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Filipinos’ love affair with soups through the years

Rain or shine, it is always a good time to have a bowl of soup

I am a soup person. Rain or shine, I love a bowl of soup with dinner. Sometimes, a bowl of thick soup is dinner.

Like many people my age, I grew up knowing only one kind of sopas—a broth with elbow macaroni and some kind of meat: canned corned beef, ground beef, chopped Spam, or bony chicken parts. The broth is enriched with evaporated milk. It was always served as breakfast, snack, or merienda, an alternative to goto and arroz caldo and very seldom as a separate lunch or dinner course.

Goto (Image by Judgefloro)


Soup can be as simple as canned relief goods sardines with miswa noodles, as rich as San Francisco’s seafood cioppino stew, or as grand as cognac-flamed lobster bisque.

Tinolang Manok

When Filipino groups or families eat out, the soup course ordered is often a viand like sinigang, tinola, or bulalo. The Pinoy way of dining does not follow the Western appetizer-soup-main course program. Very few will dare eat a bowl of sinigang by itself without rice. 


Foreign cuisines offer hefty stews that pass as thick soups but are often served as main course: chili, goulash, minestrone. Taken with bread, they are filling and nutritious.


Unlike Filipino meals, Chinese lunch and dinner are more structured, with soup served separately at the very beginning, before or right after the cold cuts. The most popular among Pinoys are hototay (sea cucumber), nido (bird’s nest), corn and crab, spinach, and hot-and-sour.

In panciterias, the gooey pork gawgaw is often ordered with fried rice, and hardly ever consumed alone.

The Chinese noodle soup we call mami is not meant to be a meal. Hard times have forced millions to serve it as a viand poured over rice. Similar to mami but more substantial with fat noodles and thick gravy is lomi, laden with egg and meat.

La Paz Batchoy

In Iloilo, the Chinese wanton dumpling stars in a bowl of batchoy with pork organs and fried garlic. Also well-loved in Visayas and Mindanao is balbacoa, a collagen-rich stew of tenderized cow’s feet and head, sometimes seasoned with Chinese herbs. 


Before ramen restaurants became popular here, we knew ramen as the cheap instant noodle distributed during calamities. In normal times, instant ramen provides sustenance to students, dorm dwellers, travelers, campers, and street people.


High-end ramen shops have changed that image; air conditioned and classy spaces in popular malls now sell ramen bowls for the equivalent of $8 and long lines greet every opening.


Another Japanese noodle soup dish has entered the picture. Born in Osaka, the udon has fat white noodles made right in the premises. The noodles float in a light broth that is not cloyingly thick. Two of Japan’s most famous udon chains now have shops in Metro Manila. I love Tsurumaru at Robinson Ermita. Amazingly inexpensive!

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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