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It's been almost a century since famous Chinese businessman Ma Mon Luk arrived in the Philippines and started introducing siopao (baozi in Chinese) to Filipinos. It was said that he escaped his country to mend a broken heart and ended up having Filipinos taste the soft steamed bun of a snack to move on in life.
Elsewhere, the typical siopao is called by many names depending on the country where it's produced. In Japan, it's called nikuman. Its Korean neighbors call their version wang mandu.
|A bakery staff tackling a dough roller|
As more and more Filipinos began to fall in love with the delicious snack, a few inventive Bicolanos infused a different interest in the way it's prepared, served, and eaten. For the longest time in Camarines Sur's Naga City, locals have been enjoying their baked version of siopao. Simply called toasted siopao, the meat-filled bun is baked rather than steamed.
I've been to Naga City recently but I only had to stay for 3 hours to leave for Albay. I did not get the chance to walk around and order toasted siopao where most of its native aficionados are.
Luckily, in Pasig City where I live, the Naga City-based 3N Bakery's branch just opened with 2 new stores, namely in Barangay Rotonda and San Joaquin.
I strutted to a branch one afternoon devoid of any expectations. I made sure that I did not have a heavy lunch to make room for a carb-rich merienda. I only bought a piece of the much-whispered about version and did the same with the other bread creations on display.
|Popularly known as alembong, this is also called kabukiran, kalihim or pan de regla in other Philippine regions|
|Believe it or not, this chocolate bread creation will only set you back for P5!|
While purchasing the baked goodies, I found out from the attending franchise owner, Mang Ruben, that the toasted siopao's meat fillings still have to come from Bicol. He briefly showed me how his bakery staff prepares the actual siopao using a dough roller and a big oven. From where a customer can purchase 3N Bakery's bread creations, there is a see-through glass that allows a peek of how the treats are prepared.
Eating this Filipino version of the siopao takes a slower pace than usual as one needs to let the toasted top slide down easily one's throat. This is to mean that the entire bun is not stiff and crunchy. The rest is as soft as the Chinese version, especially the bottom part. I tore into a piece once I got back home from my 3N Bakery visit and it did remind me of my childhood snacking of Goldilocks siopao but with a crunchy twist. Something unique as this is always a treat to try.
As a matter of fact, Mang Ruben shared that his store's toasted siopao is fast-gaining recognition in Pasig so much so that a big city-based mall recently ordered 1,200 pieces of it for an event's merienda session. He expressed gladness that bulk orders were coming in as early as a month after the store opening. The business venture looks bright for this Pasig City native who has partnered with Bicol's 3N Bakery which was named after the original owner's 3 sons, all with names that start with the letter N.
|Franchise owner, Mang Ruben|
H E L P F U L H I N T
Location: 3N Bakery-Pasig is located along the Pasig Boulevard Extension in Barangay Rotonda, Pasig City, just a walking distance from the PLDT Business Office and Vargas Bridge. It's a few stores away from the Griffin Tattoo Studio.
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