Sutukil: Dining on fresh seafood by the seas of Mactan island

When you're in or anywhere near Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan Island, you have to try sutukil. Sutukil is a portmanteau of the three ways fish are cooked in eateries near the Mactan Shrine: Su is for sugba or grilled, tu is for tula or prepared into a soup and kil is for kilaw or turned into a raw fish salad. Sutukil restaurants let you choose whatever you want cooked from stalls of fresh fish, prawns, crabs, seaweeds, shells, clams and even lobsters (click on photos to view larger images). These seafood are as fresh as seafood can be and the crabs and lobsters on display are still alive as you pick which ones you want cooked. Sutukil eateries get their daily supply of fresh seafood from fishers in nearby islets. Fresh seafood at the sutukil restaurants in Mactan island. Many people love to eat in the place and it's packed on weekends, especially during mealtimes. When we got there last Thursday, however, we were the only customers in the eatery we chose as it was mid-afternoon on a weekday. We chose a local fish, molmol, because its white meat is great for kinilaw. The woman who sold us the fish did not bother asking us how we want it prepared. When I asked her how it would be cooked, she simply said sutukil. Everyone who eats fish in the place get this triadic culinary treat: sugba, tula and kilaw. Sutukil in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Island.We also bought half a kilo of prawns and got four of the biggest prawns I've seen in my life. Each prawn weighs 1/8 of a kilo and I found, in hindsight, that one piece would have been enough for me since we already ordered fish. The eateries are open-air and you dine in full view of the Mactan seawaters and rows upon rows of mangroves. What is it with waves, my wife asked me, that you get hypnotized as you stare into the deep? The view is surprisingly calming, for an urban corporate rat like me. But off to eating. Fish soupThe dishes were served in less than 15 minutes with fish soup brought first. The molmol's head, tail and other un-kilawable and unsugba-able parts went into the soup, which is garnished by spices and seaweeds. This is the tula and being in Cebu, you do not pronounce it as it is spelled, you say tuwa or tua. True-blue Cebuanos do not pronounce the letter l in most words. Tula is the Cebuano word for the process of preparing a certain type of soup or sabaw, Bisaya for stock. The dish is called tinuwa, the prefix ti denoting that it is a product of tuwa. The tinuwa tastes great if you haven't tasted the dish yet. But for tinowa connoisseurs, which I fancy myself to be, it's just passable. It wasn't hot enough for my taste, a few more sword peppers would have done the trick.Kinilaw or raw fish salad. After tasting the soup, I was eager to try the product of the kilaw preparation: the kinilaw. I love kinilaw and by the way, you pronounce it as it is spelled. Don't go asking for a kiniwaw in there, you'd be embarrassing yourself. When the kinilaw or raw fish salad was served, I was disappointed. The slices of ginger, onions and other spices mixed with the fresh white fish meat were too big. I want the spices with my kinilaw to be minced so that the flavors don't interfere with the experience of eating diced raw fish meat cooked only by soaking it in vinegar. Note to self: next time I eat there, tell the cook to mince the spices. My biggest disappointment with the kinilaw is that it did not contain coconut milk. I used to enjoy kinilaw without coconut milk but after I tried preparing the dish with it, I got hooked. The trick in preparing a great kinilaw is to soak the fish in one part vinegar and one part coconut milk for 10 to 15 minutes and then drain it. Dab a tablespoon of mayonnaise into the fish meat, mix it with minced spices and then soak it in one part vinegar and two parts coconut milk.Grilled fish Now that, is a kinilaw. What was set before me in the sutukil restaurant was a poor imitation of the dish. But I guess those who are new to the dish would still love how they prepare it there. I actually heard a few people say it was good the previous time I ate there. The sugba part of the sutukil trilogy came in last: grilling fish takes time. The sinugbang isda (grilled fish) was surprisingly tasty. It was probably the best dish to come out of the huge, more-than-a-kilo molmol we bought for cooking. Prawns cooked in garlic sauceBut the best dish served to me last Thursday was the plate of prawns cooked in garlic sauce. Its taste stays with me as I write this close to Friday dawn and yes I've brushed at least twice since that late-lunch-early-supper. It is the kind of dish that makes your mouth water even hours after you've eaten it. The half a kilo of fresh prawns were supposed to sate me but it didn't and I still find myself planning my next meal in the place because of it. If you love dining fresh seafood by the sea, you have to try sutukil. Just tell the cook preparing the kinilaw to mince the spices and not just chop it.The view from the sutukil restaurant. Prices The molomol is sold at 160 pesos per kilo which is really quite cheap. The prawns are 700 pesos per kilo, crabs are at 400 plus pesos per kilo while lobsters are at 1,200 per kilo. These prices are really cheap and are comparable to what you pay when you buy these seafood in public markets in Lapu-Lapu City. How to get there ready for cookingThe sutukil restaurants are located near the Mactan Shrine. It is a 250-peso taxi ride from central Cebu City. Just tell the cab driver you want to go to Mactan Shrine in Punta Engaņo. It's on the way to Shangri-la Mactan. If you want to take public transport, you can either ride on a jeepney that goes to Punta Engaņo (No. 23 jeepneys with Punta Engaņo signboards in the windshield) or you can choose one of the hundreds of tricycle in Lapu-Lapu City. The sutukil eateries are to the left of the stage near the Mactan shrine, on the side of the area's police precinct (now there's an added security for you.) After you pass a couple of souvenir shops selling trinkets, shell craft and other native products, you then see several stalls with pails and buckets of fresh seafood-just choose one of the several eateries in the place. More photos: click on images to view larger photographs Lobsters at sutukil restaruants in Mactan island, Cebu. Crabs sold at the sutukil restaurants in Mactan. Sutukil restaurant in Mactan island. The alley that leads to the sutukil eateries
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  • Dear Sir/Madam,

