresh, i can very well omit tabon-tabon pala. Congrats for the successful luncheon in Cebu. Nakakainggit at nakakagutom.

  14. The kinilaw was a perfect beginning, it opened up our palates!
    Thanks for highlighting biasyong MM. I gave some to friends when I came from a trip in Mindanao and wish someone would make a limoncello like drink from it. It’s so flowery and aromatic. I’d love to grow a tree of it here in Manila if it didn’t lose it’s fragrance.

  15. …and when kinilaw has already sat for more than fifteen minutes, my husband calls it “paksiw”.

  16. My Ilonggo father would have loved this if he were alive. I love kinilaws. Both of my parents (and father-in-law) are visayans so we have had our share of kinilaws. You can also use –unbelievably–bangus. We had a sales mgr who worked for us (fr samar) and he used to cut fresh ,fresh bangus(he says you just have to avoid the tinik level)–and miracle! No tiniks!! Malinamnam. Even anchovy- if done well- is superb. I would have loved to have been there MM. So many salads too!
    Maybe that is part of the secret. Use vinegar to get the coconut milk. Milky and delicious .Our sales mgr from Samar always kept his secret. His kinilaw was to-die-for.That might be the secret— Hmmmm…let me try that. Joan? Let’s try it
    Thanks MM!!

  17. Ps. Want to try this and the addition of kaffir sounds great! Once got some at Salcedo but find it hard to buy. Though I have a bottle of dried kaffir which I use for Thai dishes. I also love your “ice palanggana” presentation. As my kids say Astig! I didnt attend the Lechonan but I feel like I too have a hangover just reading all the comments . Hayyyy…talagang green with envy tayo…..

  18. Yes, it’s the freshness, whether tanique, or shrimp. Not a surprise that kinilaw from Gen San, Davao, Surigao, Puerta princessa and even infanta have been great!

  19. Marketman, that kilawin sounds awesome. I’ve never found any good recipe for kilawin so I’ve never made it myself, although at times when I crave for this I would just get fresh tangigue from Farmer’s Market and have it cooked at my favourite dampa stall. I’m going to try this recipe! Thanks!

  20. For those in the US dayap is key lime now grown widely in Mexico not Florida, available in groceries. Another ingredient brought to the Philippines via the Spanish galleon trade.
    Marketman, to avoid the bubbles that cloud ice you could also let the water sit for a day to remove the oxygenation and clorine after boiling once.
    Just a note of caution, boil native vinegar 5 min. and cool before using. Native vinegar is a great carrier for amoebic dysentery, not killed by acid- folk tales not withstanding. Just remember the 30 guests that landed in the hospital after Mom’s seaside lechon party. I don’t think you were born yet when that happened.
    Sorry I missed the eyball!

  21. I shall paraphrase Bourdain to say: Best kinilaw…ever! This and the Accuchon skin were my by-a-mile top picks from last Saturday. I still can’t decide which I preferred, but I know that I could definitely eat more of the kinilaw than the lechon.

    In the picture above, you can only see a bit of me behind Felipe, but I remember waiting very impatiently for him to get some kinilaw already so it could be my turn again! (We were sharing a fork.) I also fell in love with the biasong. I took half of one to the table with me, and would sometimes pick it up just to smell its wonderful fragrance. Wouldn’t it be possible to grow it here?

  22. Simply put- it was superb! The perfect 1st course of an excellent meal… sandali… kumain pala muna ako ng mani, chicharon and Joan’s sans rival… :-)

    O sige- let me paraphrase Bourdain na lang: It was the best FISH… ever!

    Kakahiya itsura ko… flashing the grin of a true blue matakaw! :-)

  23. Joey P, you are not the only one…I think I look more matakaw than you by a mile!!! But this was definitely the best kinilaw I’ve tasted…I loved it! I could have had more but I think I had too much “caught in the act” pictures already! Excellent, excellent prelude/partner for the lechon…like Katrina, this and the accuchon skin are my highlights…and the lechon meat from the one you roasted with all the herbs (the one with the rosemary), had then cut me the part from jowl to a bit of the neck…oohlala!

    Best kinilaw EVER!!!

  24. Just reading the process of putting together the Kinilaw,I am sure its a sure hit.I wrote it down so I can replicate exactly what you did. Thank you. MM, for us here in US, could you please give us 3 months notice on your next EB.

  25. ‘Kinilaw’ might just become a new term in the western culinary lexicon once we see and hear Bourdain sings all the praises on your delectable creations :).

    I wonder though, did Bourdain ever make any comparisons with the ceviches he’s had elsewhere (e.g., Peru)?

  26. kinilaw na tanguigue is the only kinalaw that I’d eat! My mom used to make this a lot when she was alive and this post reminded me of her –hers was a good one too. I miss eating this! And the ice bowl –brilliant!

