Since the 11th century, Chinese-Philippine relations have been firmly in place, much ahead of the Spanish colonial period. The galleon trade was the source of this prosperous exchange, with Chinese silk merchants sailing into these shores for rattan and beeswax among other field crops.
As history records, many of these travelling merchants from China eventually chose to settle in the Philippines, choosing Filipino partners with whom to start a family. Thus was born what is known as the colorful “Chinoy” (Chinese-Filipino) culture, which is ever prevalent in today’s society.
For certain, every Chinoy family has an interesting story to tell about their Chinese ancestors’ journey and migration to the Philippines. Undoubtedly too, they would sure have many interesting, entertaining and even touching anecdotes about the family’s history. Such narratives comprise a new and fascinating publication titled My Angkok’s* Noodles (*Grandfather) by Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei of JG Summit Holdings.
At her book launch on October 25 at Robinson’s Magnolia, Gokongwei recalled, “When I was young, my grandfather used to say ‘ren yi shi wei tian.’ Literally translated, this means ‘man considers eating as heaven.’
“At the time of my grandfather, the preoccupation with food had more to do with availability. Food was scarce, and so when asking if they had eaten it was not just about well-being, but survival. So when they migrated to the Philippines, they brought in Chinese food.”
My Angkok’s Noodles, however, is not just a cookbook about Gokongwei’s “culinary” history, but is also a compilation of over 100 heirloom recipes and family stories of Chinoy clans that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Coming from a prominent Filipino-Chinese family herself, the author was able to gather works contributions from Rafael Ongpin, Mara Coson, Jeffrey Yap, and the late food author Doreen Fernandez, which all reveal remarkable information and trivia about the unique culture and quaint traditions of the Orient.
The book, according to Gokongwei, is a celebration of different flavors and varied food textures of the Chinese cuisine that is made alive through a heritage shared by 15 Chinoy families, from whom the compiled age-old recipes came.
“The presence of Chinese food in Philippine society is so deep that it shows that the Chinese were indeed a part of Filipino society very early on. Pancit, fried rice, lumpiang shanghai, and siomai are part of the Philippine way of life,” Gokongwei rightly pointed out.
Indeed, it is with food that Filipino families continue to connect, and with “lauriat-style” food presentations at that, which encourage sharing meals and double-dipping with family and loved ones. These traditions are firmly imbedded in the Filipino’s daily life.
Written by columnist and food scholar Clinton Palanca, My Angkok’s Noodles promises hearty meals and entertaining stories that provide a clear—and delicious—picture of the Chinoy way of life.
“It’s very interesting to see food that you grew up with presented in a way that is careful and documented. I wouldn’t say that this is the first Chinese Filipino cookbook but I think we are fairly pioneering in our approach and with the scale of our treatment. It gives you a renewed appreciation for your own cuisine,” Palanca shared.
A project that includes the “dream team” of experts such as Palanca, the dishes that were included in the book were prepared by Chef Ginny Roces de Guzman and shot by renowned photographer Neal Oshima.
“One of my hopes in creating this cookbook is to continue and preserve the traditional way of cooking Fookien food by our great-grandmothers and grandmothers—and I hope that young people, both men and women, will learn to cook and appreciate this food,” Gokongwei ended.