Disclaimer: Consuming raw seafood may increase your risk of food borne illness. Eat raw seafood at your own risk.
“Ceviche” is a Latin American word for raw fish cured in lemon or lime. The recipe is very similar to what we would call in the Philippines “Kilaw” or “Kilawin”. However, the use of vinegar is more common and the traditional citrus fruit, “kalamansi”/Philippine lemon is added to flavor the fish.
One of my dad’s specialties is Kilawin na Bangus and his drinking buddies request this “pulutan”/appetizer whenever they have get togethers at our house. I asked dad to show me how to make Kinilaw na Bangus and it was a wonderful experience to have dad’s popular recipe passed down to his favorite child. (Hah! Take that non-fave siblings!)
Since I don’t know how to pick and choose fresh fish, Mom and I went to the Asian store to buy the Milkfish while dad stayed at home to prep the other ingredients that we need for the Kilawin.
A fish presented with the head and tail is not common here in the US and usually makes a lot of people queasy. I understand. Picking up a whole fish from the store makes me anxious, I always think that it might still be alive! However, a whole fish cooked and served on the dining table is mouthwatering for me!
My dad got to working on the Kilawin as soon as we got home. He chopped off the head, tail and fins and scaled the fish.
He filleted and cleaned the inside of the fish including the stomach and took out as much of the bones as he could. Dad told me that we didn’t need to take out the finer fish bones since the vinegar will make the smaller bones tender.
While he was cleaning and prepping the fish, I started boiling water to blanche the fish with. Dad said that it is important that only a small amount of boiling water is poured over the fish and to drain the hot water right away to avoid cooking the fish or we will end up with steamed fish and not ceviche/Kilawin!
The fish apparently goes through two “washes”, a blanche then quick drain, then a vinegar wash.
After blanching and first vinegar wash, the fish is then soaked in a small amount of vinegar for a few minutes then cut into small pieces. The vinegar soak should barely cover the fish to make sure that the Kilawin has a mild flavor and not an overpowering tart vinegar flavor.
I had to tell my Dad to slow down since I wanted to take a picture of each step. It was very amusing to finally be at the receiving end of “in one ear out the other”.
My photo shoot directing skills clearly need to be sharpened since I had to tell dad to stop and slow down every minute so I can take pictures. Dad explained why he rarely paused while making the Kilawin. We are working with raw fish and the sooner fish is prepped and in the refrigerator, the better. Good point dad!
Once the fish is cut into small cubes, the vinegar is drained and the chopped onions, ginger, and garlic are mixed in.
The whole concoction is seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar. A few tablespoons of vinegar is also mixed to add more flavor and to further preserve the fish. Chili Peppers are also usually added to the Kilawin to make it spicy. Once all the ingredients are mixed well, fish is placed in a well sealed container and chilled in the refrigerator. The Kilawin usually keeps for a week to two weeks.