Pilar Valdes' Kinilaw with Herbs and Spiced Gata

One of Chef Eduardo’s cooking tips was to start a recipe with a story.  I love how recipes can be transportive, and for me, my take on KINILAW is a non-stop ticket straight to the Philippines. Kinilaw refers both to the method of cooking (quick cooking in vinegar) and the final dish, and it so happens to be one of the earliest cooking methods native to the Philippine Islands, predating colonial times. (We have a version of this beloved dish in REBEL HOMEMAKER!) 

Here we take super fresh, raw fish (traditionally this is made with Spanish mackerel or tuna), give it a quick vinegar bath to allow the fish to start cooking, and then plate it up in an addictive sauce of spiced gata or coconut milk. (Because the fish is not fully cooked, you want to take extra care when buying, and getting the freshest fish you can get your hands on.) I love to mix the dish with an herb salad (check out the video from Chef Eduardo about keeping herbs fresh for longer!) and toasted coconut flakes and edible flowers. I take the extra step of icing my sliced scallions and red onions to keep them crisp, bursting with flavor and texture. If you’re having trouble getting your hands on fresh fish, try this with lightly poached shrimp or play with some whole hearts of palm instead. Kain na! 


5 minsPrep Time
10 minsCook Time

15 minsTotal Time


Kinilaw with Herbs and Spiced Gata

  • 1 Boneless, Skinless Filet (8oz) Fluke or Flounder
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 1 Heaping TBSP Finely Minced Ginger From a 2" Knob
  • 1/2 Small Serrano Pepper Sliced finely on the bias
  • 1/4 Small Red Onion Sliced very finely into 1 ½” long pieces (about ⅛ c), placed in a bowl of ice water
  • 1 Stalk Scallion White and green parts sliced very finely, placed in a bowl of ice water.
  • 1 Persian Cucumber Peeled in a striped manner and sliced into 1/4" half moons
  • 4 Sprigs Cilantro Leaves picked and stems finely chopped
  • 2 Sprigs Dill Leaves picked
  • 1 Lime Zest and juice, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 Tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Chips Toasted until lightly golden brown, cooled
  • Edible Flowers (Marigolds, Pansies, and/ or Nasturtiums)
  • Kosher Salt



Trim the fluke filet and cut into bite-sized cubes, just shy of 1”, about the size of a thumbnail. Place the fish in a non reactive bowl, season with a pinch of salt and drizzle in the coconut vinegar. Toss to coat fully and immediately refrigerate for at least 5 minutes, no longer than 15 minutes. As it sits, the vinegar will gently ‘cook’ the fish, turning the flesh slightly opaque. 


In a mixing bowl, whisky together the coconut milk, ginger, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and serrano peppers. Check for seasoning. This sauce should be a little puckery, salty and spicy, with a touch of roundness and sweetness from the coconut milk. 


Drain the iced scallions and red onion and pat dry. Combine the herbs, cilantro stems, cucumber, scallion and red onion with the chilled vinegared fish. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Toss to combine. Either use immediately, or hold in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes. 


Prepare a plate with crushed ice. Place your serving platter on top of the ice. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the coconut sauce at the bottom and spread to coat the bottom of the plate. Layer on half of the fish mixture, top with some sauce, and then the toasted coconut chips. Rinse repeat until you finish the ingredients. Plating in this manner ensures that each bite delivers the best mix of textures and flavors. To finish, season with a pinch of kosher salt, the remaining olive oil and edible flowers, if using. Serve immediately.