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Kilawing Isda

Fresh seafood is a rare and often expensive treat in Metro Manila, the largest and most densely populated region in the Philippines. The easiest way to get fresh fish is to wake up early and join the crush of people going to the palengke during market days. This makes kilawin a rare treat for most city goers.

In Philippine provinces, you will often times find local subsistence fishermen hawking their catch in the early morning. The fish would’ve have been caught during the previous night or at dawn. These are the best fish to use for kilawin.

Kilawin is often thought of as a food that’s best eaten during drinking sessions. It is actually quite tasty partnered with rice and a grilled meat dish. The flavors of the sour kilawin complements that of the grilled meat’s smoky flavor.

The usual fish used for kilawin is tanigue (mackerel), tuna and dilis (anchovies), but other less expensive saltwater fish can be used provided they are at peak freshness.

Kilawing Isda

Kilawing Isda

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 0 minutes
Good for: 2 -3 people


  • 500 grams Fresh saltwater fish; any type of none bony fish is preferred
  • 2 tablespoon calamansi or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rock salt or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar or mild vinegar; or 1 cup strong vinegar and water mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cubed or julienned cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced long green chili
  • ½ teaspoon chopped bird’s eye chili (optional)
Kilawing Isda

Kilawing Isda


Prepare fish by deboning, slicing off skin and any dark meat. You can have the fish monger do this for you. Any fish that is good for sashimi can be used for kilawin.

Slice fish into approximately ½ cm thick strips or the size of a sashimi piece.

Wash thoroughly with water then drain well.

Soak in a solution of ½ cup water and ¼ cup vinegar for about 30 seconds. Stir continuously.

Drain fish and squeeze gently to remove excess vinegar and water solution.

Gently mix fish and the remaining ingredients in a bowl then refrigerate for at least an hour.

You may add optional sliced grilled pork at this point.

Adjust spiciness before serving.

Kilawin is always served slightly chilled. If possible serve in a bowl placed on top of ice cubes contained in a larger bowl.


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