Filipino-Mexican Culinary and Cultural Exchange

The month of May is recognized as Asian Heritage month in Canada; this time, I am writing about the Filipino-Mexican connection, and sharing a recipe from the Philippines that could almost be Mexican.  

Click here to go to printable recipe:  Adobong Sitaw with Chicharon – String Bean Stew with Pork Rinds

History Tidbit:   The Manila Galleon (La Nao de China)  In 1519, Fernando de Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan), a Portuguese explorer, left the coasts of Spain in an expedition down to South America, seeking to cross to the Pacific Ocean and reach the East Indies from there.  During this trip, the interoceanic strait named after him was discovered in South America, and in 1521, Magellan and his crew were the first Europeans to land in several uncharted archipelagos in South Asia.  By 1565, the Spanish empire had established a colonial government in the main islands in the town of San Miguel (today’s Cebu), naming the archipelago Las Felipinas (The Philippines), after the then Spanish king Felipe II (Philip II).  Because the colony was under the rule of the Viceroy of The New Spain, based in Mexico City, a direct route between Mexico and the main islands was established at the same time.  The Viceroyalty of the New Spain also comprised the Mariana islands, and the Spanish conquests in today’s Southern USA, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and parts of Central and South America.  From that point on, the route from Manila, capital of The Philippines to and from the Mexican port of Acapulco, was known as the Manila Galleon, the Acapulco Galleon or “La nao de China” – “The ship of China” because many products such as silk and porcelain were brought from Macau.  In reality, products were acquired all around Asia: cotton and amber from India, lacquer and other goods from Japan, and of course, the important spice trade with Indonesia and Malaysia.  The products that arrived in Acapulco were transported by mule trains to Mexico City, then to the port of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, to be loaded to ships of the West Indies Fleet, bound for the port of Seville, in Spain.  Some secondary routes also provided trading posts in Central America, Cuba, and the Viceroyalty of Peru (Lima), as seen on the map below:   

The Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade route and the Atlantic Veracruz-Seville route (Public Domain image, 2015, Government of The Philippines.)

The routes remained active throughout the entire period of Spanish colonial rule in Mexico, ending in 1815 in the middle of the thunderous Mexican Independence war. 

Inevitably, between 1565 and 1815, many Filipinos and Mexicans sailed between Mexico and the Philippines as crew, traders, adventurers, slaves, or soldiers, many of whom did not go back to their birth places.  For those two and a half centuries, culture and food in both countries were influenced by each other, as well as by Spain, their common ruler.  As declared by the Filipino government, this route “… paved the way for the widest possible exchange of material goods, cultural traditions and practices, knowledge and belief systems and peoples.  For some 250 years, it served as a formidable bridge between East and West. Today, it is considered as an early manifestation of globalization, having influenced the politics, philosophy, commerce, and trade development of almost the entire world. The Galleon Trade firmly put Manila on the world map as the largest trade hub in the Orient with solid historical links to its neighbors.” 

The Filipino dish I have chosen.  Adobong Sitaw, follows the traditional Spanish technique of adobar.  According to the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE), a definition of ADOBO – “Caldo o salsa con que se sazona un manjar, y especialmente el compuesto de vinagre, sal, orégano, ajos y pimentón, que sirve para sazonar y conservar las carnes y otras cosas.”  In English:  “Liquid or sauce to season a dish, especially the mixture of vinegar, salt, oregano, garlic and paprika, used to season and preserve meats and other things.”  Recipes were adapted to local seasoning in the colonies with the use of soy sauce in The Philippines, and spicy dry chiles (Capsicum annuum) in Mexico, instead of pimentón (paprika)*.

Green pods of Phaseolus vulgaris, known as ejotes (in Spanish in Mexico, judías verdes, in Spain) – sitaw  (Filipino) – string/green beans (English), one of the many contributions of Mexico to the world, are the featured vegetable in this recipe.  Pork or chicken are common meat additions, but I chose fried pork rinds to continue my chicharrones theme from previous posts.  As a snack,  fried pork rinds are ubiquitous around the world, known as khaep mu in Thailand, cracklings in the US,  scratchings in the UK, etc., but in Mexico and The Philippines, they definitely came from Spain, called chicharrón in Spanish, and chicharon in Filipino/Tagalog.  Finally, red hot peppers are optional, but I included some to enhance the culinary fusion of the dish.

Adobong Sitaw with Chicharon

String Bean Stew with Pork Rinds –

Adobo de ejotes con chicharrón 

Printable recipe:  String Bean Stew with Pork Rinds


½ lb (225g) string beans; washed, trimmed, and sliced into 2-inch (5cm) lengths
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic; peeled, and chopped
1-2 fresh red chiles, such as serrano or Thai (optional); washed, stems removed, and chopped
¼ cup onion; peeled, and chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
¼ cup vinegar, such as white wine
½ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
¼ lb (113 g, approx. 3 cups) fried pork rind; in small pieces

Warm up oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add chopped garlic and chiles (if using), stirring, to sauté for about one minute, then add onions and continue stirring and cooking (photo below, left).   Once the onions start to look translucent, add string beans, folding with the spoon, to coat with the fried aromatics (photo below, right):

After a couple of minutes, add bay leaf and soy sauce (photo below, left).  Continue cooking and stirring for one more minute, then add water (photo below, right):

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, and cover (photo below, left).  Cook for ten minutes.  Uncover and add black pepper (photo below, right):

Fried pork rinds are readily available in Canada as a bagged snack (photo below, left).  Add the pieces to the pan, stirring to coat with the adobo (photo below, right):

Remove from heat, for a firm texture, or allow to cook for a few minutes, for soft rinds.  Serve hot: 

The flavour was amazingly rich, especially considering how very few ingredients were required.  I was very surprised by the distinctive South Asian flavour, since, other than the soy sauce, this adobo could pass as a Mexican recipe, probably called escabeche as is, or if supplemented by the addition of puréed tomatillos, the classic chicharrón en salsa verde – pork rinds in green sauce:

* FUN FACT:  In spite of a few prigs who might claim that paprika existed in Europe before exchanges with the New World, it is a fact that paprika is a spice made from dried and ground red peppers (Capsicum annuum), which are all originally from Mexico, introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus, and later on, to Asia.  So in fact, there is also an important New World Mexican influence in Old World Spanish and Filipino adobo. 

I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #589 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #541, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.

I am joining Fiesta Friday #433 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, this week co-hosting with Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

8 thoughts on “Filipino-Mexican Culinary and Cultural Exchange

      1. It makes you realise how we’re all taught tiny slices of history, but never the whole picture. You could argue that it’s not relevant, I suppose, but certainly fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

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