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Dinner at Sze-Chuan House

The Sino-Philippine trade brought Chinese influence to the Philippines in the 10th Century. The country's thousand-year relationship with China has left an undeniable mark on Filipino culture, one that was further influenced by the ensuing Spanish occupation that began in the 16th Century. In addition to the Spanish and Chinese influences found in Filipino cuisine, purer forms of each can be found throughout metro Manila. There is a tendency of the Filipino palate to avoid extremely spicy food, making some spicier cuisines harder to find. The Sze-Chuan House, a block inland from the Manila Bay in the Aloha Hotel, is one of the few restaurants that attempts to provide a spicier regional Chinese cuisine to the Filipino public.

Small Cucumber with Garlic (P160 = $3.90) - Simple and fresh. Raw cucumbers dressed with a dash of vinegar and garlic, the abundance of which is common in many Filipino dishes and a reminder of the fabric that's been woven by Sino-Philippine relations.

Spicy Dan-Dan Noodle (P120 = $2.90) - Dandan, or Dandanmian, is a Chinese noodle dish flavored with chili oil and szechuan peppercorns. Scallions and minced pork round out the dish's traditional components. While very rich and flavorful, the rendition at Sze-Chuan House is less spicy than one you might find at a restaurant in New York's Chinatown.

Spicy Fried Chicken Cutlet (Ma-La) Half (P325 = $7.90) - Another well-executed Szechuan dish whose heat level was moderated by a guarded addition of peppercorns.

Steamed Fish with Tauso Sauce (Season Price) - This was ordered after our server answered our query as to her favorite seafood dish. The fish was lapu-lapu, the name given to Grouper in Luzon, which is the biggest and Northern most island in the Philippines. The Tauso "sauce" was much drier than expected. Comprised of fried soybeans, peanuts, garlic, and preserved ginger, the inclusion of soy sauce turned an otherwise dry mix of ingredients into a unique, flavorful paste.

Aloha Hotel 2150 Roxas Boulevard Manila | 632 523 8442 | www

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