I'm Still Eating Kinalas, the World's Worst Filipino Dish, Whatever Taste Atlas Might Say


On February 4, kinalas, an obscure noodle dish from the Philippines shot to world infamy when Taste Atlas published its list of the “Worst Dishes in the World.” 

My first thought was, “How the heck did raters even know of this dish from Bicol, Philippines?” Kinalas is not bad, and there are definitely other more deserving contenders from the Philippines that I would proudly nominate for the worst dish—I mean, I believe bopis truly belongs somewhere up there—but kinalas? Really? People lumped this dish alongside cooked spider?

The Worst Dishes in the World, According to Taste Atlas

Image by Taste Atlas.

Kinalas is a Bikolano noodle dish similar to mami: The main ingredient is thick egg-based noodles in beef broth, topped with pork or meat shaved off the bone, boiled egg, and depending on where you eat, chili, fried garlic, chicharon, and seasoned with fish sauce or soy sauce. Its name comes from the root word kalas, which means to break off a piece from something it is attached to, or in this case, to remove the cooked meat from the bones. Meats taste better when cooked with the bone left in them. 


We don’t know a lot about the history of kinalas as a dish, but what we know is that its name traces its roots possibly to precolonial times. An entry in the Vocabulario de la Lengua Bicol by Marcos de Lisboa published in 1628 describes kinalas or hinglas as “separating the meat from the bones, or the bone from the meat, as if to salt it,” suggesting that Bicolanos could have been preparing a similar dish more than 400 years ago. 

A Regular Kinalas

Photo: Kinalas. (2022, December 11). In Wikipedia. https://bcl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinalas.

The trouble with publishing a list of the world’s worst dishes is how inaccurate these could be in representing a dish like kinalas, which, like adobo, has numerous versions depending on where you eat. In my opinion, beef kinalas is superior to pork kinalas, albeit a little pricier. There are some stores that sell sour or salty kinalas, owing to the fish sauce or vinegar added to the broth, while there are other stores that sell savory kinalas. But you can make a killer pork version at home using grilled pork belly, preferably one from Baliwag, which adds a smoky profile to the broth. 

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Incidentally, Filipino spaghetti also made Taste Atlas's list of the World’s Worst Dishes. Now here is a polarizing dish that has plenty of haters and admirers. Filipino spaghetti is the craziest culinary quirk invented by Filipinos. But what is a nightmare to Italian cuisine is a tale of creativity and resourcefulness to Filipino gastronomy. The violently red-colored pasta uses banana ketchup as a base. This, along with the sweet flavor of spaghetti, alarmed Italian culinary purists but Filipinos couldn’t care less about their palates. Although many Filipinos are partial to Filipino spaghetti, whose predominant representation is Jollibee’s Jolly Spaghetti, many foreigners who are used to the Italian version find it just as appalling as balut, another polarizing delicacy, even among Filipinos. Nevertheless, it’s still hard to think that people could hate this childhood party food, which a lot of foreign YouTubers ate and raved about, albeit for content and Filipino baiting for views.  

Going back to Taste Atlas, adding kinalas to the list of the Worst Dishes in the World should be taken with a grain of salt: The ratings on the site come from users who submit their own personal opinions and experiences of dishes and drinks they have tried. They are not based on professional critiques or taste tests, and we have no idea where they ate their dishes.

A Roadside Carinderia in Naga City Selling Kinalas 

Photo by Seth Imperio | Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.

Kinalas is not a dish gunning for the top spot of the world’s best dishes. But it is something that should remind you of comfort and home: Its heat from chili warms the body. It reminds me of Bicol’s volcanoes and the hot springs they feed. The egg-based noodles should be thick and springy, swimming in a clear but tasty brown broth that awakens the palate. This broth reminds me of the ocean: there’s shrimp and that punctuation left in the tongue by patis. The saltiness is balanced by shallots, sesame oil, garlic, and the savory profiles of beef or pork. The boiled egg is what we call "pamparami" or something to make the components more filling. If you want to tone down that saltiness, crack a raw egg into the bowl before pouring boiling broth. 

This humble noodle dish that is often sold on roadsides has never dreamed of attention or recognition but the unsung delicacy deserves a space in our guts. In truth, not many people outside of Naga City in Bicol are familiar with this dish. To its patrons, it is something to fill the stomach after a long commute or a hard day’s work. It is a comfort food on rainy days. It may never be a Michelin Star dish and does not have the same appeal as the lomi of Batangas, which is popular even in the remotest towns of Infanta. Quite possibly an acquired taste, I’m still eating kinalas, the world’s worst Filipino dish, whatever Taste Atlas might say. 

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