Global Exchange: Glimpses of an 18th century Colonial Kitchen in Manila

Rene B. Javellana, SJ


It seems self-evident that Spanish cuisine influenced Philippine cuisine. The similarity in nomenclature, some with toponyms, suggests such connection. To imagine that Spanishinfluenced dishes that Filipinos consume in today were exactly the same in the 18th century is to be oblivious of the complex evolution of Hispanic dishes, the result of colonial exchange and negotiation. 

The 1768 inventory of the Colegio de San José’s kitchen, an otherwise laconic list, is interpreted and brought to life with help of other studies, like that on food migrants by scholars, the late Doreen G. Fernandez, Dr. Isagani Medina and Corazon Alvina, which shed light on the ingredients available in colonial Philippines. The 18th century recipe book from Mexico by the Franciscan Gerónimo de San Pelayo, Libro de Cocina del hermano fray Gerónimo de San Pelayo gives us a glimpse of a kitchen in Mexico and suggests that the dishes in Fray Gerónimo’s recipe book could easily be replicated in the Philippines as almost all the ingredients were readily available in Manila. If not some subsitute could be found.

Essential in cooking with some complexity and sophistication is the ability to control heat. The versatile carahay, or wok, a common implement in the San José kitchen, was ideal for that. It was used not just for stir-frying, but for dry roasting, steaming and boiling. 


Colegio de San José; friars and religious; Hispanic cuisine; Jesuit suppression papers; 18th century foods and dishes

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