As I was cooking the Ilocano dish Pork Kilawin, I couldn’t believe that a year has passed. This time last year, we flew back to the Philippines where our Quirino family came together in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, a UNESCO World Heritage City to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Elpidio Quirino, 6th President of the Philippines (1948-1953). The visit back to my husband’s family roots in Vigan was a joyous event. Not only did we get together with relatives we had not seen for years, it gave us a close look, taste and feel of Ilocano cuisine.
These thoughts about Ilocano food inspired me to cook Pork Kilawin, with pork cubes, pork liver cooked in the robust flavors of vinegar, garlic and onions. There are many versions of ‘kilawin’ depending on the regions and provinces around the Philippines. As in previous posts I have mentioned, local dishes in the Philippines are created from ingredients and produce grown around one’s backyard or environment.
Kilawin , in Pilipino, comes from the word “kilaw” which is a process of preparing food, a manner of cooking—not in fire but in vinegar or some other souring agent that transforms food “from the raw to the non raw”, explained Doreen G. Fernandez and Edilberto N. Alegre in Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness, quoted Chef Heny Sison in her cookbook ‘Naimas’.
The original Ilocano Kilawen or Dinakdakan contains pork that is raw then boiled and sits in the mixture of vinegar, salt, seasonings and chilies till the meat “cooks” in the acidity, similar to the Spanish ceviche with seafood. The use of liver and innards in this dish is characteristic of the Ilocano frugal ways of not letting anything go to waste.
In contrast, here in my American kitchen, my version of pork kilawin is different because I sautéed the meat thoroughly. I did not have the rich, dark Ilocano vinegar found in Ilocos which has a nearly balsamic texture. Instead I used cider vinegar, organic garlic and onions which when put together in the saucepan emitted a garlicky, tangy aroma around the house that did not go unnoticed by my family. And typical of all dishes cooked in garlic and vinegar, this pork kilawin tasted better even days after, especially served on a bed of steaming white jasmine rice.
Last year’s events to commemorate one of the best Philippine presidents this generation has seen was important for our family. To celebrate the event, my husband, Elpidio and I together with our sons, Constante and Tim created a book to honor President Quirino. And from a young man’s viewpoint, my son Constante wrote an insightful essay “Quirino At 125: A Statesman and Survivor” (on Positively Filipino) where he pieced together historical events and milestones during the president’s term and how the Quirino legacy lives on to this day. I am proud to say that my son’s essay gained much attention among Filipinos worldwide and was the recipient of a Plaridel Writing Award, Finalist, for Best in Filipino-American Journalism, given by the Philippine-American Press Club in San Francisco, CA last October.
As my family enjoys Pork Kilawin, a dish with strong flavors at dinner tonight, we look back to last year’s events in Vigan, to today’s celebration of the 126th birth anniversary of Lolo Elpidio. And with anxiety in our hearts over the turmoil of global events, we look to our world leaders today with much expectation, hoping they can keep raising the bar of excellence and leadership for the sake of our children and the generations to come.
Pork Kilawin - Instant Pot + Stove-top
- Instant Pot (or any brand of multicooker): 3, 6 or 8 quarts
- Large skillet: 10 to 12 inches (if cooking stove-top)
- 1 pound pork shoulder cut in 2-inch cubes
- 1 whole head fresh garlic peeled, crushed; about 8 large cloves
- 1 whole large onion sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 pound pork liver sliced in 2-inch strips
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup organic broth chicken or beef
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- for serving: boiled rice
- To cook stove-top: In a large skillet, over medium high heat, place the pork shoulder cubes. After 3 to 5 minutes, render the fat coming from the pork. The meat pieces will turn brown and the fat from the pork will be apparent in the skillet.
- In the same skillet, move the pork cubes to the side and saute the garlic, onions and ginger for 1 to 2 minutes in the oil from the pork fat. Add the pork liver cut in strips. Continue cooking till meat is thoroughly cooked in about 10 minutes.
- To the pork mixture in the skillet, add the vinegar and broth. Season with black peppercorns, salt and black pepper powder. Cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes more so that vinegar flavor sets.Serve warm with rice.
To cook in the Instant Pot:
- Click Saute on the keypad. When the inside pot is hot enough in 1 to 2 minutes, add the pork cubes. Render the fat from the pork. About 2 teaspoons of oil will come from the fat.Saute the garlic, onions and ginger. Add the pork liver strips. Stir-fry for 3 minutes.Click Cancel to turn off Saute function.
- Pour the vinegar and broth. Add the peppercorns. Season with salt and black pepper powder.Close and lock the lid. Set valve to sealing.Click Manual and cook at High Pressure for 6 minutes.When the buzzer sounds to announce cooking is done, do a Natural Release and allow the pressure to come down for about 5 minutes.Click Cancel to turn off. Carefully unlock and open the lid. Set the lid on a safe place on top of the counter.Serve the Kilawin warm with rice.
Notes on the Instant Pot:
- It takes about 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to preheat to High Pressure and for cooking time to begin. For other multicooker brands, check the product manual.Safety precautions: Use accessories recommended for the Instant Pot like silicone or metal. Do NOT use glassware. Read the manual for complete safety information.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
Buy the book on Amazon: “A Statesman and Survivor Elpidio Quirino 6th President of the Philippines” is a book of 125 presidential quotes, inspiring and memorable from President Quirino’s speeches and memoirs. Buy the book from my Amazon affiliate page. Click here. Proceeds will be donated to the charities of the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation.
Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
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Disclosure: Instant Pot is the brand name of a multi-cooker that cooks in high or low pressure. I was not paid by the Instant Pot company to mention the product. This is not an ad. My views are my own.