By Mariana Toledano (original text at
  • In 1565, shortly after the conquest of America, the China Galleon set sail for the first time from the Philippine islands to the port of Acapulco
  • This prompted extremely important waves of cultural and gastronomic exchange, which today can be seen in traditional Mexican dishes.

According to Dr. Luis Alberto Vargas, a researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the route of the China Galleon, also known as the Manila Galleon, was one of the longest and most important trade routes in history. The objective was to take riches from Asia and the New World to Spain.

At the Third World Forum of Mexican Gastronomy, which focused on the subject of chiles, peppers, and spices, Dr. Vargas explained that the spicy foods of India and Korea were developed in the sixteenth century thanks to Mexican chiles. This ingredient was taken from China—where hot sauce made from Szechuan pepper was already known—to other places, where it was accepted and incorporated into the diet.

Anthropologist Silvia Seligson explains that cinnamon was brought from Ceylon—where the best cinnamon in the world is produced—on the first voyage of the Manila Galleon to Mexico. This spice was combined with local ingredients, such as cacao, chile, and fruit, which resulted in the hot beverage prepared with chocolate and water, not to mention many desserts.

Another noteworthy example of the food exchange between both regions is the Philippine tamale, which although not prepared with corn dough, is a dish that bears the same name. In the Philippines it is made of rice wrapped in a banana leaf.

In the seventeenth century people from the Philippines brought to Mexico the technique of distilling beverages with tuba, a mild liqueur extracted from coconut sap, which according to Dr. Vargas might be one of the principal antecedents for the distillation of agave in Jalisco.

Relevant Facts: 
  • Mexico is the principal consumer of cinnamon as the importer of two thirds of the world’s production.
  • Exchange between New Spain and the Philippines was not solely gastronomic. In Mexico the model of the Parián was replicated; this was a Philippine market where spices brought from Southeast Asia and other products were traded.
  • Cilantro, parsley, watermelons, cantaloupes, papayas, Manila mangoes, bananas, tamarind, nutmeg, cloves, and cumin, among many other products from Asia are today key ingredients in Mexican cuisine.
  • Tamarind is one of the most established Asian flavors in Mexico.


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