  27. my mom used to make dayap meringue pie with the biasong. she also uses the rind for leche flan.

    diday, the bigger, whiter variety of anchovies (my mom calls them “twakang” is best for kinilaw. they;re sweet, no?

    MM, hope you’re better. i, too, came home with a bad cold and cough, but i could do another lechon EB this weekend if there’s one.

  28. i don’t care if i don’t eat lechon EVER!!! i NEED to try this! healthy, cool, fresh… i love this post.

  29. Natie, no fresh fish in the NY/NJ?

    1. Wake up at wee hours in the morning.. drive to the bronx where the new fulton fish market is now situated.. at hunterspoint. Roughly 4-6 am and you can get some of the best seafoods.

    2. Find a local fish monger who would get you what you wnat at the fulton fish market..I know a place in brooklyn called fish tales, a small hole in the wall store with very high quality products..

    3. In flushing , theres a supermarket called flushing market at 147 st and northern blvd. they have aquariums with live striped bass, Live frogs, turtles…etc etc..

    4.In jersey- use to be yaohan plaza.. forgot the current name.. but that japanese supermarket inside has very nice fish selection.. sushi grade and even tuna collars.

    5. go to your local favorite sushi place, order sashimi and make it out of those.

    6. Out of sheepshead bay, 19th street Eammons avenue.. especially during the summer party fishing boats go out at 6 am and return to the docks around 2:30ish pm, most of the crew sells their catch off the docks. On most summer days… you can get fresh porgies, seabass, lotsa bluefish aka ratfish, tog or blackfish, and if you’re lucky striped bass. Be wary one of the boat around the middle of the dock hasn’t seen ocean in years… but they pretend they go out and sells fish off it. Buy only from boats you see coming back into the docks.

    Bettyq, as always thanks for the tip on the biasong… all I need now is to figure out how to extract fresh coconut.. I use to have that thing u sit on and grate with… but its been lost or thrown out.. I was thinking of cracking a fresh coconut and extracting the meat then put it in the blender or use a hand grater.
    I will also try the recipe with striped bass, they are fleshy fish with neutral flavor. Its great for anything, sinigang, steamed, fried, and now..I’ve seen it in sushi places. But firstly, i will try it as recommended by MM, using spanish mackerel.

  30. Wow, MM, thanks for all the tips. I use coconut milk but your instruction to add coco vinegar before squeezing is unheard of and the addition of dayap and kaffir lime. superb. My friend from LA used to email me before she goes home to the philippines and requests kinilaw. I will definitely try your recipe! Now I feel so sorry for not attending the EB. boohoohoo

  31. there’s a seafood restaurant in Houston called the Reef that is offering a “fusion” type version of kinilaw, the chef learned it from his Filipino cooks…hopefully, Bourdain’s show would make this even more popular….

  32. RobStar…Is there a Filipino store close to where you are. If there is ask them if they can bring in this frozen canned coconut cream …brand name:D’Best Coconut Cream…distributor:Simex International based in San Francisco. Another option: try to find out the Asian distributor there of Asian products (wholesaler). Ask them if they carry the product I told you about. Of course, you have to buy them by the case! That’s what I did…found out here who the wholesaler is and I deal with them directly. If you taste that coconut cream ….you WILL NOT go back to the canned Thai ones. It tastes just like freshly squeezed gata (1st extraction!)

    Second option: is there a SRI LANKAN grocery store too where you are? I have this manual grater…can be attached or hooked to the end of the table much like the pasta maker but the bldes look very similar to the ones they use at the palengke!

    Third option: maybe crack it open and pass it thru a food processor with grater attachment or Kitchen Aid mixer with grater attachment.?

    Last but notleast… I have a spare blade for the kudkuran…my niece sent it to me two years ago… it’s never been used and it looks really sturdy. You just have to make the “Kabayo”. I can mail it to you if you send me your address …send me an e-mail!

  33. Bettyq,
    Thats really nice of you..But its ok. am patient and will go home in the next yr or two.. I will bring some back and palayoks.. haha NY/NJ area has alot of filipinos am sure one of the stores has it. Whats the use of Jose rizals statues and a street named manila avenue if you can’t find those things locally. I’ll try the hand grater with the meat…since i don’t consume enough coconut milk to buy a whole box.I will however keep an eye for d’best coconut cream when I go to filipino stores.
    I do have those mellon scrapers if you need.. i bought a whole bunch from my last trip. My plan of hand carrying some parols didn’t pan out.. haha
    thank you for the offer once again..the gesture is more than enough.

  34. hahaha!!! thanks, robstar and bettyq!! 4-6 am?? maybe i’ll just try the japanese grocers–or wait for my annual trek home. indeed, there are numerous numerous pinoy stores in the area, but i’m used to making kinilaw from fish that still move and shrimps that still jump.

