The Story Of Siopao And Mami Noodles In The Philippines
Siopao or Baozi as what is called in China, is still a staple of Beijingers, dates back almost 1,800 years. Baozi, is a steamed filled bun, is such a common food in China that most of us take it for granted and don't particularly look out for it when dining in restaurants.
Yet in Beijing, the variety and quality of the food can satisfy even the fussiest gourmet.
It is said that the history of baozi dates back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280). Zhuge Liang (181-234), a military strategist of the time, was on an expedition to far South China when his army caught a plague. The incarnation of wisdom in Chinese history, he invented this foodstuff shaped as a human head and made of flour and pork and beef to offer as a sacrifice and then as food to cure the soldiers' plague.
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in Thailand, Siopao is known as Salapao. Take a closer look at the picture of the shop selling salapao in Thailand.
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In my country, the Philippines. The Siopao story is quite a nice story to share to kids and others as well... It's one of the many things what China had passed on to us...Let's hear the story from two of our local writers from the Manila Bulletin, Ms. Diana A. Galangand Mr. Jeremy C. Malcampo has to say...
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the siopao dough before it is cut into pieces The popularization of Mami and Siopao in modern Philippines, has, perhaps, reached a certain levelof commercialized surrealism, with its fusion identity of being both Filipino and Chinese. No one really bothered, besides the few in history, to dig stories (real stories) under the noodle offer, and peppery hot broth, of the Chinoy (chinese-filipino fusion) dish as a daily favorite.
But, to stress, it actually took, just one man to make it all happen. The Mami in its modern form and partnered with pork Siomai (stem dumplings) and Siopaoas how it shaped,moved, and inspired identities, cum statures of countless post-contemporary Filipino-Chinese restaurants within the country is an out- tail of Ma Mon Luk's struggles, hard work, and success.
As a backgrounder, the Noodles, like Pansit and all its types came from the Chinese, traceably marked during the historic Sangley-connection; but, the actuality and boom of noodles in the Philippines, particularly the Mami (noodle soup,) up until its current fame, has always been the accomplishment of Ma Mon Luk as he courageously off himself from China and changed his fate in the Philippines.
Historically, Ma Mon Luk was a grade-school teacher from Canton who migrated to the Philippines in 1918, to break and fulfill his lifetime's worth of being merely who he was.
Being financially poor, and earning less than what he needed for survival, break meant breaking his financial difficulties. And, fulfill meant fulfilling his lifetime's dream of marrying the only girl hewas destined to be with for the rest of his life.
With his teaching profession, he didn't earn much. Reason enough why his rich girlfriend's parentsdisapproved him to be their daughter's husband.
As a reality, his girlfriend, named Ng Shih, had no choice but to follow her parents despite howmuch both of them loved each other.
So, in 1918, the determined man (Ma Mon Luk) finally decided to quit his job and traveled to the Philippines to earn money, and be able to prove to Ng Shih's family that he was worthy of her and allow them to get married.
Upon reaching Philippine soil, he was a dirt-poor guy off his profession, no money, nothing at all. But the culture and knowledge stuffed in his brain was definitely intact; and being Chinese, he'd known pretty well the technicalities on noodles,and Chinese cookery.
To add, however, even before he came to the Philippines, the Filipino people had already tasted noodles with broth, but failed to like it, maybe because former, strict mami-dishes were prepared with bihon noodles. More so, the Pinoy mind-set was under the impression that it wasn't fully cooked as how in early preparations noodles werejust dipped in hot soup,or version of noodles. It was his kind of noodles; characterized, thick (noodled, and made out of eggs), and perfected by patient trials before exacting the best blend that captured the Filipino taste.
A Time To Sell
The Mami, perfected it was, he then started peddling his product in the squalid streets of the old Barrio De Paloma (overground Binondo) without hesitation and full spirit. He positioned under shadowstains of artdecoed groundhouses of Gandara (one of Manila's shoe-stores' lane), located in Binondo, Ongpin and other suburbs like Santa Cruz; Quiapo, Sta. Ana, and Recoletos en la Intramuros. Also, he stationed himself at the foot of the bridge of Puente Espa na (currently known as the move was a strategic success-program where he coursed through for the rest of his struggling days. As a daily routine, more orless, manned by his determination to marry the girl he left back in China, he used to endlessly carry two large containers of his goods, with moving will. Slung on a wooden stick, both containerswere hard on his shoulders, one with noodles and strips of boiled chicken, and the other containingthe blistering broth that need be kept, hot under live coals. Around his waist were scissors that dangle par, each other. The scissors, he used, to cut noodles and chicken meat.
Based from Gilda Cordero-Fernando's writing (the Mami King,) and Lamberto V. Avellana's memories: Mami was not the nameof the dish then it was known as gupit. When Ma Mon Luk walked, the scissors, which he used instead of a knife, jangled at his waist. That was how people knew when the gupit vendor was passing by. And sooner or later, Ma Mon Luk became part of days common faces.
