The Happy Home Cook: Hooked on “Kinilaw”

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Kinilaw (Photo by Celia Ruiz Tomlinson)

Kinilaw (Photo by Celia Ruiz Tomlinson)

It's called "kinilaw" or "kilawen," depending on the Philippine region. Literally, it means eaten fresh, or staying fresh, according to English-Tagalog dictionaries or even Google. One thing is certain about "kinilaw." Most Filipinos know it's the Philippine version of the Mexican or Peruvian Ceviche.

Imagine fresh fish straight from the ocean to the dining table! Forget about grills, stoves, and ovens. We’re talking fast food, big time – except for that torturous overnight wait for the citrus acids in the marinade to “cook” the fish proteins. To cope with the anxiety of waiting, I stick the covered dish in the refrigerator and move on with my life. The following day, I revisit the project and find the “kinilaw” ready for my fix! The wait is worth it.

I have experimented on my “kinilaw” recipe with albacore tuna, ahi tuna, sole, flounder, and Alaskan cod and I’m convinced that albacore is the best for the dish. Scratch Alaskan cod off the list of candidates. It’s the worst. Fresh ingredients are paramount, although Trader Joes’ frozen albacore tuna steaks work just as well.

I enjoy this Filipino delicacy at least once a week. It definitely brings back memories of salt ocean spray in the Philippines of my youth.


½ pound Albacore tuna, cubed

The Marinade:

Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 navel orange
2 tbsp Filipino spiced vinegar
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tsp Sea salt
1 Medium sweet onion, chopped
2 tbsp Ginger, pounded once then chopped
1 Jalapeno, for garnish or additional "anghang" challenge

Combine the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Add the fish. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

Makes a generous serving for one “kinilaw” addict, or easily shareable by two.

Celia Ruiz Tomlinson

Celia Ruiz Tomlinson

Celia Ruiz Tomlinson is the author of "Don't Ever Tell Me You Can't".

More articles from Celia Ruiz Tomlinson:

Desperately Seeking Relevance
December 5, 2013
In which a highly accomplished woman in retirement finds her life’s Third Act—as a film extra.

Cancer, Be Not Proud
August 3, 2014
How ignorance makes things worse for the cancer-stricken.