Contemporary Chinese Dining
Dr. Nestor Alonso ll (The Freeman) - November 2, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines — My childhood memories of Chinese food began around our ancestral home in Parian. Fronting our house was a Chinese businessman who sold bakchiang (sticky rice dumplings), bak-kwa (salty-sweet dried pork jerky) and bah ho (pork floss). There was a Chinese grocery at the corner that sold household items including dried fruits like kiammuy (salted dried plum) and tsampoy. But what really caught my attention was, excuse me, the owner’s daily diet of lugaw (congee), salted black beans and, on certain occasions, stewed pork (on birthdays perhaps). No wonder they become rich!

Much later, I’d observed that many of my Filipino Chinese friends ate Fujian dishes at home because they came from that province.  But they would dine out on Cantonese cuisine in restaurants, because the better Chinese chefs were from Guandong.

Cebu City residents have since metamorphosed in its dining practices, especially because entertaining at home was no longer practical. This led to the formation of businesses like the Creative Cuisine Gourmet Group with its CEO Alex Dytian and Executive Chef Derek Dytian managing Creative Cuisine Catering (since 1998), Big Mao, Brique, Big Daddy, Ettas (since 2003) and Chika-an (since 2005).

Recently, the restaurant group launched a new brand, the New Taste of China, and introduced new dishes at the Big Mao, at The Terraces, 2nd level, Cebu Business Park. Shades of rustic brown and grey dominate the refurbished restaurant that exudes Chinese contemporary dining experience. The signature red color is retrained in the new logo. Menu includes new dishes like the Stir-fry Truffles Pork and Mushroom Noodles, Beef Hot Pot with Radish, and the Pork Kawali with Sate Sotanghon Hotpot.

Its All-Time Favorites include the Classic Pan Fried Noodles with Sea Food, Beef with Broccoli, Mixed Seafood Hotpot with Beancurd, Lamon-Lamon with Garlic, and the Salted Duck Egg Crusted Chicken. The use of salted duck egg to provide saltiness and the umani taste has really become very popular (I had ordered a similar version with Fresh Water Shrimps in a food street in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago).

Big Mao restaurant offers family and “barkada” set menus to save clients from the guess work of what to order from the long list of dishes. The restaurant has the Pata Tim Set, Seafood Set, Beef Steak Set, Salt & Pepper Spareribs Set, Celebration Set (Birthday Noodles) and Lemon Chicken Set.

Dimsum has become very popular among the Cebuanos, and Big Mao also offers siomai (plain, mushroom & quail egg), siopao (asado& bola bola), and the ubiquitous chicken feet. Rice Value Meals, a bowl of rice with toppings of a single ingredient – like lemon chicken, lumpia shanghai or braised beef – has gained quite a patronage from millennials because it is very affordable and they get to dine in air-conditioned comfort.

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