What do you get when you marry the flavors of beef mami and classic bulalo? The answer is Bicol’s kinalas. Compared to Batangas lomi or Iloilo’s batchoy, this Naga City specialty has been under the radar – until TasteAtlas.com put it in the spotlight. But, unfortunately, it’s for the wrong reason: settling alongside hotsilog and 98 other dishes in the “The Worst Rated Foods in the World.” Did the critics randomly choose an unnoticed local fare to include in the list? Or were they once turned off by its unassuming appearance?
The truth is kinalas deserves so much better. Landing a high ranking in “The World’s Most Underrated Food” would have been more acceptable to locals. For most Bicolanos, the noodle soup is a source of comfort, a hearty staple they can eat anytime. It’s so integral to daily life that you’ll find countless eateries scattered across the city, hawking their own version.
There’s so much more to this Bicolano dish than meets the eye. For starters, it features a secret ingredient that no other noodle creation can compete with. Are you intrigued to find out more? Set aside your preconceptions because this severely undervalued provision is about to blow you away.
What is Kinalas?
At first glance, the affordable (₱50 to ₱90 per serving) noodle soup looks just like any other. A standard order contains a heady stock, miki noodles, meat chunks, and an assortment of garnishes. So, what’s the diff?
Kinalas comes from the verb “kalas,” which means to remove or take apart. In this dish, “kinalas” refers to the meat cooked until extremely tender that it falls off the bone. Hungry yet?
Like many classic Filipino fares, kinalas doesn’t rely on herbs and spices to build its flavor profile. Instead, this Bicolano fave gets its savoriness from its noticeably rich and dense broth. The soup, simmered for hours, contains various beef parts, including the head. Each serving also comes with a signature brown sauce thickened with cow brains – a source of repulsiveness for many novice diners and foreigners. Maybe that’s why it made it to the list!
But this noodle soup isn’t just about beef. You’ll find versions featuring pork and seafood, too, making it easier for home cooks to replicate. Do you want to give it a try? Start by learning the essential ingredients that go into every bowl.
The 3 Primary Components of Kinalas
Anyone who’s had the opportunity to sample kinalas swears by its well-rounded taste. Its recipe capitalizes on simplicity! All its primary components work together to create a heartwarming dish like no other.
Every great-tasting broth starts with various parts of an animal that can go beyond the bones. If batchoy utilizes innards like the heart, kidneys, and liver, kinalas favors the head. Alternatively, you can also use your go-to cuts like brisket or shank. For the most flavorful base, simmer the following together:
- beef or pork head
- beef or pork shank (bone-in with tendons)
- Knorr Beef or Pork Broth Cubes
- red onions
Filipino noodle soups have one thing in common – an abundance of toppings. Standard choices include toasted garlic, boiled eggs, spring onions, chili, calamansi, and chopped proteins. You can also sprinkle crushed chicharon over the dish right before eating.
Adding brains thickens the classic kinalas gravy, but it’s not a common practice anymore. Instead, most cooks mix in diluted cornstarch to achieve that viscous texture. To still make it malinamnam, they add Knorr Broth Cubes, dried shrimp, or patis. Follow suit and gather these gravy ingredients:
- dried shrimps
- soy sauce
- sesame oil
- Knorr Shrimp Cube
- fish sauce
- beef or pork broth
How to Cook Bicol’s Kinalas
Making Bicol’s kinalas at home is a straightforward process. Use this quick step-by-step guide to help you recreate this tasty soup.
Step 1: Parboil the meat.
Place beef or pork in a pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the meat; bring to a boil. Cook for 2-5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Drain and discard the liquid. Rinse your meat thoroughly with tap water.
Step 2: Make the broth.
Return proteins to the pot. Add 1 liter water for every 2 kilos of meat. Season with salt, pepper, broth cubes, and onions. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Pay attention to the stock and add more water to keep it from drying. Don’t forget to remove impurities that float to the surface.
Step 3: Separate the meat.
Remove beef or pork from the broth, setting the liquid aside. Once the protein is cool enough to handle, scrape off any meat and tendons sticking to the bones. Chop them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Step 4: Cook the gravy.
Sauté garlic and onions in a saucepan until fragrant. Add dried shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Mix in the remaining ingredients and cook until the sauce is thick.
Step 5: Prepare the noodles.
Cook egg noodles according to package directions. If using fresh miki or mami noodles, soak them in hot water for a few seconds. Drain and divide them into serving bowls.
Step 6: Assemble the dish.
Fill bowls with chopped meat and prepared broth. Pour gravy on top and garnish with boiled eggs, spring onions, and fried garlic. Serve with chicharon and condiments like soy sauce, chili sauce, or calamansi.
Bicol’s kinalas is a substantial meal in itself. But if you have a healthy appetite, you can do as the locals do – pair your soup with toasted siopao, maruya, or turon. Truly, the “worst” part about this noodle soup is its effect on the waistline. Please, give this beloved Bicolano dish a (second) chance!