If I ask you to name some examples of Chinese-Filipino cuisine, you’ll probably think of siopao, pancit, or lumpia.
And that’s fine. Because those are probably some of the most common examples of Chinoy food that you’ll get in this country. But as a Chinese-Filipino Cebuana, I just can’t help but lament the fact that so many of our regional dishes are often just left to fade in obscurity. When I mentioned that one of my favorite dishes was ngohiong to some Luzon-born friends, I was incredibly disappointed to find out that most if not all of them have never heard of it — these golden crispy fried ubod rolls that serve as one of the most iconic street foods that the island has to offer!
So here I am now: a Chinoy Cebu-born foodie with a mission. Rich with a centuries-long history of trade and immigration, Cebu is home to many popular dishes that have been influenced by the Chinese. Here is a list below:
If there’s one iconic street food that you shouldn’t miss on the streets of Cebu, it’s ngohiong! Derived from the Hokkien ngohiang, which translates to “five spice” but more accurately refers to a fried sausage meat roll wrapped with a crisp beancurd skin, ngohiong is the Filipino adaptation created by immigrants who had come from Fujian.
Visually, the dish isn’t too far off from the more widely recognized lumpia. The difference is that its golden skin is usually thicker, crunchier, and stuffed with a savory mixture of julienned ubod, singkamas, ground meat, and the five-spice powder for which it is named.
Humba takes its origins from the classic Chinese red-braised pork belly dish hong shao rou (红烧肉) — or, as it’s called in Hokkien, hong-ba. Recognized to be a precolonial dish, humba has long since evolved to be cooked more similarly to adobo than the original hong shao rou. This is why some people would call humba the “Adobo of the Visayas.” Traditionally, the dish now consists of a pork belly that is slow-cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, black peppercorns, tausi (read: fermented black beans), garlic, bay leaves, and muscovado sugar.
Perhaps the most defining trait that bam-i has is that it consists of both sotanghon and canton noodles. Also known as pancit Bisaya, the Cebuano specialty takes its name from the Hokkien bakmi or “meat noodles,” a staple noodle dish that has been spread around Southeast Asia by Fujian immigrants. In Cebu, bam-i is prepared stir-fried with an assortment of meats (read: pork, chicken, Chinese sausages, and more!) and vegetables at home or during fiestas.
A popular specialty from Liloan, Cebu, masi are sweet glutinous rice balls stuffed with a peanut and muscovado filling. Although their origins aren’t very clear, the delicacy is often sold in local Chinese bakeries in the city. It is also related to the similarly prepared Kapampangan moche, which despite sounding like the Japanese mochi, is actually derived from the Chinese jiandui — or as the locals here call it, buchi.
Hungry for more? Take a trip down memory lane, and check out some Hokkien dishes that you definitely miss from your childhood here!