“Comida China” of Yore

I remembered this very interesting “roman a clef” account of a Chinese banquet in Binondo written by a Spaniard, Jose Montero y Vidal, in his book “Cuentos Filipinos,” published in 1876 [ translation published by the Ateneo de Manila University 2004 ]:

“”Tieng-Chuy was known as one of the richest traders in the flourishing Sangley colony of Manila in 1870.   He owned several bazaars and was an active and intelligent businessman.”


“”Ramon de Molina Tieng-Chuy, who was known for his generosity, wanted to celebrate the arrival of his nephew Chang-Chuy with a dance.  He decorated the rooms of his well-furnished house and sent for an orchestra composed of native musicians.  At nine in the evening, many visitors arrived.”

“The living room was full of elegant, luxuriously dressed mestizas.  Their charms, their refined and inimitable grace, their ability to dance, we can safely say, had no equal.”

“There were groups of happy people, children of the Celestial Empire savoring the delicious nectar, the “cha,” or tea, in small cups slightly bigger than thimbles, as they fanned themselves with wide “paipais.”  the others in more secluded places were dozing, rendered sleepy by opium.  Some guests were in a hidden room, playing “llampo” and “monte,” which they, like the indios, were fond of.  Many others, lazily reclining in armchairs with their feet up on the seats, were enjoying themselves watching the dance.”

“In the bedrooms, the respectable mothers were gathered around the lampshades, passing the time playing “panguingui” and “tapa-diablo,” enveloped in the thick smoke from oversized cigars, which they savored as contentedly as the “buyo.”  Cigars and “buyo” were constantly passed around on big trays.  The “caida” [ entrance hall ] was full of musicians, onlookers, and servants bearing lacquered trays filled with sweetmeats and ice cream for the ladies.”

“The whole house was resplendent, profusely illuminated inside as well as outside, offering a lively and enchanting sight.  In the front part of the living room could be seen a gigantic painting of Confucius at whose feet were set sixteen big red candles [ The Chinese in Manila, although they have become Christians, revere this philosopher and build altars for him. ].  Some believers were burning small pieces of yellow paper printed with Chinese characters of different colors.”

“At 10:30, the dancing stopped so that the Chinese visitors could enjoy a theatrical presentation prepared by Tieng-Chuy.”

“Chinese music is considered by the children of the Celestial Empire as the most harmonious music in the world.  Its composer, however, was undoubtedly deaf or had perhaps lost his reason, since in no other way could anything so lacking in harmony have been conceived.  It was deafening and out of tune as it cast to the wind its hair-raising sounds; but it caused the passionate art lovers among the Sangleyes to jump with joy from their seats.” 

“The harsh sound of the two-string “bandolin” started to fill the air.  It shrieked, its noise more irritating than the sound of 100 “cicadas,” while beside it someone played the discordant “ty,” a bamboo flute with six holes, emitting a more deafening sound than the detonation of a battery of ten cannons fired simultaneously.  The sound of the “batintin,” a bell of two metals in the form of a boiler, when joined to the incessant sound of the other instruments just mentioned, was more than enough to deafen anyone not born in the wide expanse of the Chinese Empire.”  

“The curtain rose and mandarins appeared on the improvised stage dressed in very luxurious woven silk costumes of lively colors.  They were singing, with one hand placed over the other, their arms extended up to their faces, while several henchmen held the banners of the empire.  Later, there was a very heated argument with the other characters who had arrived on the scene.  The show ended with fancy dances while the music went on mercilessly, hurting the ears of the non-Chinese.” 

“The Chinese actors and musicians left to rest from their exhausting activities, and guests could dance once again in the European style.””  


“”Tieng Chuy and his family, as hosts, did their best to make everyone enjoy the affair.”   

“When the buffet was ready to be served, they moved to a gallery prepared for the occasion.  The table was covered with exquisite dishes.  Tieng-Chuy was truly being a wonderful host to his party guests.”

