Kinilaw na Malasugi / Swordfish Seviche


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 isn’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 – perhaps a kini2large handful and put this in a bowl. To this, they added sliced red oinion, smashed ginger, sliced native tomatoes, siling labuyo (bird’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 around… The resulting kinilaw was “reef fresh” 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. kini3We 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 bowl…that seemed a tad steep but it was worth it!


13 Responses

  1. Kinilaw is heaven so long as the fish is really fresh. As a true blue Visayan, I have to have kinilaw at least once a month even if I’m based in Manila (in the province, I’ll have it everyday, no kidding). My favorites are twakang (rather large dilis),tanguigue and shellfish. Although swordish and “suno” (a type of lapu-lapu, very rare nowadays) are also special. With or w/o gata, kinilaw perks up any meal in my book. Yes, even breakfast.

    Fortunately, I have a couple of trips to the south (incl Bohol)coming up in the next couple of weeks. MM, I’ll surely try M_R seafoods. Thanks for the tip.I can hardly wait.

  2. Ahh..this dish is to die for… And dont even get me started on Kinilaw na talaba…

    I read somewhere that kinilaw may yet be the oldest type of food form found in the country, I think they found traces of it somewhere and dated it about 2,000 years BC (if im not mistaken)

    I also find this dish very refreshing in the summer heat, somehow, the ‘clearness’ and ‘sourness’ helps relieve the oppresive environment outside. This definitely would be a ‘cool’ food, as the Chinese would say.

  3. My question is how come the kinilaw in the Visayas is so much better than manila’s? Manila kinilaw is ok but after eating the transcendent cebu or bohol versions, there’s really no point in ordering it in the ‘Big Smoke’.

  4. gonzo, I think it is the vinegar and strict adherence to making it at absolutely the last minutes before eating it. In Luzon, it seems to sit around a lot longer…

  5. Gonzo, I agree the orig Visayan kinilaw and its urban version are worlds apart. My take on this is firstly, the fish used in the city is obviously from the freezer whereas in the province it’s fresh from the sea (“iced” or frozen fish is not considered fresh in most parts). Secondly, Manila kinilaw is soaked in vinegar presumably to hide the un-freshness or becasue the cooks are so scared of not “cooking” it in vinegar enough.That’s why they’re sooooo sour they taste like uncooked paksiw!

    The way my cousins and I do it is, we wash the fish in water first, then in vinegar. Just a quick wash. Then we throw in the other ingredients, ginger, onions, tomatoes, chilies,salt and pepper and spring onions. Then squeeze some kalamansi on the concoction. Depending on preference and inclination, gata may then be added.

    We then proceed to indulge with mucho gusto.

  6. On why Cebu and bohol kinilaw taste better, I had a chance to visit Casa del Mar on San Remigio Cebu where Chito Silerio, resident manager donned his toque and proceeded to show me how to make kinilaw. take your tanguige, or malasugui or dorado cube into manageable sizes chop the chilis, onions, sweet peppers, finger and birds eye chilis, chop or more like mince coarsely. then assemble. first the fish in the bowl, then top with the chopped plants, pour with palm or home made vinegar, generous squeeze of calamansi, salt and pepper to taste and then toss by hand until the fish starts getting translucent. Then Drain All the Vinegar and dispose. After that Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes then pour vinegar once again then serve. It was heavenly.

  7. Carlos, thanks for that. Actually, all the good stuff is in your list, but I like it to sit for just 2-3 minutes max or the fish gets “overcooked”… but yes, in general, super fresh fish, good ingredients, all tossed at the last minute makes great kinilaw!

  8. hi guys. just wanna share how to make the kinilaw. u can also wash the fish with sprite (yes, the soda)before mixing all the ingredients. enjoy your meal

  9. when in general santos city, try kinilaw at orange cafe, lagao, gensan.

    in cagayan de oro city, try their kinilaw with “tabon-tabon”. ask how they use it, then go to the nearest public market where these are sold by the “tumpok”

    in davao city, there are many places other than Luz Kinilaw.
    Check out Torres St. really adventurous? go to agdao public market.

    we are not fans of gata in kinilaw. black beans, maybe.

    sprite? hmmm. wash with bahal nga tuba. use sukang tuba for the final mix.

  10. Visaya siguro ang una nga naka nimo ug kinilaw (kini-hilaw)

    as a Boholano my self before I migrate Canada I remember we kilaw all kind of fish even Tulingan I remember back then we went fishing tulingan in Loay we catch a few and we make kinilaw in early morning (pamahaw) we fillet tulingan for the kinilaw,bone and head for tinola and some for inihaw I tell you we have a complete sutokil sugba,towa,kilaw for the pamahaw we start our day with sutokil and TUBA. I miss it

  11. I’m excited this coming Sept. 24, 2009
    gagawin ko yung ” KINILAW sa MINDANAO” yun
    ang maging entry namin sa Asian Cuisine Category
    sa Montessori Professional College Muñoz

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