In the Philippines: Kings of Kinalas

Nagueño = A person who lives in Naga City, Philippines


 

The steamy atmosphere, the sounds of clanging utensils, the smell of hot broth, the sight of mouth-watering satisfaction–of day and afternoon, until the Nagueño sky turns to eve, there are always those places around the city with their lights on, offering a delightful traditional meal for starting the day and ending a productive day. There is not a single Nagueño I know of who doesn’t like kinalas. But since there are tens to a hundred different kinalasan‘s just within the city, I figured you might want to know which place offers the one that could satisfy the food soul in you.

“Food Tripping” is a label and apparently a thing in Filipino culture. You get to know about your food, eat and uncover places that offer a lot more varieties of the one you just ate with your friends. If kinalas is part of your list for your “food trip”, it’s relatively important to know what it is.

KNOWING THE DISH

Kinalas, a Filipino term for ‘broken down’ or ‘separated into smaller pieces’, is a dish named not after the dish as a whole itself, but after one of its important ingredient–the meat. No other place aside from the province of Camarines Sur can cook the legitimate kinalas. There are a lot more varieties of kinalas existing just within the city, with different cooks offering their own unique version of the dish. But basically, the whole noodle dish is topped off with slices of either beef or pork (depending on the preferred meat of the chef, really. There are places where they offer pig brain–that’s if you’re into those). But before that, it’s important to know the other three components of the kinalas: the noodles, the broth and the paste.

A trivia for those who are from out-of-town: when there is a load of meat on top of the dish, it’s a kinalas. If the dish is without it, it’s called “Loglog”.

Noodles, first of all, come in different sizes, length and thickness. Every kinalasan has their own preferred type of noodle in which their own customers like as well. It may be thin and short or thick and lengthy. You pick the place where you like the noodles. Second component is the broth. There are some kinalasan with broth that are already perfect for the customer, there are some where you have to add pepper or fish sauce on of your amount. But the last component is the most important one. You may ask how a kinalas could be different from a mami, lomi or other noodle soup dishes. This is what makes it unique: the paste. When served on a table a bowl of kinalas, the cook never stirs the noodle, broth and paste. YOU get to do that. Taste it separately. See how the broth blends with the paste. Mix it, then taste it again.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: each kinalasan has their own version of the paste–and this is where “kinalas rivalry” starts, where each competes with their best versions of the dish. Some compete on the type of meat they use (Kinalas Baka and whatnot), but from what I’ve learned, it’s 65% on how the paste blends with everything else on the bowl.

You can be a noodle-person or a broth-person—someone who likes his kinalas with the perfect noodles, or the perfect mixture of the broth and paste, or the entirety of the dish. You have the freedom to choose which place you want to spend your morning, merienda or evening in.

THE KINGS

In all fortunate things, despite the wide varieties of kinalas here in Naga City, I have covered most of the different establishments where they offer this Nagueño dish, the best ones I even found in the most unusual of places. Dayandang is the street and barangay where a local could tell a visitor to be the “Home of Kinalas”. Most would claim this to be true, but there are other kinalasan‘s you can find around Centro, even at restaurants.

But in this article, I give you the best places to enjoy your kinalas, offering different versions for different types of customers. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my best five, from bottom to top.

MANG KOK’S

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Just a turn right to Solid St. in Dayangdang, this new kinalasan offers the good stuff. If you have a large appetite, this place will meet your expectations.

Whether it’s a ‘big’ kinalas or a ‘jumbo’, this place will offer a dish so large in amount, one bowl would be enough—or too much if you ask me. But the Php 25.00 will surely be worth it.

Regarding the taste though, if you like it extra spicy right from the start, this place is perfect for you. The service takes a bit longer than usual, but only because every kinalas is served for their customers’ satisfaction. Their broth and the noodle taste amazing. It’s already salty to the taste, so a little drop or two of fish sauce might just be enough. On the bowl itself, they already put it chili with garlic and onion stems. But the thing that makes their ‘kinalas baka’ glorious is the beef itself. They serve it tender and blend with the dish quite well.

You better get there while they still just opened. The prices are still affordable!

CORDOVAS

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Among the locals, this is where “Tiya Kamot” makes her special kinalas. If you’re wondering why she was named that way, I prefer to leave you in the shadows and discover for yourself. This place is nothing you would expect: anahaw roof, wooden walls and located in a corner of a street mildly deep within the barangay where you could only know it exists is when somebody tells you about it. Issues with sanitation may arise from your thoughts as soon as you enter the place but her kinalas without a doubt offers itself to customers who like their bowl of kinalas, salty enough to the taste, a bit spicy and their broth near plain for you to mix with fish sauce or kalamansi (lime). But what I like about this place is that it’s more of a “Morning Kinalasan”. They offer pandesal that they only charge probably for the change in your pocket. A free refill on the broth and paste is offered too.

