Tasty Tuesday: Northern Mindanao’s Kinilaw

When you’re in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao, one of the best things you should not miss is eating kinilaw (Filipino ceviche). This Filipino style recipe is usually made of fresh fish mixed with vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger, calamansi juice, salt, and pepper.

Each region in the Philippines has its own way of making this Filipino recipe. But lots of people say that Northern Mindanao has the best and the tastiest in the country. Why? There is a secret ingredient that has brought magic to NorMin’s kinilaw.

Tabon tabon with a scientific name of atuna racemosa is a fruit native to Northern Mindanao and Camiguin. There is something in the soil in this part of the country that can grow this kind of wild fruit. I remember in the 90s, my dad brought some of this shrub in Davao and planted it at my uncle’s backyard. It didn’t survive.

Tabon tabon (photo by marketmanila.com)

The pulp and sap of tabon tabon is quite bitter but when mixed with other ingredients of kinilaw, it easily blends. The sap of the pulp when mixed with vinegar turns white and creates a sweet and sour taste perfect for any fresh fish.

Aside from tabon tabon, there is another twist of Northern Mindanao’s kinilaw that is quite different from other region. Other cultures use coconut milk in their kinilaw. NorMin folks use Bajal which is a one day old tuba or coconut wine. The chopped chili brought spice to this famous appetizer or pulutan.


Photo by Vincent Tom Udasco

For a place like Northern Mindanao especially Cagayan de Oro that has an active dining scene that offers a wide selection of traditional to contemporary cuisines, it is always a good idea to try foods that are locally made. In Northern Mindanao, kinilaw is something that should reach your palate before you take your flight back home. Kaon! =)