Kinilaw (sour-cooking raw ingredients ) in Philippine cuisine takes fish and other sea creatures, meat, fruits or vegetables- all at state- of- the- art freshness – and treats them equally, “sour-cooking” them in vinegar or other souring agents, flavoring them with the proper combination of condiments.
The kinilaw moment is that instant when the raw fish (or other seafood, or meat) meets the vinegar or other souring agent, and transformation begins from the raw state. In cooking vegetables, there is a spectrum of textural change: from the hardness of the raw, to the limpness of the overcooked. The perfect moment is somewhere along the line, at the point when the vegetable, e.g. ampalaya (bitter melon) retains the crispness of the raw, but acquires the softness of the cooked without being either hard or limp.
With kinilaw, the perfect moment is marked visually by a change from translucence towards, but without reaching, opacity. Texturally, it is a moment when the fish or shrimp retains the firm softness of the raw, but reaches a new state of being that has been called niluto sa asim – “cooked”, or more accurately transformed, in sourness. (From Kinilaw: a Philippine Cuisine of Freshness’ – by Edilberto N. Alegre & Doreen G. Fernandez 1991