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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pulutan: Kinilaw/Kilawin

Because I grew up here in America, there are a lot of Filipino customs that I'm not very familiar with.

Take pulutan for example. Growing up, the only time I heard that word metioned was when there was a party and all the "titos" were together, whether it be by the television or around the grill. They'd joke and talk, and drink everything and anything that was on hand. Johnnie Walker if it was liquor they were drinking, Corona and Heiniken if they were making it a beer night (I never understood the love for those two beers, but I digress).

As they were drinking, someone inevitably would whip out some snacks, to which the reply was always, "ah, pulutan!" and they would go back to their conversations, pausing only to take a swig of beer or have a biteful of the laid out food.

Now, what is pulutan exactly? Your guess is as good as mine, but drinking is definitely involved. Where we munch on stale popcorn and pretzels as we hang out in the bar, Filipinos are inclined to indulge in tastier treats- garlic fried peanuts, chicharon, sisig, and grilled pork belly to name a few.

So, in what is hopefully a series on pulutan, I am starting with the Philippines version of ceviche - kilawin.

Quick searches in the intranets shows that it you can call it either kilawin or kinilaw. Why the two different names, I have no clue, but regardless of the name, it is a raw meat (usually fish, but I've seen some red meats used) that is "cooked" with an acid, most commonly vinegar.

I went the fish route and picked up some tuna. From the Philippines, no less. Unless you're lucky enough to be able to go out into the open waters and get some super fresh fish (my cousins over there do it alot and I am insanely jealous), anywhere you can get sushi grade fish will do fine. As you can see, I picked this up from Mitsuwa.

Next comes the cooking liquid. Ideally, you should make this ahead of time to allow all the ingredients to combine flavors. Dice up one medium onion, smash and mince 3-4 cloves of garlic and about a thumb sized piece of ginger. For the heat, I sliced up a jalepeno and a thai chili. For the vinegar, I used a mix of coconut vinegar and a spicy vinegar (sukang sili I think was on the label). A pinch of freshly ground black pepper that's it. I only let it sit for about half an hour, but the longer the better.

BTW, you can also use this mix as a dipping sauce for grilled meats, all you need to add is some soy sauce or fish sauce (patis), maybe some diced fried tofu, and scallions. I like mixing some in with goto and lots of lemon. But that's for other posts...

Now it's time to combine the fish and liquid. In a big enough dish, throw them in and toss. You'll start to see, as in the picture above, that the fish will turn white-ish. Acid action... yay! Cover and let it marinate in the fridge (it is raw fish after all).

About 20 minutes later, it will start to look like this. As for how long to let it marinate, your call. I gave it an hour before I just had to start eating.

Crack open a beer, call some friends over... and enjoy.


Tangled Noodle said...

No matter what it's called, it looks delicious!

I know what you mean: I grew up in Canada and can't even recall the word 'pulutan' being used. But I remember the foods that fall under this category, especially chicharon bulaklak (so oily and delicious!). I finally had sisig for the first time last December when my husband and I visited my parents in Manila. No chance I can find it or kinilaw/kilawin in MN so thanks for this recipe! 8-)

Alan said...

I would like to submit my theory on the word "pulutan". I believe it is derived from the tagalog word "Pulot" which means to pick up. It maybe inherent in the filipino culture of exaggerating things and generally being generous in nature but "pulutan" is aptly named to be descriptive of drinkers sharing(the generous part)the food which they "pick up" (the exaggeration part).

to better understand the culture of pulutan though I would equate it to be the filipino version of
Spanish "tapas".

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