“The palate of the most delicate and demanding Chinese could not have asked for more.  There was abundance and variety.  Among the huge plates of rice, white as snow, the best brand from the Ilocos known as “mimis,” there were platters of dried fish, “pansit,” and “cuchay.”  There were dishes overflowing with shark’s fins and “hog-shum,” or “balate,” plates of cured veal and deer ribs, capons and chicken side by side with plates of shrimps, lobsters, and small “babuis,” or suckling pigs.  Attracting the eyes of everyone was an exquisite silver platter, prominently placed, full of “nidos de salangunes,” a highly expensive Chinese gourmet delicacy [ glutinous substance used by the swallow “Salangane” to build its nest; a pile of the nest is worth 4,000 pesos in China ].”

“In the middle of the table were elegant fruit bowls surrounded by flowers, bearing the most delicious fruits of the country like “manga,” “pina,” “ate,” “chicos,” “platanos,” “lanzones,” and “guayabas.”  There were also abundant desserts from China and Manila.”

“At the sight of that banquet, which the Son of the Sun himself could not have scorned, the eyes of his subjects shone like glowworms.  They were also overjoyed at the sight of some bottles of Spanish wine.  Many people, specially Filipinos, have started to develop a taste for it.”   

“The Chinese armed themselves with their “sipit,” luxurious cylindrical ivory sticks which they manage so admirably, placing one stick between the thumb and the index finger and the other between the latter and the middle finger.  With these implements they bring the food to the mouth.  The indios, meanwhile, prepared the five fingers of their right hand, the only cutlery they use.  Soon everyone started gobbling up the food like turkeys.”


So, where do You go for great Chinese Food???   😀



  1. Jules said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    *Found ANYWHERE across…” <- typo error, LoL. I’m already famished – hypoglycaemic now…hehehe 8’D

  2. Jules said,

    May 15, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Guys, I’m already happy & delighted with Panda Express: I’m good with any dish for as long as there’s broccoli (good for my prostate LoL, altho I’m still young, 35yo), shrimps, shiitake, asparagus, carrots and sauce. I also love mah-chang, radish cake – dipped in lemon, sesame oil & soy sauce & fried flat noodles with beef in satay sauce. Sounds hi-carb ei? And of course with the distinct “fla-lays” (fried rice) way of a Chinese saying it. Found across the United States ;-> YUMMM!…

  3. AVK said,

    April 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Hop Kee in Mott St., Chinatown New York 😉

  4. Garganta Inflamada said,

    March 17, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Re: “See-Kee.” Ah yes, that’s how it was spelled. We really liked that place. And I remember at times, it got kinda cold inside because they had the A/Cs blowing so strongly.

    And then afterwards, my folks would get those extra large “mongo” hopias, hot off the ovens, nearby as take-home treats. Ah, those innocent days of old.

    Slightly off: in San Francisco, the best dim sum is offered by “Yank Sing,” and “The Slanted Door” at the Ferry Building is the place for “nouvelle” Vietnamese.


  5. RGL-LL-A-T said,

    March 17, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Back in the days when things were all “hunky-dory,” the family used to go to “See-Kee” [ that’s how we spelled it ] in Binondo.

  6. periphery said,

    March 15, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    House of Nanking in San Francisco. 😉

  7. Mike V. Jugo said,

    March 12, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Hi Toto! 😀

    I recommend “Asian Dragon” ( formerly called “Imperial Dragon” ) at the corner of J. Bocobo and General Malvar streets in Ermita ( near Robinson’s Ermita ).

    Best Dimsum and Peking Duck in town (IMHO). Before I got married, Bro. Andrew and a few other people had dinner with us there. B.A. really enjoyed the food. 🙂

  8. zippo said,

    March 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Lucio already has his “Century Seafood Palace” — which is a pretty good Chinese Restaurant in his hotel ( Century Park Hotel ) not to mention pirating the Japanese chefs of the venerable “Tsukiji” to set up “Tsukiji Century” flying in only the freshest of Japanese ingredients daily ( aboard PAL, naturally ).

    As for Henry Sy, when he was not yet in a wheelchair, he would cook Saturday dinner for all his children at his Penthouse in One Roxas Triangle. He is a skilled cook. I actually bumped into him a couple of times at “Seaside Market” in Baclaran buying seafood for his family dinner.