  35. and you guests, couldn’t even wait to sit down before digging in into the kinilaw…all of you are holding forks already while gathered around the ice bowl…good thing there was a 2nd, 3rd, 4th batch…those must have reached the buffet table at least…kinilaw was that good.

  36. I’m craving for a kinilaw right now, though I cant eat any hard food still, because of this tonsillitis….


    once my throat is okay, i will surely eat kinilaw.. ^___^

  37. For those of us who were unfortunately unable to attend MM’s EB due to mitigating circumstances,this is equivalent to torture to the 1st degree!

    Anyway,am glad that the EB was a success!

  38. thanks MM for the step by step instructions.

    BettyQ – I live in VA and if I find the brand mentioned in your post, do I just add vinegar then enough to dilute it?

  39. ljc…OK, how I wish I was there at Cebu and had a taste of the kinilaw…That canned frozen coconut cream has a sweet taste much like the cacang I think you just add a TOUCH of vinegar (coconut vinegar) so it still remains thick!… Taste it as you go along…just like MM said..the fish is lightly tossed in vinegar and then drained….I will defrost 1 can today and let you know in a few days.

    I had about 1 cup of that Savoy coconut cream (blue can I told you about EbbaMYra) leftover from the puto ube I made on the week-end. After seeing the post on kinilaw, I tested it using that coconut cream…didn’t have key lime and kaffir lime leaves BUT I had lemon grass. …didn’t have fresh fish either but my son went out to eat with his friends and brought home spicy tuna maki…so I just dipped it in the coconut mixture…puede na rin!!!!

  40. kurzhaar, biasong are limes, some say localized kaffir limes, as they have the same unique leaves as kaffir limes, but don’t seem to have the really knobly skin texture normally seen in thai kaffir limes (photo in post above). And I used kaffir lime leaves as well And tabon-tabon is an unusual fruit that is used in the preparation of kinilaw in some parts of the Philippines.

  41. Thanks, Marketman. It’s interesting how similar this is to a marinated fish dish from Fiji that also uses lime, coconut, and chile.

  42. Salivating from eight thousand miles away… (sigh)

    P.S. Hi Katrina, you’re my college classmate pala at UP-CMC.

  43. For somebody who’s very much averse to vinegar in itself, I do agree that in the company of extremely fresh fish and chilies, my aversion falls by the wayside.

    And the fish didn’t see it coming.

  44. desco, i’ve never had kinilaw made that way (with gata and biasong) in Davao. perhaps the ones you had were made by cebuanos?

  45. hi millet..yes i think they’re cebuanos but all the same, i have been addicted to kinilaw since i land here in davao. ;-) plus the durian and pomelo of course!
    and to up for march or august goin here to davao. sadya di!!

  46. mm, what is and where can we get coconut vinegar? we will try to replicate your kinilaw here in bicol. we have an abundant supply of fresh tangigue and we will just use calamansi instead of dayap …

  47. beatriz, bicol is the LAND of coconut vinegar, they sell it roadside in many places and the markets should also have it. If you are worried about sanitation, my sister suggests boiling it for five minutes and allowing it to cool before using…

  48. millet, diday is right. you can use fresh anchovies (dilis)to make kinilaw. i recall that when I was growing up, we used to make a lot of kinilaw na dilis which requires removing the head and the bones. all this bring back a lot of memories. thanks MM for the walk down memory lane.

  49. biasong, samuyaw and Kafir limes are not really limes. they are part of a section of the citrus family called papeda I think. they all come from the Philippines. Kafir lime or makrut is called kubot in quezon but sadly I have not encountered them since I saw one many decades ago. Samuyao is from Cebu and they say also Bohol. They all have bumpy rinds (kubot means kulubot) and have that peculiar fragrance. makrut and samuyao has the same fragrant leaves while biasong does not but the rind is as fragrant. Samuyao has the strongest smell.

  50. Thank you for the recipe. I will try to make it one day. I am looking for the recipe of Kinilaw with grated coconut. I was invited by a coworker for a Christening of a baby and Kinilaw with grated coconut was brought by someone, it was quite spicy. Before my coworker could find out who made it and can ask for the recipe, her husband was transferred to another post, so she left and left me forever longing to eat that Kinilaw again. Do you have the recipe?–Thank you.

  51. Francine, no, I have never had kinilaw kwith grated coconut. But I suppose you could make the recipe above and use grated coconut and add it to the liquid. But I would probably find the texture of the coconut a distraction from the fish…

  52. Your kinilaw would look fresher in the pics if it is mix with all the ingredients you have mentioned but without the coconut milk/vinegar. The sweet taste of the freshest fish is retained all throughout the meal. You can dip the kinilaw cubes in the coconut milk/vinegar set aside in a saucer plate. This means the kinilaw is “cook” by the coconut milk/vinegar for a few seconds only before you put it in your mouth. So sweet. So fresh.

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