Sutukil is the acronym for sugba, tula and kilaw, theSouthern and Central Philippines’ native words regarding the ways on which fish and other seafood are cooked or prepared. Sugba means to grill, tula means to stew and kilaw means to eat a raw food. Sutukil is a local slang and rhymes with “shoot to kill”. The person who coined that word might have done so as to put amusing effect on it.
The Philippines is an archipelago and most of its population centers are located along the shore. For this reason seafood is one of the main diets of the locals. And most of the seafood or sutukil restaurants are located along the shore or by the sea. The open-air style construction of a building makes the refreshing sea air and the scenes at the sea an ideal ambiance while dining on these dishes.
The simplest way in the region to cook or prepare the seafood is to stew, to grill or to make it a salad. Sutukil is three dishes but it does not always follow that that the three of them are cooked or served for one meal. In most cases a restaurant patron may order just one of them together with other non-seafood dishes or drink as additions.
In Mactan, Cebu, fresh raw fish and other seafood are displayed right in the eatery for a customer to order his desired dishes. He may buy a big fish so that it is prepared into three dishes. He may have the lower portion grilled, the mid portion made as kinilaw and the head portion stewed.
Some people prefer seafood to meat because they think that it contains less bad cholesterol and it is therefore healthier. Grilled fish is one of the favorites in a seafood restaurant. Some customers like the jaw of the tuna or the belly of broadbill swordfish. Others go for grilled squids and other seafood.
Tinola is a truly indigenous dish of Southern Philippines. Its simplicity of preparation makes it a dish for common people. The fish is boiled along with other ingredients such as tomatoes, ginger, bell pepper, bulb onion, green leafy onion, and green leafy vegetables such as cabbage or as an alternative Chinese pichay or the most available lowly but highly nutritious malunggay or horse radish. The tinola is seasoned with salt and and vitsen. Fish is usually the primary ingredient of the tinola but sometimes it is substituted with shrimp, and seashell or a combination of fish and other seafood maybe prepared.
The kinilaw or fish salad is the Filipino version of the Latin American dish cevichi. It is also somewhat similar to the Japanese sashimi in a sense that the fish is not cooked and is served cold. Most marine fish will do for the dish as long as it is fresh. They include tuna, broadbill sword fish, the seer fish or the tanigue, milkfish, sardines and even squid and shrimp.
In the vizayas region people prepare the kinilaw with coconut milk. But such practice is unusual in Cagayan de Oro where people usually prepare the dish with the fish soaked in tuba or coconut toddy and coconut vinegar. In addition the tabon-tabon and the suwa or the native lime are added. The trees of those fruits only grow in the region and this make the taste of the dish distinct from that in the other regions of the Philippines. Other ingredients include bulb onion, green leafy onion, minced ginger, cucumber and extract of native lime juice. It is then seasoned with vitsen and salt. The taste is made hot by adding crushed bird’s eye chili pepper which is called siling labuyo by the locals.
Because kinilaw is eaten raw only the freshest of the fish will do as an ingredient and that utmost sanitary procedures must be observed in its preparation to avoid food poisoning. The dish is usually served with rice or on other occasion such as in picnic it is complemented with a boiled green plantain, a type of cooking banana called saba.