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The Chinese in us Filipinos

By CLAUDE TAYAG, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 10, 2021 4:00 pm

As the tikoy or sweet, glutinous rice cakes fill the supermarket shelves, one realizes that the Chinese lunar new year is fast approaching. Lucky are those who would be receiving as gifts from their Chinoy (Chinese-Pinoy) friends or business associates a cake or two.

Tikoy, according to fellow PhilSTAR columnist Wilson Lee Flores, a Chinoy himself, is a symbol of good luck, happiness, and togetherness.

Chinoy (or Tsinoy) refers to the hybrid fusion between Chinese and Filipino cultural elements unique to the Philippines, born out of centuries of intermarriage and assimilation of the early Chinese immigrants with Filipinos. They were mostly Hokkienese (a.k.a. Fookien, or Fukien from Fujian province) and Cantonese (from Canton, now called Guangdong province) in origin. They also have developed their own kind of cuisine.

Unknown to most Filipinos, we encounter their cuisine on a daily basis. The most popular of these hybrid dishes, though generally perceived by most Filipinos as Chinese, can actually be considered as Pinoy as can be. Who doesn’t know about pancit Canton and its countless noodle variants, lumpiang Shanghai, lumpiang sariwa (fresh lumpia), sweet and sour pork/lapu-lapu, chopsuey, siopao/mami, lomi, kekiam, and of course pata tim, ever-present in every celebratory gathering.

Indeed, this yearly celebration doesn’t only usher in the lunar new year, but it is also a time of rediscovering and appreciating the Chinese in all of us—if not in our blood, then definitely running through our veins with all that we’ve been feeding on for generations.

To all our Chinoy friends: thank you for all the good chow you’ve given us. Gong Si Fat Choy!

Chinese Lumpia

Just like most Filipino dishes, there is no codified recipe to do this lumpia. It can vary from one household to another, or the personal preference of the maker. It can be cooked with ground pork or shrimp, or made into a vegan dish. Dagdag/bawas is the name of the game.

 Wrap it up: Make your own lumpia without the flour-based wrapper.

The Chinese lumpia basically has four components: cooked vegetables, fresh lettuce and cilantro, sauce and crispy bihon/rice noodle sprinkle. The flour-based lumpia wrapper is an option, especially for those on a low-carb diet. I personally prefer using the lettuce leaves as the wrapper itself for a lumpiang hubad (wrapper-less) version.


1/4 cup cooking oil

2 tbsps. minced garlic

1/4 cup pre-soaked chopped hibi/ dried shrimps

Chinese tofu, sliced half an inch thick

Any combination of the following: grated carrots, radish, singkamas/jicama (when in season), sliced green beans (Baguio, French, or even chicharo/ snow peas), julienned labong / bamboo shoot, short tauge / mung bean sprouts, chopped cabbage, and pre-soaked sliced Chinese mushrooms


Using a wok, heat oil and add the sliced tofu. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. patis/ fish sauce. Fry until light brown on both sides. When fried, mash roughly with a fork, then add the minced garlic and chopped dried shrimps. Continue frying for a minute. Then add the preferred vegetables, giving the mix a good toss for about two minutes. The veggies should not be overcooked. Set aside.


Place 2 cups tap water in a small cooking pot. Add 1/4 cup cornstarch and dissolve completely. Add 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring vigorously with a whisker. This shouldn’t take more than a minute. Taste to adjust its flavor, balanced with its saltiness and sweetness. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil and 1 tsp fresh minced garlic (optional).

Bihon/rice noodle sprinkle:

Place about one-inch cooking oil into a pot. Heat until smoke starts to show. Turn off heat immediately. Using a tong, slowly submerge a rectangular piece of uncooked bihon. Push down with the tong to fry for about 15 seconds. Turn over and fry the other side for 15 seconds. Remove from pot and drain on a container lined with paper napkin.

When cooled, place in a thick plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin in one or two runs. Add 1 tsp rock salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup crushed spicy peanuts, and nori cut into tiny strips (the best nori for this is the Korean-flavored nori snacks).

Arrange all the components on the table so the diner can make his own combination.

Pata Tim (braised pork leg)

 Pata tim: Melt-in-the-mouth skin, fall-off-the-bone meat pata, served with mantou or steamed buns


1 whole pork leg (front for a small piece, hind for a bigger one)

1/8 cup cooking oil

2 tbsps brown sugar

1/4 cup minced garlic

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup Chinese rice wine

2 pcs. sangké (star anise)

4 cups water

1 cup pre-soaked dried shitake mushrooms.


Place pork leg inside a plastic bag, pour in soy sauce and rice wine. Seal its top with a rubber band. Allow to marinate for at least an hour.

Using a large wok, heat oil and add sugar and garlic. Keep stirring until sugar has caramelized. Place the pork leg into the pan and sear on all sides until well coated with the caramelized sugar. Pour in the remaining marinade and water to deglaze the wok.

Transfer the leg and the liquid into a pot. Add more water to submerge it completely. Bring to a boil, covered with a lid. Lower heat and continue cooking for about an hour or until pork is tender. If a pressure cooker is available, cooking time will be reduced by half.

When done, remove the leg and place it in a serving dish. Continue boiling the liquid until reduced by half. In the meantime, place into the pot Chinese cabbage or bok choy and cook for about a minute. Remove from pot and place vegetables and mushrooms into the dish. Now dissolve 2 tbsps cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water. Pour into the boiling liquid and stir well until it has thickened.

Pour this sauce over the leg. Serve with mantou or steamed buns (available in the frozen section of major supermarkets). It is usually dunked into the sauce at every bite, or used to mop the last remaining sauce on one’s plate.

Unknown to most Filipinos, we encounter their cuisine on a daily basis. The most popular of these hybrid dishes, though generally perceived by most Filipinos as Chinese, can actually be considered as Pinoy as can be.

Banner and thumbnail caption: As fresh as it gets: Ingredients for the Chinese lumpia can vary from one household to another, or the personal preference of the maker.