kilawen a bilis, raw sardine/herring

Bilis is the local sardine/herring fish (family clupeidae) which is usually consumed raw or cooked in vinegar. I like it raw or kilawen (kinilaw). Fresh bilis is prized for its sweetish flesh and oily texture (which is common in sardine and herring fishes).

I came upon a fresh bilis catch from Aparri (Cagayan) town and immediately prepared some for kinilaw.


Here's my video of the process:

I removed head and guts and washed the fish well. You can opt to fillet the fish (remove the fishbone) for a more presentable kinilaw. But for me, this time, I'm over-eager to consume it so I didn't remove the siit anymore--I'll just take care of it when I'll eat them one by one, hehehe! After washing the decapitated and gutted fish, tossed it in vinegar, minced onions and crushed and minced garlic and ginger, some salt (add cracked pepper if you like), and chilis fermented in vinegar. It's that simple. The vinegar will simply "cook" the bilis. Put in a freezer for some minutes if you want, for all the ingredients/spices to blend well with the fish flesh.


A close up of this heavenly delicacy. See the oily skin? Great texture. The flesh is so sweetishly sour and so delicious and sumptuous with its distinct sardiny smell that blesses the palate with the taste and aroma of the raw sea:

Perfect for pulutan and as an appetizer. Mangantayon!

(Originally blogged December 2, 2009)

Some comments from the original post:

Marlene Says:

02 December 2009 at 2:05 pm e

Saan ko pay a naramanan to fresh fish. It looks like it’s safe. i would like to try some but where can i get it here in Vancouver, Canada

Rey Says:

02 December 2009 at 4:47 pm e

Wow ang sarap, maalala ko while i was still in the Philippines, yan ang lagi naming ginagawa specially pag season sa isdang yan. i wish mayron din yan d2 sa Vancouver.

Vicky Says:

03 December 2009 at 5:36 pm e

Tinagan na pay kanyami no dadakel ket Baranban, ibabad ti iloko suka, pamienta ken asin overnight kinabigatan ket iprito daytoy, talaga nga naimas daytoy.

In germany this kind of fish called Herring. They eat as kilawen too,With vinegar, lots of Onion, pepper and salt.When we eat ,take the tail and start the upper part of the fish ( w/out head and bone of course)

08 December 2009 at 8:11 am e

I don’t know if this is an original Ilocano dish. When I was in Italy, they were serving this kind of dish. Meron nga lang olive oil.

Marlene Says:

08 December 2009 at 12:25 pm e

okey that is called herring here in vancouver. i see that fish pickled and looks tasty.

rva Says:

08 December 2009 at 12:53 pm e

bilis is classified as a sardine fish and is under the family Clupeidae which also include herrings, shads, anchovies, etc. it might be a subspecies of the pacific herring (Clupea pallasii). another species is the atlantic herring.

anyway, herring is also traditionally eaten raw in the netherlands and in some other scandinavian countries.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herring
and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clupeidae

aurora lambino Says:

02 January 2010 at 2:28 pm e

Thank you for this blog. I truly enjoyed looking at all your post(s), specially the pictured ilokano dishes. My mother used to cook “all” these when we were growing up in Baguio (ie my mother is a migrant from Sto Domingo, Ilocos Sur). Have not mastered any of those featured.. I do a “quasi” job with frozen ingredients I find in the supermarket doing binug-goongan nga saluyot ken marunggay, when my 96 Year old mother craves for these.. Thanks again, I will try to find squash flowers in the summer. Definitely recommending it to my friends


  1. wherever you find Herring....its country has its own way of preparing it...but my favourite still is the Ilocano version...the Tagalog version has ginger that's very fine too...and instead of vinegar use calamansi. Nag-imas met...

  2. i haven't tried that kind of fish for kilawin but i'L have some when i get home to the Philippines on my holiday