Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Wow! Kinilaw

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Making fire is said to be a most important human invention. Human life has changed a lot because of fire. While, of course, there is a downside to fire, the thing has brought many beautiful modifications - particularly in the area of human diet.

The culinary arts would probably still have evolved even if there was no fire - or if man had not discovered the good uses for fire. But, certainly, food preparation would not have evolved as elaborately as it has today, without fire. Interestingly, the penchant for enjoying food raw has remained in spite of the great culinary evolution.

Most modern-day raw dishes have a common standard ingredient. Edilberto Alegre and Doreen Fernandez, authors of "Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness," refer to vinegar as the liquid fire that 'cooks' the main ingredient of the raw dish. In the Philippines, pure kalamansi juice is an alternative used for the same purpose, although vinegar is the more convenient and widely available option. 

Culinary masters, though, are very careful in using vinegar in raw dishes. They know that a raw dish is best served when the vinegar hasn't thoroughly seeped through the main ingredient. Once it does, the dish can turn rubbery depending on the main ingredient. In its best form, the dish should still be closer to the 'raw' state.

In the Philippines, 'kinilaw' is a big favorite. It is a raw dish of three distinct varieties - fish, meat, and vegetables. Well, yes, fruits are also often prepared and served raw, but it takes on a different name altogether.   

The word 'kinilaw' comes from the Cebuano verb 'kilaw', meaning 'to eat raw.' The word 'kilaw' itself is believed to have come from the noun 'hilaw', meaning 'raw'. This style of food preparation is very common in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Perhaps the most popular kinilaw is fish, very similar to, if not the same as, the ceviche of Latin America. It is mainly fresh fish - usually cut in bite-size cubes - mixed with herbs and spices, and vinegar of course. There's also a delectable twist of adding coconut milk to the mix.

And then there's meat kinilaw, called 'kilawin'. The most popular version is the goat kilawin, which is partly broiled or blanched goat skin cut in strips. The goat skin is first cleared of hair before cutting it. Vinegar, aromatic herbs and spices, and a dash of salt are then added in.

Another kilawin version is pork kilawin, with pork skin used instead of goat skin. The preparation process is exactly the same. Some people say that goat and pork flesh actually make good ingredients, too, further enhancing the taste of the resulting dish. 

Doreen Fernandez also mentions fire cooking as a possible recipe variation to kinilaw. She cites that vegetables as the main ingredient may be blanched and meat may be half-cooked. For his part, Edilberto Alegre suggests that in the case of fully cooked pork, beef or goat, usually grilled or boiled, these may still be considered variations of kinilaw if taken through the process of souring and mixed with the usual condiments.

It would seem that the Visayan and the Tagalog kilawin actually refer to the same raw dish, since 'kilawin' in the Visayas also uses meat as main ingredient.  But in Ilocos, kilawin is reportedly a different dish from the Tagalogs' and the Visayans'. The Ilocano kilawin is goat, beef or pork boiled, grilled, chopped and mixed with vinegar, an assortment of condiments and 'papait' (bile). This kilawin, thus, is cooked.

In the rural Visayas, there is yet another type of kinilaw - with vegetables as main ingredient. It is common to see "kinilaw nga galay sa kamote (camote tops) at the dining tables of rural folks. There's also "kinilaw nga paliya (ampalaya)." The preparation is the same as that of the fish and meat kinilaw, with the abundant addition of sliced ripe tomatoes.

The vegetable kinilaw is actually vegetable salad done the traditional local way. And fresh fruit salad is actually fruit kinilaw. 

(References: www.pinoywit.com, www.webmd.com)  (FREEMAN)


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