You probably already know that a good part of Filipino cuisine has its roots in China, or at least the Chinese traders and settlers who came here, but we’re betting that you don’t know how they came to be.
With centuries of immigration, trade, and culinary diffusion, you’ll find that even some of the most common street snacks you’re eating today are actually intrinsically Chinoy. From the savory to the sweet, we trade the roots of seven well-loved Filipino dishes to their equally scrumptious Chinese equivalents:
1. Siopao vs Cha Siu Bao (叉烧包)
Siopao, derived from the word shaobao (烧包), are steamed buns that were introduced to the Philippines by Cantonese immigrant Ma Mon Luk in 1918. Inspired by the dim sum favorite cha siu bao, these Filipino favorites became popular after Ma started to give them out on the streets for free to promote his then newly opened eponymous restaurant, which still stands today more than 100 years later.
2. Lumpiang Sariwa vs Runbing (润饼)
Introduced to the Philippines as early as the 9th century by trade, runbing is actually what many Chinoy families know as fresh lumpia — not to be confused with lumpiang sariwa. Though the former is available in several Chinese eateries across the country, the latter is something that has ingrained itself into traditional Filipino menus.
Catering to more local tastes, this dish has evolved into a mix of julienned vegetables and ground meat now bundled together by a soft egg crepe wrap, before drizzled by a sweet peanut sauce.
3. Lumpiang Shanghai vs Spring Rolls (春卷)
Lumpiang Shanghai’s beginnings are just the same as its sariwang counterpart! However, instead of being served as a soft and fresh wrap, this dish is deep-fried into a golden brown delight, earning its deserved title as the Filipino spring roll.
4. Shakoy vs Mahua (麻花) / Youtiao (油条)
A popular street snack in the Visayas, shakoy is a traditional Filipino twisted doughnut that is deep-fried and sprinkled with white sugar. Although its name is derived from the Hokkien tsiahkue (炸粿), which translates to “deep-fried rice cakes,” the dish itself is actually more similar in appearance to mahua, a Chinese dough twist that is fried in peanut oil.
However, because of its crispy outside texture and fluffy insides, shakoy is also comparable to youtiao, a deep-fried dough stick that is commonly eaten by the Chinese for breakfast together with soy milk or as toppings on congee. Leading us to…
5. Lugaw vs Congee (粥)
Though congee exists in various forms all across the globe, many believe that most savory versions of lugaw have been influenced by the cooking styles of Filipino-Chinese immigrants. But as the decades passed, lugaw has diffused into a homegrown, authentic representation of Filipino flavor. Not only is it served thicker than most Asian congee dishes due to its use of glutinous (read: malagkit) rice, but it is also more flavor-packed with signature local condiments and toppings such as calamansi, soy sauce, crispy bawang, and patis.
6. Taho vs Douhua (豆花)
In the Philippines, silken tofu is often snacked on as taho, a warm tofu pudding drenched in syrupy arnibal and topped with sago. In China, douhua, which the former is based on, is prepared either sweet or salty, depending on the region it is served in. Among those in the northern provinces, soft tofu is eaten together with soy sauce or a salty broth. However, in the south, douhua is accompanied by brown sugar syrup seasoned with ginger — not unlike the flavors of our local taho!
This, of course, makes perfect sense. After all, the ones who introduced this dish were most likely Hokkien immigrants who have come from the southern regions of China!
7. Tikoy vs Niangao (年糕)
Niangao, literally translating to “year cake,” is often eaten during the Chinese New Year to invite good blessings and prosperity. Chinese immigrants hailing from Fujian and other southern provinces introduced to the Philippines their own rendition of the popular dessert, which eventually transformed into what we now know as the iconic tikoy.