Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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kinilaw a culinary term of the Visayan language in the Philippines, becomes kilawin or kilawen in other languages. It refers to fresh, uncooked fish briefly marinated in vinegar so that it is transformed from rawness to the very next stage while retaining translucence. It is thus fish ‘cooked in sourness’ (technically, in acetic acid) and then enhanced with such condiments as onions, ginger, and chilli.

On either side of this delicate edge between the raw and the cooked exist other variants of kinilaw: fish, crab, shrimp, or sea urchin plucked fresh from the waters, dipped in vinegar (with chilli, or chilli seeds, or onions and ginger) and eaten raw; cucumbers or crunchy young papaya dipped in vinegar; banana ‘heart’ (i.e. banana flower) blanched slightly and dressed with vinegar; pork, beef, goat, shrimp, or fowl cooked or half-cooked in vinegar. Kinilaw may also be made with flowers, insects, and seaweed—all fresh.