This dish illustrates the simplicity of the Filipino saute. Many Filipino dishes start off with a basic “guisa”, a stir-fried base of aromatics that provides a foundation of flavor that compliments a wide range of ingredients, from seafood to meat and poultry, to vegetables, to noodles. This base, with some variation depending on the end result desired, is the same base upon which other flavors may be built. It can also be used by itself along with a couple of seasoning condiments such as soy sauce or fish sauce.
Kilawin is a dish that takes its primary flavor from vinegar. After the basic saute is done, the meat and vegetables are added, along with vinegar. The dish is finished with fresh grindings of black pepper. A touch of sweetness is desired by some, hence the optional brown sugar. Though sometimes used interchangeably with the other Filipino word “kinilaw”, a term that refers also to a dish often characterized by some component of sourness coming from limes, lemons or vinegar, “kilawin” more accurately typifies the cooked dish, as opposed to “kinilaw” which is usually made with raw ingredients, such as fish, shellfish or seaweed.
To make kilawin, you need
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes (optional)
1 pound pork, cut into strips (a cut with a bit of fat is desirable here)
1/3-1/2 cup vinegar
3/4 pound daikon, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry until just beginning to turn color. Add onion and continue to saute until limp and translucent. Add tomatoes if using and cook, stirring frequently until tomatoes are cooked through. Add pork and vinegar and cook 10 minutes, decreasing heat to maintain a simmer. Add daikon and cook another 10 minutes or until completely cooked through but not soggy. Add brown sugar if using, and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Stir and cook an additional 5 minutes to meld flavors. Serve hot.
This dish can also be prepared without pork, making it a vegetarian dish. As such it is also a great accompaniment to grilled fish.
Instead of black pepper, chopped bird chilies can be used to provide the heat for this dish.