    Z 🙂

  9. Nenuca (Chi-Chi) Valderrama said,

    March 7, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Or Lucio could buy “C*bo” and turn it into a Hunan food palace; and Henry, “P*pato” into a Szechuan emporium?

    I mean they do have the ‘dinero’ to do it.

  10. Garganta Inflamada said,

    March 7, 2008 at 6:49 am

    World’s Billionaires – Forbes 2008

    #785 – Lucio Tan & family Philippines – $1.5B
    #843 – Henry Sy & family Philippines – $1.4B


    Well, they’ll be eating at a lot of Chinese restaurants. Or maybe order a lot of take-out, huh?


  11. taitai said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:57 am

    World’s Billionaires – Forbes 2008

    #785 – Lucio Tan & family Philippines – $1.5B
    #843 – Henry Sy & family Philippines – $1.4B

    Only 2 made it this year.

  12. zippo said,

    February 28, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Who remembers the “New Carvajal” along Carvajal Street in Binondo during the 1970s? Or Szechuan House on Roxas Boulevard corner Quirino Avenue? Or my favorite old-style dimsum restaurant in the Philippines, the venerable “Ding Qua Qua” which, surprisingly, is in Cebu beside the old Rustan’s Building?

    Other Hong Kong “staples” are Spring Deer along Mody Road in Kowloon (great Peking Duck and Shark’s Fin) and Yung Kee in Central (yummy Roast Goose and the best century eggs). But a real favorite of mine (aside from Fook Lam Moon) is Man Wah (Mandarin Hotel, Central — try their duck smoked in camphor wood or their Imperial Rice which is rice topped with globs of Shark’s Fin and Crab Roe).

    In Beijing, it has got to be the Tan Imperial Cuisine Restaurant. The Tan family of chefs have been the guardians of Imperial Beijing cuisine. The Tans were used by Mao in his “Peking Duck diplomacy” when he served the best Chinese food to Nixon, Kissinger, and our very own IRM.

    By the way, I recently had lunch at this restaurant in Greenbelt-5 called “Solihiya.” It served “Binondo Style Comida China.” It had dishes like Pinsec Frito, different kinds of Morisqueta (fried rice), Escabeche, etc. It was Chinese-Filipino-Spanish fusion food just like what our parents and grandparents grew up with.

    Z 🙂

  13. February 27, 2008 at 4:41 pm


    Yes, I remember “See Ky.” 🙂

    Toto Gonzalez

  14. February 27, 2008 at 4:40 pm


    It’s funny how Everyone sees Everybody Else at “President” Restaurant after their respective expeditions to “168” Mall… *LOLSZ!!!*

    Toto Gonzalez

  15. February 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm


    “Fook Lam Moon” has long been considered the “ne plus ultra” of Chinese cuisine. FABULOUS.

    Toto Gonzalez

  16. February 27, 2008 at 4:36 pm



    Toto Gonzalez

  17. Nenuca (Chi-Chi) Valderrama said,

    February 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    in the 60s and 70s, we always used to go to this very unassuming ( also 2nd floor – but not “San Jacinto” ) place in Binondo called “See Ky.” Great Cantonese food, good portions and very UN-GREASY!!!

  18. divina said,

    February 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    …back in the 70’s, it was “San Jacinto” in Binondo. I remember their 2nd floor had lotus wall sconces that were made of kitschy, colored capiz.

  19. Paul said,

    February 26, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Let me see: there’s “Gloriamaris,” “Emerald Garden,” “President,” “Lai Lai Palace,” “Mandarine Palace.”

    All good.

  20. zippo said,

    February 26, 2008 at 10:29 am

    “Fook Lam Moon” in Hong Kong.

    In Metro Manila:

    “LiLi” ( at the Hyatt ) for Hotel Chinese Food. “Hai Shin Lou” ( Pasay Road ) in Makati. “President” and “Mandarine Villa” in Binondo.

    Z 🙂

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