Gastronomic Migration - The Manila Galleons II

Gastronomic Migration - The Manila Galleons II
The link to the first part of this article, "Gastronomic Migrants - The Manila Galleons I", can be found at the bottom of this page.

And so we continue with the history of the fabled Manila Galleons which transported Mexico's indigenous ingredients to Asia.

The Philippines had a long history of trade in South East Asia before the arrival of the Spaniards, and the Parián de los Sangleyes in the walled city of Manila was a bustling business centre in the Chinese quarter, a great marketplace at the very heart of the trade in Asia. The resident Chinese outnumbered the Spaniards five to one, and the tradesmen and entrepreneurs were essential to the everyday life of Manila’s inhabitants - within its orderly network of alleys and passageways could be found virtually every profession, from bakers and barbers to shoemakers and tailors, as well as fishermen and market gardeners whose catch and crops fed residents and visitors alike. The streets were lined with countless shops, emporia and markets, and teamed with seamen and merchants, raucously bartering, haggling and bargaining. In the heart of this thriving commercial hub lay a natural basin, connected to the sea and large enough to accommodate trading vessels and small ships, and into this basin would be ferried the cargo from the visiting galleons. The great Parián de los Sangleyes became a legend and a destination for merchandise from all over the continent – exotic wares from Persia, Siam, India, Cambodia, Borneo, China, Japan and the Moluccas, the famed Spice Islands, and all the magnificence and opulence of the Orient made their way to the Parián, to be exchanged for Mexican and Peruvian gold and silver. Laden with eastern splendour, the Manila Galleons would weigh anchor in July, well before the arrival of the dreaded typhoons, and commence the second half of the “tornavuelta” or round trip, and carry back across the Pacific Ocean the treasures of the East, destined for the homes of the wealthy in New and Old Spain and beyond.

Needless to say, the precious metals extracted from the rich mines of Mexico and Peru were not the only cargo aboard the Manila Galleons on their way to Asia. Deep in the holds were stored commodities from the Old World, such as barrels of wine and olive oil, textiles, tools and manufactured goods, as well as the indigenous produce of Meso- and South America, countless plants which had never been seen beyond those shores: maize and squashes, tomatoes and potatoes, chocolate and coffee, vanilla, avocadoes, pineapples, tobacco, beans, peanuts and cassava – and most importantly chilli, the “pepper of the Indies”. All these Mexican gastronomic migrants made their way into the markets of the Parián de los Sangleyes and from there set off on their journey across the continent and into the gastronomic cultures and cooking pots of Asia and beyond. They travelled in merchant vessels and Chinese junks across the East and South China Seas, and along ancient trade routes and waterways. They extended their culinary influence so rapidly that in less than a century many of these items had become an integral and indispensable ingredients and seasonings in Asia and insinuated themselves into dishes right across the southern swathe of the continent. The stars of the pre-Columbian Mexican cuisine had spread half way across the world.

Chilli and Chocolate Stars of the Mexican Cocina by Isabel Hood is available from

Just The Two of Us Entertaining Each Other by Isabel Hood is available from and

You Should Also Read:
Gastronomic Migration - The Manila Galleons I
Gastronomic Migration - The Spanish Treasure Fleet
The Spanish Influence in Mexican Cuisine

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