Kilawin na Isda or Kinilaw

Jul 21

Just looking at the photos makes me want to eat more kilawin or kinilaw na isda. One can use either tuna or lapu-lapu fillets to make this dish. I always associate the Kinilaw with a beach outing. Preparing dishes with vinegar ensures there is little chance of food spoilage. The fish is “cooked” using vinegar as the meat turnes opaque in color. Though kinilaw may not be as popular as adobo, it certainly has a one-of-a-kind taste that many Pinoys abroad crave for.

In Philippine Food and Life (released by Anvil Publishing in 1992), Gilda Cordero-Fernando narrates of an Ilokano group who, during the Spanish period, were part of the crew English navigator Thomas Cavendish’s ship. Right after the sailors threw all the intestines of a goat into the sea, the Ilokano assistants dived into the sea for their kilawin — dipped or cooked in bile sauce or broth. The chronicler, who was ignorant of what the Pinoys were preparing, described the dish as “a disgusting mess.”

Not only goats, which is believed to be a good source of protein and calcium, however, may be made into kilawin. Beef, carabeef, fish, shelfish, including octopus are also popular options.

(Sources: Alegre, Edilberto N. and Fernandez, Doreen G. “Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness.” Bookmark Inc.,1991;Cordero, Gilda Fernando. “Philippine Food and Life.” Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, 1992)

Kilawin na isda is so easy to prepare too.

Here are the ingredients:

1/2 kilo tuna or lapu-lapu fillets cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup of coconut cream (check Extract coco milk)
1/2 cup kalamansi juice
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1 onion, sliced
1 onion, diced
4 slices of ginger, sliced
1 head garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into squares
1 green bell pepper, cut into squares
3 chili peppers, sliced into halves
salt and pepper


1. Cut the fillets into 1 inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the vinegar and chill for a 2 to 4 hours.

3. Drain the fish.

4. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, bell pepper, chili pepper, onions and calamansi juice. Mix well.

5. Add the coconut cream. Serve cold.

It’s simple but it just takes more preparation time cutting all those ingredients.

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Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (375 Posts)

Noemi, Editor of Blog Watch and features editor of Philippine Online Chronicles is a 55 year old mother to three kids and is married to Atty. Luis H. Dado. She loves being a full time mother and homemaker after retiring as a Researcher/Consultant from the UP Institute for Small Scale Industries in 1987. Now that her children are all college graduates, she devotes her time to grief support, blogging, new media events and using her blogs to promote online advocacies. Her personal blog is at, which garnered numerous awards such as Best Website, Blog Category during the 9th and 10th Philippine Web Awards. Her blog also won in the Blog- Personal Category of the Web Awards 2007 and Globelines Broadband Family Blog Award (in honor of family-oriented blogging) 2007 Philippine Blog Award. Globe also recognized her as Digital Elder in the 2009 Philippine Blog Award.

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  • EdgarJ

    Have you tried putting in green mangoes? It’s more delicious!

  • sir lito

    diced bitter gouard, shredded cArrots, and raisins can also be added to your fish kinilaw or kilawin. it’s a dynamite of flavors! try nyo and interplay ng iba’t ibang lasa and texture.

  • sir lito

    diced bitter gourd and raisins can also be added to the kilawin or kinilaw. by adding them to the fish salad, a myriad of tastes and textures is created. it is really a dynamite! i love kilawin.

  • call philippines

    wow! i like kilawin.. try also tanigue or dilis.. =)

  • dexie

    Noemi, I made this the other day using tilapia fillets. It was really good. So good I forgot to take pictures to share in my food blog. So I’m letting you know I made it thanks to your recipe and I think I’ll make it again soon. I’ll try to remember to take pics next time :)
    .-= dexie´s last blog ..SELF-FROSTING NUTELLA CUPCAKES =-.

  • daddy joey

    shucks! favorite ko to. lalo na kilaw-sugba. kakagutom!!!
    .-= daddy joey´s last blog ..ASUS G73JH-X1 gaming laptop =-.

  • chloe

    I thing so,mangoes is the best idea….,i’ll try it

  • Marie

    I use to eat this back when i was younger, but now I stopped eating it idk why

  • michael

    omit the garlic, i have never encounterd a kilawen with a garlic in it. ill try though if its ok with my palate. tanguige or tanigue is the best fish for kilawen. peace out.

  • michael

    for authentic ilokano flavor, omit the garlic. use tanguige or tanigue fish fillet for the best kilawen. make it hotter. more chillis

  • ynhengg

    I thing kinilaw na tipalia sis…di ba sya malansa

  • joebon23

    masarap tlga ang kinilaw! the best ang kilawin kpg small fishes kc mas tasty than tanigue or any other big fishes. try nyu rin kinilaw na kampis. mmmm

  • Angelaicka

    Hmmm.. my favorite ulam, sarap! Try adding evaporated milk or mayonnaise also, instead of pouring a coconut cream. Try it! U will surely like the taste and enjoy the meal.

  • cris

    heeelllloooooooooo………….@angelaicka;really evaporated milk?wow,try ko yan…nakakagutom naman mg comment dito…

  • minnie gebott

    i’ll try this next weekend. yummy…..