    Good Morning

    I am from Aspac Cargo and Trading Company Brunei Darussalam, we are looking for prawn suppliers in your countries that can supply as 40 tones a month of prawns.

    Please acknowledge as soon as possible so that we can start negotiating with your company.

    Hoping to hear reply from you soonest.

    Thank you.
    Ms Nurul
    Aspac Cargo and Trading Sdn Bhd
    Brunei Darussalam
    Tel: +673 2422147
    fax: +673 2422151

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  • art

    Hello Ms Nurul of
    Aspac Cargo and Trading Sdn Bhd
    Brunei Darussalam,

    Surigao del Norte is what I know the Prawn Capital in the Philippines and actually has its Prawn Festival. see

  • Hi!

    Can I have the tel. number of the said rest. We’ll be visiting Cebu this June 27, I missed Philippine seafood sooooo bad lolz…

    e-mail me if you got it…Thanks A LOT I WANNA TAKE MY HUSBAND IN THERE SOME TIME.TC!



  • Mike Macairan

    I miss our very own filipino food especially in Cebu. Having lived in Tokyo for 20 years I have acquired the japanese taste. Anyway,I’m looking forward on next visit there to eat all I can. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu…

  • I was a student in Cebu about 13 yrs. ago and I remember we used to out there in Mactan on the weekends just to eat su-tu-kil. From what I remember, the place used to be more wide open space with the restaurants on the peripheries. Some places cook better than the others. It’s just a matter of finding the good ones.

  • Mactanio

    When you are eating inside of this establishments, pay attention to the `cooking charge`… it is a charge added to your bill for preparing your seafood… and it is very different!! At the end they are also adding the VAT, so your bill will be appr. the double ammount of the ordered seafood..
    Overall i have to say, they are offering nothing very special… but really very expensive… and if you are a foreigner and not asking for detailed prices before… you are paying more than others will do…
    by the way, service seems to be still a miracle there…. the seafood is already cold when served… and you have to wait for the rice…. soup is served at the end instead of being the first dish… and so on…

  • janus

    Hi MS Nurul, are you also interested in live groupers? If interested you can email me at [email protected]

  • Visited very recently Salo-Salo and enjoyed the food and wrote about in my Samui info and weather blog , hope you allow the link.

    The comments made by Mactanio are oh so true about the ‘cooking charge’ and the VAT. Tricky……..

    Good food though and I can recommend the restaurants combined with a visit to the Magellan and Lapu Lapu shrines.

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  • pete barrus

    just ate there on jan. 31st,2012… had never been was in the back behind the stage to the left ,past the shops,close to the water. all the fresh seafoods were up front to choose from.chose the prawns,sweet and sour lapu-lapu,some rice dishes,and a tanduay rum and coke…the food was prepared very well and didn’t take too long.. the place is basic/native like a lot of places in the philippines..i’m from the us, and enjoy the native flair ,but still have to be careful with what i eat and drink here!! with that being said..the food was excellent,very tasty,and didn’t cause me any problems!!! the staff was great and would reccomend to anyone while there!!

  • The Best and Sutukil in Cebu. fresh seafood at affordable prices. For those looking for more affordable sutukil, go to the Lapu-lapu city hall complex.