If you’re interested, go to Solid street in Dayangdang and ask for directions. Then you’ll see a wooden place with a tarpaulin of the name “Cordovas” plastered.

ALING CELY’S

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Aling Cely’s is a place off Dayandang and on Barlin street. It’s a much more commercialized establishment; complete with clean tables and chairs, a proper cashier, menu on the wall, side dishes behind a glass display and more waiters to serve the customers. All you need to worry about mainly is the amount of customers waiting for their tables. The place is always full.

Aling Cely’s offers a commercialized version of kinalas, but delicious nonetheless. The establishment has been part of Naga for years, the cooking style changes as tide turns. If you’re a noodle-person, Aling Cely’s kinalas noodles are a bit soggy and heavy, but some like it that way. There are times when their noodles are of the right thickness. When it comes to their broth, sometimes you don’t need to add too much fish sauce. It’s already tasty to the paste. The best way to enjoy their kinalas is to side it up with baduya or maruya, in Filipino (sinapot in other Bicol terms). I’d personally like to say that you can find here a “generic” type of kinalas, one you can experiment with fish sauce and lime as you see fit

It’s affordable and no problem with sanitation.

KINALAS TWINS

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This is my second preferred kinalasan. Here, we go back to Dayangdang street, just after a left turn from Colgante. Straight up, and you’ll see a home that has a kinalasan at their garage, with a comic sign of “Kinalas Twins”.

One bowl of kinalas here is enough. Surprisingly, they serve their kinalas and loglog’s in large bowls even if it’s a 15-peso loglog, which is, as a matter of fact, their lowest price for the dish.

This place serves the dish almost perfect. The need for ‘kalamansi’ or fish sauce is at a minimum. Put in a little of the ‘chicharon’ they offer, a bottle of Coca Cola and your kinalas session is just relieving. If I dared to say they serve it “almost perfect”, the deciding factor I made Kinalas Twins my second is that their noodles tend to be a bit soggy sometimes, meaning, there is an issue with the consistency of the noodles. Also, they go a little more salty, which some their customers like. Nonetheless, Kinalas Twins is a place that should never be out from your list of a Kinalas food trip.

NONOY’S

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Finally, the top one kinalasan in my list is Nonoy’s. This place is not what it would seem: a large lot, a rusty gate, a wooden anahaw cottage and old men cheering and enjoying a hearty meal. That’s right. Real Nagueños eat here—for those who know the place of course. Surprisingly, the place is next to Cordovas, just walk straight past the corner to the left and you’ll see a tarpaulin with the place’s name on it.

Here they offer no 15-peso loglogs. NO they do not. They offer kinalas and kinalas only. Their dish might seem pricey, but it’s absolutely worth it.

The taste is a sure win. Just give it a few drops of fish sauce and a squeeze of kalamansi. The broth is good to the taste, not too salty, not too plain and spicy enough to indulge for a full-blown merienda. A bottle of soda is will complement the dish as you take your next sip of the broth. The paste is mysteriously full of flavors once mixed.

But it’s not just the taste that won me. It’s the raw culture and aura it emits. Who would have thought that the tastiest kinalas I’ve tasted so far is located deep in the barangay, in a compound where you can hear a few chickens clucking. The sanitation is not a major problem. The culture you can feel here is so raw it that it would make you forget you’re in a major city. The dish is made and served traditionally, as you wait in a bar-like table, seated next to a friendly resident of the barangay. The refill is free and there is bread that you can buy next to your dish.

Nothing would beat a place full of passion and love for the dish. True enough, Noynoy’s came on top of my list because of it.

Kinalas is part of the Bicol culture as shaking hands is a commonality for greeting people. The dish is unique to Camarines Sur thus the importance of preserving and commercializing it should be emphasized and these top five kinalasan have this responsibility. Although, I consider them my most prominent among others, there are more blooming small-time kinalasans that are yet to include themselves in the industry.

So if you’re out in Naga with your friends, check these places out and uncover more places that make Bicol one of the best places to be in the Philippines.


 

This article is featured on the official student publication of the Universidad de Sta. Isabel, The Facade. The images has been borrowed from respective photographers.

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