Chinese historical documents and pottery excavated in Philippine locations reveal that trade between the two countries occurred long before the arrival of Spaniards. In exchange for their loads of silk, porcelain, and other items, the Chinese brought back forest and sea products like rattan, beeswax, birds’ nests, dried sea cucumbers, and many others.
Of course, trade did not occur during just one market day. Businessmen waited while their goods were unloaded and new ones put on the vessel, sales negotiated, and payments arranged.
Some of the foreign traders settled and married local women. It is then easy to deduce how Chinese cuisine blended with local cooking; the wives learned new ways of food preparation, sometimes modifying ingredients according to availability.
Today, we look at a perennial favorite snack, siyopaw, more popularly presented as SIOPAO. It’s steamed bread with a meat filling.
The Chinese name for this food item is cha siu bao.
The first two words mean roast pork; the third one, bun.
Over the years, the name has been shortened, and the pronunciation modified, hence, siopao.
Barbecued pork is sometimes called pork asado in the Philippines,
after a Spanish term which also means barbecued.
Therefore the cha siu bao (later shortened into siopao) might also be called SIOPAO ASADO.
When meatballs are placed inside before pinching the bread dough together,
the result is SIOPAO BOLA-BOLA.
Both are served in restaurants, peddled by street vendors, or sold over-the-counter, and accompanied by a small packet of sauce to be poured into the bun as the siopao is eaten.