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Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness (Doreen G. Fernandez, Edilberto Alegre)

Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness (Doreen G. Fernandez, Edilberto Alegre)


Doreen Fernandez and Edilberto Alegre's definitive book on 'Kinilaw' encompasses its history and essence. This ingenious cuisine is at least a thousand years old, is done throughout the Philippines, and features fish, shellfish, crustaceans, meat, vegetables, fruits and seaweed.

Kinilaw is so well known in each region, in each locality, all over the Philippines, that it is almost unknown. It suffers from familiarity. It is assumed; it is everyday fare.

Kinilaw is food as is, in its pristine state, primal, virginal, unadorned. It is preferred as is, where is: root, bole, fruit, sea catch, flesh almost still on the run.

This Philippine cuisine takes dish or other sea creatures, meat, fruits, or vegetables — all of state-of-the-art freshness — and treats them equally, “sour-cooking” them in vinegar or other souring agents, flavoring them with the proper combination of condiments.

Kinilaw is thus a journey that food takes through an acidic agent to banish the imagined untoward and unlovely, transforming flesh to an imagined cooked state. In Mindanao and the Visayas they say that vinegar cooks, that vinegar is liquid fire.

Kinilaw is also a confluence of different degrees of tartness, of spiciness, of bitterness, of layers of softness and crunchiness — to bring out the sweetness. The cuisine does not improve, but rather highlights the innate quality of the food.

Rooted in the particular ecology of each region, kinilaw speaks of the passion for definite flavors, elaborated in the distinct differences of each area. It is both food and cultural indicator. The kinilaw national map is the geography of the Filipino’s various loves, the graph of our preferences, the picture book of our common desiring.

Kinilaw is a dish that precedes history, being at least a thousand years old, and probably even older. It has the stark simplicity of the forever ancient and the quiet surprise of the always new: the past now and for always. As long as the sea is blue and the land is green.

It expresses the morality of balance, of satisfaction with enough, of distaste for satiation. It speak of the Filipinos’ respect for a thing as it is, of their love for the unadorned, and of their surrender to the forever passing.

Kinilaw, finally, is always a moment, repeatable but unrenewable, the forever transient caught in that one instant of luminous sweetness, now.

Limited quantities available. 

Imported from the Phillippines.