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King’s Balbakwa: comfort food in Zamboanga City

Delicious balbakwa morsel from King’s Balbakwa

Sir, 40? 50? 60? 70 peso order? Drinks?

Bones and what’s left of the balbakwa

The waitress asked me for my order and after motioning to another diner that I wanted the same, she nodded, wrote my order and went to the counter. Within a few minutes, two pieces of balbakwa swimming in hot steaming broth served on a bowl was served. With a piece of grated calamansi, I had my first sip.

Just delicious. The semi-thick soup was just right on the palate, not too salty and not too bland. The calamansi added a hint of zesty zing and the roasted chopped garlic added crunch as well as that familiar garlicky taste.

And with the rains starting to pour, it was a good decision to come all the way to Sta. Maria Road in Zamboanga City, just a couple of meters from Col. Edwin Andrews Air Base and have a taste of this delectable dish.

Balbakwa or balbacua is a famous Visayan/Mindanao dish made from beef knuckles, or knees or tail and skin. In many areas, it can vary with the type of main ingredients: skin and/or knuckles. The thickness of the soup can also change, which includes color.

One thing is the same though: it is well loved by all kinds of people, from the humble tricycle driver in Pagadian eating at a streetside diner or a wealthy car driving man hunched over a steaming bowl in Matias, an eatery in A.S. Fortuna St., Cebu. And sweat can be streaming down one’s face while savoring this hot meal. Diners don’t give a qualm if seen nibbling on a bone with their hands or asking for another bowl full of soup.

Top, front of eatery. Owner says signage has wrong spelling. Below, eaters enjoying their food

King’s Balbakwa is no different. Started by two friends, Nonie Infante and Olympio Mag-abo (who has left the partnership and went back to Cebu), 22 years ago. Most Zamboanga City locals know that the eatery was in Pasonanca but they have transferred thrice with the current location just along Sta. Maria Road near the air base.

The structure is a little more than a glorified shed, with the typical inclined roof of galvanized iron sheeting and posts that support it. The place is open air with several tables and chairs and the cooking area walled off except a rectangular opening where orders pass. But that is all what’s needed for this no frills eatery where the bare essentials make you focus more on what’s being served.

I sip the hot, semi-thick broth, almost down to the bottom. And one by one, I grabbed the knuckle bones with my fingers and bit on the remaining ligaments and tendons that stuck to the bones. It was one of those moments wherein you just let the world pass by and indulge in this morsel, picking on the remaining edible parts.

Con miki with its bits and pieces of meat.

Con miki. Other than the balbakwa, the eatery also offer a noodle dish they call con miki (with miki, a type of noodles). You have two options: hot broth from the balbakwa or bulalo. Having tried the former, I opted for the latter. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Miki + ‘bits and pieces of tripe and meat’ + bulalo broth was just a great combination. The soup is semi-sweet with hints of garlic. Calamansi and pepper is optional though. And I was just savoring this dish, sipping one tablespoon by one tablespoon. With my fork, twirling the noodles and getting a mouthful.

King’s Balbakwa is no frills, great comfort food in Zamboanga City. It’s just along Sta. Maria Road a couple of meters from Col. Edwin Andrews Airbase. Go there and try their food. You won’t be disappointed.

My thanx to photojournalist friend Charlie Saceda who recommended this to me. Check him out.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

5 Comments

  1. Earl
    September 14, 2012 @ 10:31

    Gigutom ko kamulo basa ani bai. Hehehe!

  2. estancabigas
    September 14, 2012 @ 15:28

    lami ra ba na bai 🙂

  3. bertN
    September 16, 2012 @ 21:16

    That balbakwa is an artery-clogger but who cares if it is good LOL.

  4. » 25 days out in September 2012 | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    November 14, 2012 @ 13:11

    […] trip was more of eating. I was tasting balbacua, eating Jolo durian, satti and an unusual shawarma with egg. The impressive central mosaic of […]

  5. Delicious home cooked meals in a Bohol carinderia » langyaw
    February 4, 2014 @ 0:40

    […] into the covered open space behind the side entrance. I ordered the balbacua or sometimes spelled balbakwa, a Cebuano comfort food made usually from the skin, feet or tail (oxtail) of […]

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