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The History Of Our 7 Favorite Chinoy Eats

The clock strikes 3 in the afternoon and it’s time for merienda. What are you planning to eat? Something salty, sweet or savory? No matter what you choose, we Chinoys have surely come across these foods at least once in our lives. Most are so ingrained in our culture that they have become staple comfort food, yung “hahanap hanapin mo” as they would say.

Whatever the flavor palate, this list has got you covered. Read on as we take you through a journey that will get your tummy rumbling and a mind filled with stories behind our favorite Chinoy eats.

1) Batchoy

Source: panlasangpinoy site

Hailing all the way from a district in Iloilo City, this dish is also called La Paz Batchoy. It’s a noodle soup made with pork organs, chicharon, round noodles, beef loin, and pork or chicken broth. Sometimes it also has shrimp and vegetables. One things that’s really special about it is the noodles, Ilonggo round noodles are different from Chinese noodles; they’re fluffy and soft in texture.

Batchoy’s origins are inconclusive as there are multiple accounts but the one I’ll be sharing with you today is the oldest one. In 1938, Federico Guillergan, Sr. concocted a noodle dish in La Paz Market out of broth, noodles, beef and pork. It evolved over the years, becoming a popular dish in Iloilo. He first named the dish “bats” and added “choy” eventually from the vegetable dish Chopsuey.

Now you might be wondering, how is this Chinese? The so-called round noodles are Miki or egg noodles of Chinese origin. Furthermore, other origin stories state that the basics of the recipe was learned from a Chinese merchant or originated from a Chinese community.

No matter which story you believe, one thing is for sure: Batchoy is undeniably delicious.

2) Pancit

Pancit Bihon (Source: panlasangpinoy site)

Pancit Palabok (Source: panlasangpinoy site)

Pancit Canton (Source: foxyfolksy site)

This is it Pancit! This term means noodles in Filipino. In fact, it is so ingrained in Filipino cuisine that there’s a plethora of versions, differing per region or province. Even if you’re tight on a budget, there’s always Lucky Me Pancit Canton to rely on.

Noodles were introduced by the Chinese and the word Pancit is derived from the Hokkien term pian i sit meaning “something conveniently cooked fast”. According to the Chinese, Pancit is eaten on one’s birthday that’s why it’s already standard to have noodles as part of your celebration. It’s also equally important to note that since noodles symbolize long life and good health, you MUST NOT cut them short while eating.

Some of the most famous Filipino versions of Pancit are: bihon, Palabok, and Canton. Bihon is a thin rice noodle cooked with soy sauce, some citrus, fish sauce, your choice of meat and vegetables. On the other hand, Palabok uses a rounder rice noodle with a shrimp sauce and topped with shrimp, crushed chicharon, hard boiled egg, tinapa flakes, and chopped green onion. Lastly, for Canton you have the regular egg noodles stir fried with your choice of meats and vegetables, comfort food at it’s finest!

3) Siomai

Source: driftstories site

Estudyanteng gipit, sa siomai rice kumakapit. Siomai is just one of the foods you enjoy no matter the budget. You can find it sold on the streets, in convenience stores, food stalls, or Chinese restaurants for the truly authentic experience. But no matter the price point, we can all agree that this meat-filled wonton wrapper is satisfying.

Siomai’s origins can be attributed to ancient teahouse owners who discovered eating something while drinking tea aided in digestion. This gave rise to dimsum as snacks, and luckily, siomai was one of them. At the time, fillings were based on the season’s harvest, ranging from chives mutton, pumpkin, or crab meat. However, the common Filipino version is actually  adopted from the Cantonese siomai, its filling mainly made out of ground pork and shrimp. The iconic orange dot on the center is formed out of crab roe.

Steamed or fried, the filling is usually a mix of ground pork, beef, and/or shrimp. Paired alongside a dipping sauce made of soy sauce with squeezed calamansi, and you’re good to go!

