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Talagà Hótsiáh: Must-try Lannang Food in the Philippines

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Authored by: Sharmaine Ibarra

Edited by: Gabrielle Flores, Wilkinson Gonzales, & Steffi Chong

“Pa-pancit naman diyan!” 

You may have jokingly heard this from your friends especially on your birthday or after you accomplished a major life milestone. But pansit is not just the pang-blowout ‘food for treating other people in an event of a celebration’ of Filipinos: it’s also a go-to breakfast and merienda. Its presence is ubiquitous in the menus of breakfast and merienda vendors on streets, carinderias or restaurants. Besides being a staple for Filipinos, pansit reflects the rich Lannang heritage - a mix of Filipino and (Southern) Chinese. It is only one among many dishes that are distinctively Lannang – Chinese cuisine that have been adapted to Filipino taste. Here are some of them:

1. Siōpaū ‘Siopao’ [from Hokkien: siōpaū]

Are you Team Bola-Bola or Team Asado?

Whatever team you are on, one thing is for sure: this fluffy, steamed bun will satisfy your hungry tummy!  It will get you through a hectic day, final exam study session, or even a traffic jam!

The siopao is the Philippine version of China’s Baozi and Thailand’s Salapao. It is a steamed bun typically with savory pork or beef filling. It is an on-the-go snack that is available in local convenience stores, school canteens, supermarkets, and even in airport stalls.

But the siopao is not just the antidote to the commoners’ hungry tummy syndrome. It also tells the love story of Lannang businessman Ma Wen Lu who reportedly introduced siopao in the Philippines. He immigrated to the Philippines with hopes of being successful to get the hand of his beloved. He started by giving free samples of siopao to promote his restaurant, Ma Mon Luk. And yes, his hope came true and he started his family in the Philippines! 

2. Māmì ‘mami’ [from Hokkien: mâh mì]

There is no other partner for the siopao but mami!

The mami is another unique Lannang food legacy. Warm meat and firm noodles in a bowl of comforting soup can soothe the hungriest of stomachs! It is packed with fresh ingredients: egg or starch noodles, chicken or beef broth, minced crunchy vegetables topped with a hard-boiled egg. It is still a popular dish for the rainy season, not only because it is warm, delicious, and easy to cook, but also because it is ridiculously cheap! Curious about the origin of the word? Check out Gloria Chan-Yap’s work on Hokkien borrowings in Tagalog.

3. Pancît ‘pancit’ [from Zhangzhou Hokkien: pan44 sit121/ Hokkien: pien e sit??]

Filipino parties are not complete without pancit!

Did you know that the pancit was already a Filipino celebration food even back in the Spanish era? It was mentioned in the El Filibusterismo written by the Philippine national hero, Dr. José Rizal. According to Chapter 25 of El Filibusterismo, the pansit is one of the foods in the celebration of 14 young men at the Panciteria Macanista de Buen Gusto. The celebration is a satirical mockery over unfavorable decision of Don Custodio regarding Spanish academy. They feasted over the four-course meal - a meal that includes pancit, which is referred to in the book as “Pancit Langlang”.

4. Lumpia Shanghaì ‘lumpiang shanghai’ [from Hokkien: lūn-piâ]

If the mami has siopao, the pancit has Lumpiang Shanghai.

The Lumpiang Shanghai is the Philippine version of China’s spring roll. It is believed that spring rolls originated from China. Traditionally, spring rolls are served during the Spring season, hence the name. In Asia, there are different versions of spring rolls like Vietnam’s gỏi cuốn, South Korea’s chungwon, and Japan’s harumaki. Philippine’s version is called Lumpiang Shanghai. It is the perfect partner for the pansit.Lumpiang Shanghai is also present in the menus of some leading fast food chains and restaurants in the Philippines. Check out Jollibee and Chowking’s lumpia shanghai, for example. There is also another version of spring roll in the Philippines, the lumpiang toge: a bean-sprout- filled roll that is usually sold in the carinderias or from house to house by vendors.

5. Fish Ball

“Tusok, Tusok kayo riyan!”

This is the quintessential pishbol or fish ball that is also present in different parts of China and other Asian countries. Almost every street in the Philippines has at least one fish ball vendor. For as low as 1 peso for each fish ball, you can buy this famous Philippine street food while waiting for the bus, hanging out with your friends outside the school, office, or house. Nowadays, the fish ball is not only the comfort food for most Filipinos, it is also their bread and butter. There are many stories where Filipinos used their fish ball earnings to send their children to school. One of those inspiring stories was Tatay Carlo of Pangasinan. According to ABS-CBN’s Rated K, Tatay Carlo was selling fish balls for 30 years to send his four daughters to school.

Curious about the origins of the words? About language and its interaction with heritage? Visit our online library!


About the author

Sharmaine Ibarra is currently a Korean government scholar pursuing Master's degree in Film at Dongseo University - Busan, South Korea. For 4 years, she worked as a Program Researcher and News Script Producer for several newscasts in GMA Network, including 24 Oras, Unang Hirit and Saksi. She is always fascinated about world culture. Being part of The Lannang Archives did not only make her interested about the unique Lannang heritage in the Philippines, it also made her want to conserve and share it.

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