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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Kinilaw, Filipino Ceviche #FoodieReads

This was inspired by The Mango Tree: A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony by Annabelle Tometich. My cousin sent me a copy which I devoured in two days. Then I joked with her, grateful that our Filipina moms weren't as crazy as Jo!

On the Page

This is the memoir of Annabelle Tometich, a half Filipina-half white med school drop-out turned diner cook turned food critic turned journalist turned author. The book starts when she receives a call from the Lee County jail; her mother has been arrested for shooting at someone who was "messing with her mangoes."

So begins The Mango Tree that details her parents' volatile marriage, her fathers' untimely death when she was nine-years-old, her childhood that required her to raise her two siblings while her mother worked as a nurse in a local hospital, and more. She tackles issues of 'otherness', of not belonging, of not knowing her heritage, and her mother's fierce longing for the home she left in the Philippines. It's an immigrant story with drama, violence, and a lot of resentment before Annabelle comes into her own.

It's also a love letter to her mother's wild, prolific garden at the center of which stands her beloved mango tree. Annabelle writes, "I know Mom loves us. In her own Josefina Tometich way. I’m equally certain she loves her mango trees—deeply, fondly, unabashedly. I’d put her banana trees in a close second for her tropical affections, followed by her atis, calamansi, avocado, and tamarind trees. If her pineapples are fruiting, that throws it all off."

There is quite a lot of food in the pages of this memoir. While her mom makes Filipino dishes, her white dad brings the All-American flavor to the family table. "Dad even starts cooking again, grilling thick steaks and serving them with big, fluffy baked potatoes dripping with butter, churning out heaping stacks of pancakes in the mornings and gooey grilled-cheese sandwiches with a buttery crunch for lunch. Mom cooks to feed people. Dad cooks because he loves food."

On the Filipino side of her table, Annabelle describes, "And then—we feast. There’s lechon kawali, chicken fried till it shatters, and whole fish stuffed with ginger and shallots, then steamed in verdant banana leaves. There’s more pancit, more lumpia, a massive wooden bowl brimming with garlic-slicked rice, a tray heaped with nothing but fried slices of Spam that glisten fatty and pink under the harsh light of the kitchen’s bare Edison bulbs."

There wasn't anything in particular mentioned that I wanted to make, but I was inspired to make a Filipino ceviche of sorts...with mangoes and avocados. One of these days someone is going to have to teach me how to make pancit!

In the Bowl

Raw fish "cooked" in vinegar or citrus juice is found in many different culinary traditions. You'll find ceviche in Peru, poke in Hawaii, and kinilaw in the Philippines. Other variations include the use of ginger beer such as in Costa Rica and the addition of coconut milk in Fiji.

This is not a traditional recipe by any means. I added the mango and avocado as a nod to Jo's garden. I served it with plantain chips as they would in Costa Rica. And the fish monger told me the halibut would be the best for the dish.


  • 1 cup halibut, skinned, deboned, and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped (I used a mixture of yellow and orange)

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

  • 4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 2 Tablespoons thinly sliced radish

  • 1-inch knob ginger, grated

  • 1 Tablespoon sweet chile sauce

  • 1/4 cup ripe mango, diced

  • 1/4 cup ripe avocado, diced

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

  • Also needed: lime wedges and plantain chips for serving


Place peppers, onions, and fish in a shallow bowl. Pour in the vinegar and lime juice. The fish should be completely covered by the liquid. If it is not, add in more lime juice to cover the fish. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. After an hour, Add in the radishes and grated ginger. Let stand for another hour.

To serve, drain off all about 1 Tablespoon of the marinade. Stir in the sweet chile sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the mangoes, avocados, and cilantro. Serve immediately with plantain chips.

I am adding this to the May #FoodieReads link-up.

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1 comentario

Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
30 may

I'm going to have to check out this novel. Thanks Cam

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