With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, one can’t help but crave Chinese food. From the hearty bowl of mami
(noodle soup) to the filling siopao
(steamed buns), a week will not go by without eating these sumptuous meals that the Chinese have brought into our daily lives. But before making a quick drive to your favorite mamihan
(noodle shop), aren’t you curious why we Filipinos love it most compared to other Asian cuisines? Read this first before you get another siomai
(dumpling) on the go.
Our love for Chinese dishes like lumpia has been ingrained in our blood for over hundreds of years.
One of the main reasons why we Filipinos have a unique affinity for Chinese cuisine is because it has been part of our culture for over hundreds of years. Since the 11th century, our ancestors have been trading with our Asian neighbors, exchanging items like silk and beeswax. When some of these Chinese traders chose to stay in our shores, they decided to recreate their favorite Chinese meals using local ingredients to have a taste of home.
Since then, various recipes from Chinese cuisine have been turned into Filipino favorites. From pansit (Hokien piān-ê-si̍t), siopao (Cantonese cha siu bao), and even lumpia (Hokien lunpia), these dishes have become part of our culture for years. We even recreated a number of versions of pansit (from Lucban’s habhab to Batangas’ lomi) to fit our unique palates.
Our shared love for similar flavors made us fall in love with Chinese cuisine more.
Another factor why we love Chinese dishes so much is because of our shared love for flavors like soy sauce. It’s no secret that we Filipinos love our soy sauce, from using it to season our food to using it as a dip to partner with some of our favorite dishes, but did you know that it was the Chinese who brought soy sauce in our country?
Aside from giving us the love of using soy sauce, the Chinese are also the ones responsible for bringing items like tofu and black beans in the Philippines. And because of this shared love for similar flavors and ingredients, it made us fall in love with the Chinese’s dishes and their way of cooking.
The Chinese’ influence in our cooking techniques made us relate to their cooking as well.
Similarities in our cooking techniques are another reason why we Filipinos fell in love with Chinese food. Although we are fond of dishes that are boiled or ones that contain heavy sauces, we also love stir-frying our food or more commonly known as gisa, another practice that the Chinese influenced in our way of cooking.
Other techniques that the Chinese brought to our kitchen are pesa (Chinese peq sa hi) or cooking meat or fish plain-boiled, and pa ta tim, a braising technique. These cooking techniques resulted in similarities in our dishes and a familiarity in taste, another reason we can fondly relate to and love Chinese food.
With the Chinese’ love for variation, you’ll never know what you’ll get from a bamboo steamer!
One last factor why Filipinos love Chinese food is because of our shared love for variety. Aside from eating almost five times a day, we Filipinos also make sure to have a selection of viands served for each meal. Not to mention how extravagant we can be during celebrations.
And this passion for variety of food also led us to fall in love with Chinese cuisine. Like us, the Chinese love variety as they have different versions of dishes in every region, similar with us having different versions of a particular viand in various provinces. For instance, the pochero (meat stew with plantains) in Manila is different from the pochero (beef shanks with vegetables and clear soup) of Cebu. The Chinese also believe in diversity and balance in food; hence, you’ll see the use of various types of flavors, grains, vegetables, meat, and fruits in their cuisine.
Whatever it may be that got us hooked on Chinese food, our long-standing partnership with our Asian neighbor not only gave us great food, but also helped shaped our culture. Let us know in the comments section which Chinese dishes are your favorite!