How to Cook the Perfect Inun Unan Paksiw: Visayas-Style Recipe
Do you enjoy experimenting with different Asian cuisines? Are you an adventurous cook who is perhaps looking for something a little different from the well-known Asian cooking styles?
If you are keen to venture into Filipino food, we have the perfect place for you to start. A simple but iconic Filipino dish which is cheap, healthy and easy to make.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is inun unan?
- 2 Inun Unan Recipe (Visayas Paksiw)
- 3 Cooking tips
- 4 What is the origin of inun unan?
- 5 Substitutions and variations on traditional inun unan
- 6 Similar dishes to inun unan
- 7 FAQs about inun unan
- 8 Takeaway
What is inun unan?
Inan unan is a simple dish where fish and vegetables like okra, bitter gourd, eggplant or string beans are stewed in vinegar and spices.
Unlike Paksiw na Isda version, where pork is often used, inun unan only uses fish.
Almost any fresh fish can be used can be used for this dish but tuna, tilapia, butterfish or milk fish are most commonly used.
Inun Unan Recipe (Visayas Paksiw)
- Any local fish (scaled, gutted, sliced into halves, and seasoned with salt and pepper)
- Any local vinegar (store-bought ones are okay too, but won’t smell as good)
- Crushed garlic (lots and lots of it, i.e. for a dozen medium-sized fish, use 1 big head of garlic)
- Sliced onions (lots and lots of it, maybe 2-3 bulbs)
- Crushed ginger (lots and lots, like maybe a third of your palm)
- Black pepper (crushed and corns)
- 1 tbsp ginamos (fermented fish if available)
- Cayenne peppers (siling espada, optional, or bird’s eye chilies if you want to increase the spiciness)
- Young mango leaves (1 per piece)
- Used cooking oil (oil used to fry pork is preferred)
- Mix everything in a bowl, except for the fish, mango leaves, cayenne peppers, and used cooking oil.
- Adjust the taste to your liking.
- Add the fish and gently mix with your hand for 3 minutes or so.
- Wrap each fish with mango leaves and place in a thick pan or clay pot (include some of the spices if you like).
- Pour all the marinade on top, including the cayenne peppers.
- Turn heat on medium and wait for it to boil uncovered.
- When it starts to boil, lower the heat to its lowest and simmer away covered for at least 1 hour or until the marinade is almost gone.
- Pour the used cooking oil before transferring the dish to a plate. Add some of the concentrated oily broth.
- Drizzle more used cooking oil upon serving.
- Enjoy with rice with the broth drizzled on it.
- If possible, don’t cook this dish in a metal pot, as the vinegar develops a metallic flavor. Use a clay pot or a casserole dish.
- Almost any fish can be used can be used for this dish, but tuna, tilapia, butterfish, or milk fish are most commonly used.
- Once the vinegar marinade boils, do not mix it. Just allow it to simmer. This will ensure that the fish absorbs as much of the flavor as possible.
- The proportion of vinegar and water is usually 1 measure of vinegar to 2 measures of water. If a stronger inun unan is preferred, the proportions can be reversed.
What are the main spices used in inun unan?
Over the years Filipino cuisine has been heavily influenced by Spain, China, and India.
Today Filipino food is a fusion of indigenous ingredients and flavours, as well as these outside influences.
Inun unan is spiced mainly with ginger and sometimes siling haba, which is a kind of long green chili which is mildly spicy.
The proportion of vinegar and water is usually 1 measure of vinegar to 2 measures of water. If a stronger inun unan is preferred, the proportions can be reversed.
What’s the difference between inun unan and Paksiw na Isda?
In a country that spans more than 7 000 islands, each region has developed its own local variations of popular dishes.
Inun unan is a Visayan (Visayas is one of the 3 major regions of the Philippines) version of the fish paksiw dish, a typical everyday dish made from fish simmered in a vinegar-based broth.
What pot should you use to cook inun unan?
In many Filipino homes there is a special clay pot used for cooking inun unan (to avoid the metallic taste the vinegar develops when cooked in a metal pot).
Usually, the inun unan is served directly from the clay pot and leftovers are kept in it. If you do not have a clay pot, an ordinary casserole dish is a good alternative.
This is a very simple version of inun unan. This recipe uses a basic combination of vinegar, ginger, spices and fish.
What do you serve with inun unan?
Serve with warm white rice and bagoong which is a popular fish sauce in the Philippines.
The sauce is made with anchovies or other varieties of small fish that have been cleaned, cured with salt and allowed to ferment for several months.
What is the origin of inun unan?
The name inun unan comes from the Visayan word un-un which means to “stew with vinegar, salt and spices”.
Before the advent of refrigeration, pickling fish in vinegar was one of the easiest ways to preserve fish for a couple of days.
Substitutions and variations on traditional inun unan
There are a lot of substitutions or variations that you can add to this dish.
The most traditional inun unan uses only fish and no vegetables. Other recipes add vegetables like eggplant, okra or green beans to the fish. Some recipes do not add any water to the vinegar.
The traditional inun unan is spiced only with ginger. But you can also add garlic, chilies, onions and peppercorns. Palm sugar is sometimes added to balance out the acidity of the vinegar.
Bangus or milkfish is traditionally used for inun unan but you can substitute the milkfish for bullet tuna, butterfish or tilapia.
Although traditionally served with hot steamed rice, sometimes scrambled eggs are added to the rice, together with some of the broth.
Similar dishes to inun unan
Very similar to inan unan are the paksiw dishes.
Paksiw is a Fillipino cooking technique that refers to various dishes that are simmered in vinegar.
The most popular dishes of this kind are paksiw na isda, paksiw na lechon and paksiw na pata.
- Paksiw na isda: The preferred fish for paksiw na isda is bangus or milkfish which is stewed in vinegar together with eggplant, finger chillies, bay leaves and onion.
- Paksiw na lechon: Taditionally made with chopped roast pork, usually from leftover lechon served the previous day. It is stewed in vinegar and the liver sauce is added to the stew to give it a savory flavor. Sugar is added to balance the acidity.
- Paksiw na pata: Pork hock cooked in vinegar and soy sauce. The soy sauce adds additional flavor and color. A small quantity of sugar and some banana blossoms are often added to this dish.
Paksiw dishes are usually served with steamed rice on the side.
I couldn’t find ginamos out here, but you can get fresh mango leaves from here.
FAQs about inun unan
What is the English translation for inun unan?
Fish cooked in a broth of vinegar, ginger, and other spices.
What’s the best fish to use for inun unan?
Tuna, tilapia, butterfish, or milk fish are the most commonly used fish for this dish
What kind of pot should I use for inun unan?
Use a traditional clay pot or a casserole dish. Don’t cook with vinegar in a metal pot as it develops an unpleasant metallic flavor.
What are the main flavors in Filipino food?
Most Filipino food is balanced between sweet, sour and salty.
In inun unan, the sweet and salty come from the fermented fish, onions, ginger garlic and salt while the sour flavor comes from the vinegar.
How many calories are in inun unan?
There are around 92 calories per serving.
What is the difference between adobo paksiw and paksiw?
The difference is adobo paksiw is cooked with soy sauce and vinegar. Paksiw is cooked only with vinegar.
Here is a Paksiw na bangus recipe that gives you all the ins and outs of cooking this fish Filipino style
If you are feeling adventurous and want to experiment with some Filipino dishes, inun unan is a great dish to start with.
It is a simple but iconic Filipino dish that is cheap, healthy, and easy to make at home.
Love the tangyness of vinegar? You will love this Kwek-kwek with tokneneng suka vinegar sauce recipe
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.