4) Siopao

Siopao Asado (Source: kawalingpinoy site)

Siopao Bola-Bola (Source: foxyfolksy site)

Steamed, hot, and white fluffy buns encasing a meat stuffing — siopao. One bite in, and you’ll feel like just maybe, everything will be okay.

Siopao is a Fujian delicacy derived from the word bao zi meaning “steamed buns”. It was developed as an on-to-go meal for workers and the outer skin could be peeled off if it became dirty. The traditional options would be the well-known asado and bola-bola. Asado is barbecued pork so this is perfect for those who prefer saucier fillings. On the other hand, bola-bola was developed by Filipino bakers. They used minced meat and a hard boiled egg so this is definitely more filling of the two.

Modern interpretations gave birth to dessert siopaos as well,  ranging from mung bean paste, ube, to chocolate filling. Toasted siopao is also a recent creation originating from Bicol region, having a sturdier brown shell

 5) Lumpia

Lumpiang Shanghai (Source: allrecipes site)

Lumpiang Sariwa (source: kawalingpinoy site)

Walk into any fiesta or birthday celebration and you’ll be sure to find lumpiang… shanghai. These small crispy rolls with meat filling are usually dipped in vinegar or ketchup. It goes hand in hand with pancit, the two are a no-fail pairing that screams TIME TO CELEBRATE! Or if you opt for the fresh version, it’s like a blanket holding all the yummy ingredients together, and healthy too!

Lumpia is also another Fujian delicacy derived from the Hokkien word lunpia meaning “thin wafer”. This version in particular is a fresh spring roll, similar to the Filipino lumpiang sariwa. It was brought to us as Fujian immigrants settled in the Philippines. Their lumpia had salty condiments like soy sauce and shrimp paste.

For the Filipino variations, we have: lumpiang sariwa and lumpiang shanghai. Not much has changed from the Chinese versions. In fact, lumpiang sariwa is best known for mainly using minced ubod or heart of palm and shredded chicken. In contrast, the original lumpiang shanghai uses a sweet and sour dipping sauce instead. And yes, it actually came from Shanghai.

6) Taho

Source: savvynana site

*Cue Taho vendors passing by subdivisions, houses, churches or waiting outside schools yelling “Tahoooo, Tahoo”*

I don’t know about you, but this is probably the OG brown sugar flavor we all crave for in our milk teas but at 1/10th of the price. It’s a warm cup of fresh tofu, sago pearl and arnibal or brown sugar syrup.

Taho comes from the Hokkien word tau hua meaning “tofu pudding”. It’s been in existence for as far back as the Western Han dynasty. It has found its way in several regional Chinese cuisines and even neighboring Southeast Asian countries that have developed their own spin on it.

7) Hopia

Source: newgenbaker site

Flaky dough and a smooth, sweet bean-filled paste inside? That sounds like the perfect pairing with your afternoon tea. This might be the tea and cookies ala-Chinese style during merienda.

Hopia is the Hokkien word for “good pastry” and typically comes in the round flaky variant Filipinos are more familiar with. It’s filling is either a mung bean paste or pork. A lesser known variant is the cube-shaped hopia with a cake dough texture, its filling comprised of candied winter melon, green onions, and pork back fat. And like almost everything else on the list, this was also introduced by Fujian immigrants in the early 1900s. It’s a Mid-Autumn festival staple, a low-cost mooncake if you will.

Over the years, bakers have also been experimental with fillings. More famous ones nowadays are the ube version made by Eng Bee Tin founder himself Mr. Gerry Chua. One of my personal favorites is the custard hopia, an East meets West affair. It’s a lot softer filling and the flavor is subtly sweet, reminiscent of egg tarts.

Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of cultures, and Filipino Chinese cuisine is distinctly its own. Our creativity and innovation has taken these foods to the next level, making it truly our own. What will you be trying out? Let’s eat!

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