History of siopao in the Philippines

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History of siopao in the Philippines

Bao Zi (包子), also known as mantou when unfilled, is a staple food among Chinese worldwide. Hence, there are Baozi versions in Singapore, HK, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries with strong Chinese influence.

The exact origins of siopao in the Philippines are not well-documented, but Chinese vendors likely sold it along with noodles as early as the 1600s.

The oldest Chinatown outside of China is located in Ongpin, Binondo town, Manila. It has a rich history and culture, making it a cultural and culinary destination in the Philippines.

The area was established in 1594 by the Spaniards. They hoped to convert Chinese mestizo to Catholicism, but it did more by sinicizing the Filipino palette.

It is in Chinatown Ongpin that the now ubiquitous Pancit, Mami, Siomai, Kikiam, and Siopao evolved into a staple “Pinoy mirienda,” particularly the siopao.

Siopao or Baozi in mainland China literary means “hot bun” in Hokkien. It evolved as an appetizer to an all-day “quick snack.”

The Philippines Siopao has transformed over time, offering variations from salty to sweet and from steamed to fried. The largest known siopao is from the Wan Kee Chinese Bakery in Ongpin, measuring approximately 8 inches in diameter.

Ma Mon Luk Siopao

Ma Mon Luk Restaurant is considered a historic culinary icon in Banawe, Quezon City. Founded by Mr. Ma Mon Luk, a Chinese immigrant, in the 1920s, the restaurant gained fame for its signature dish, “Ma Mon Luk Special Mami,” a noodle soup topped with chicken, pork, and vegetables.

But along with the noodles, the original Ma Mon Luk Siopao became its tandem. The texture of the bun and heavy filling.

Over time, Mr. Ma’s children ventured into their own food-related ventures. Despite shifts in ownership and management, Ma Mon Luk Restaurant perseveres as a cultural icon, upholding its founder’s legacy and pleasing generations with its enduring flavors.

Time stood still at the original Ma Mon Luk Restaurant in Banawe, Quezon City.

Kowloon House Siopao

Kowloon House Siopao is a renowned brand in the Philippines, synonymous with delicious and flavorful siopao. Its history traces back to the 1960s when the Wong family, originally from Hong Kong, immigrated to the Philippines.

The family’s recipe for siopao became the standard for the rest. It was thick, soft and fluffy with two major savory meat filling, the “bola-bola” and asado. But what made it popular was their unique “special jumbo siopao” that had a Chinese sausage and egg yolk.

Over the years, Kowloon Siopao expanded its menu to include various Siopao flavors and sizes, making their stalls permanent fixtures.

The “most famous siopao of all,” Kowloon House’s Jumbo Pao includes Asado, Bola, and Sausage fillings, with Salted Egg.

Shanghai Fried Siopao

Since the 1900s, siopao has been a staple snack in Manila. Then came the fried siopao, which is unique to Chinatown Ongpin for having what seems like a twice-cooked Chinese bun, though it’s not.

Frying the siopao instead of the usual steamed method made it tastier, adding crispiness while still maintaining a soft bun.

The original recipe, first introduced in the 1980s, came from a Chinese family who sold fried siopao in mainland China. Their daughter later immigrated to the Philippines and brought the recipe with her.

She started selling fried siopao as a makeshift food stall in their century-old house in the early 1980s. It was common for the ground floor of these “Binondo houses” in Chinatown to be either a trading store or a food business.

She had a custom frying stove made for siopao, attracting early patrons from the local Chinese and Chinoys in Ongpin.

Its popularity surged, drawing loyal Filipino and Chinese customers outside Binondo, earning the moniker “siu-pao chien ti Ongpin,” or simply “fried siopao.

The business grew, and eventually, her children managed the food business that we now know as Shanghai Fried Siopao. Since then, “copycats” have evolved to rival the original fried siopao.

The original “fried siopao” was established in 1985. The stall remains unchanged along Ongpin Corner Banahaw Streets, Binondo Manila, just before Lido restaurant, where asado pork was popularized.

The most common Baozi all over the world

Bakpao – Indonesia
Bánh bao – Vietnam
HK – Cha siu bao
Num pao – Cambodia
Shanghai – Xiaolongbao
Siopao – Philippines

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