Life And Fame
Gilda C. Fernando writes: the chicken was cut with scissors and so were the noodles. He held the noodles up high with his left hand and cut what one ordered into a bowl. 5 centavos if one was broke, 30 centavos for a gargantuan appetite. If he liked the customer, he cut the noodles a bit higher.
The students of Ateneo came after their classes, sitting on the large pipe at the Binondo Bridge to eat hot mami. Eventually, the Letran Boys discovered Ma Mon Luk too. He sat with the boys and told them stories of the hard life in China.
Eventually an admirer of gupit took pity on its inventor and let him rent a space on T. Ongpin cheaply for his kitchen.
Ma Mon Luk, though, still had to peddle his ware on the street. An interim Chinatown 2nd floor walk-up with only 2 tables was later occupied by him. Everybody came to the 1st bonafide Ma Mon Luk restaurant on Salazar St. In Chinatown. It was of the greasy-spoon, thumb-in-the-soup type and it served nothing but mami, siopao and siomai. The secret ingredient was Ma Mon Luk himself.
He worked to popularize his restaurant and became a walking one-man PR agency. He knocked on doors of strange houses to give bags of siopao for the surprised and delighted family to try.
He gave siopao to flood victims and fire victims, congressmen and senators, policemen, reporters, editors, doctors, nurses, boxers, teachers, and prisoners in Muntinlupa.
There he was, a man determined to leave his imprint in history. He gave siopao to Osmena, President Quirino, President Laurel, Amang Rondriguez, to Andres Bonifacio's sister, Flash Elorde and Carmen Rosales. For mami, however they had to go to Salazar. Former Education Secretary Alejandro R. Roces proposed to his wife Irene over a bowl of mami.
For so, Ma Mon Luk eventually married Ng Shih, and brought her here in the Philippines where they established their family in prosperity.
Former editors Jose Bautista and E Aguilar Cruz forded floods to eat in Salazar.
In 1948, Ma Mon Luk was able to open a branch on Ascaraga, an establishment that moved in 1950 to Quezon Boulevard, near Life Theater. In Quezon Boulevard Ma Mon Luk was selling an average of 1,000 mami and 1,000 siopao a day.
In prosperity Ma Mon Luk was dressed in a felt hat, de hilo amaricana cum vest and glittering gold watch chain across his chest. It hid the fact that his left shoulder was lower than his right, a result of supporting the pinga (carrying pole) in the hard beginning days of his youth. Tango shoes hid his feet calloused from a once-daily routine of walking over the bridge to the ice plant to save 5 centavos on caretela fare. Gone were the days where when he used to bed his feet over tire interiors on sun-blistering roads.
By then, Ma Mon Luk's dreams were solid as her love for Ng Shih, before when they weren't married yet, which catapulted the invention (revision) of the Great Philippine Mami. Much so, it took one benevolent courage to cross seas, and changed countless lives of strangers in a strange land (the Philippines.)
During national calamities in the country, he donated rice, flour, cloth, milk, cash and of course siopao. Indeed, he is one of the most important men in food and Philippine history! an exponent of Filipino-Chinese cuisine.
Ma Mon Luk died on September 1, 1961, at age 65, of throat cancer and was buried in Chinese cemetery in Manila. user 2pr notes: The Ma Mon Luk branch in Quezon Boulevard in Quezon city, Manila still stands. The place still looks as though it's still in 1950's except for some little refurbishing and some posted framed b/w pictures that hangs on the walls and some framed cut-outs too from newspapers dating late 1940's and above of which only shows some famous people (locally and abroad) who dine there with Ma Mon Luk and some interesting memorabilia as well. Even the cashier box, is very antique. The thing is they still use it and it still works with the bells and ding sound that comes out as it opens and closes. the ceiling fan is also antique and still working! can't believe how much the pay to retain it's antiquity. I used to dine there almost everyday to take lunch when i had my pre-med internship way back in 2000. I remember asking the waiter, why haven't the place been airconditioned? The waiter gladly replied and said, " It's this way that people came here more and experience it as it was before! sad to say, much of it's branches have closed already. Their waiters were really like my grand pa in terms of age or even older but still they are sweet and very, very kind. even got to dine with one senator nearby when i went there... my last visit there was in 2003 before i went to Bahrain. I had a Siopao and siomai soup and ordered a half a dozen more of siopao for take-out to bring to my family as a "pasalubong" (gift). The Siopao still has the same taste and size (really big) as before. During my childhood year's, I still remember when my dad used to give me "pasalubongs" too or surprise gift of siopaoafter coming from his work. We even go there sometimes on sunday mornings after behaving well when attending the church's mass. Believe me, not a kid my age (boy's specially) that time, wouldn't say no to anything his parent's say, once you've been promised of having a siopao later and a bottle of coke! :D i'll be back there once more and be posting some pictures of this classicand lovely place! For now just enjoy this siopao that me and my dad made yesterday...
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me and my dad's siopao recipe that i posted yesterday here on ifood.tv!look for the recipe under the user name: 2pr or simply type in search: "siopao"
(some excerpts from china daily, the manila bulletin and some photos by flickr, pinoycook.net, new york times and fotopage)