Panama City, (EFE).- On the vast circular table of the restaurant there are several dishes of siu mai and dim sum, delicacies originating in the Chinese province of Canton, and among the diners there are two cultures: Chinese, who remember with the gastronomy the land they left behind decades ago, and Panamanians, who adapted these delicacies to Sunday breakfast.
The first Chinese citizens arrived in Panama in 1854 for the construction of the railway, which connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea, but the massive arrival dates back to the 1980s.
“From there, they start opening more businesses,” Verónica Quintero, a China TV presenter, told Efe from the Sunly restaurant, in what is now Panama City’s Chinatown.
“Before the so-called Chinatown was on Avenue B (Casco Antiguo), there is a restaurant called Wanyao, which began to market Chinese breakfast and gastronomy,” said Quintero, while the waiters rushed with carts full of food. .
The Cantonese breakfast consists of meat, chicken and seafood, a rich protein variety, corn and rice, as base cereals, and tea, essential at the table.
“There is no beef because it was used as work tools, since China is a very agricultural country,” Quintero explained.
Despite the wide gastronomic offer, the Cantonese-style breakfast is the most demanded by Panamanians.
The television presenter sees differences in preferences, since in the Latin American region what is most consumed is the siu mai, a ball made with a sheet of pasta, stuffed with pork or shrimp and steamed.
The Chinese, for their part, “consume chicken feet a lot, some women say it is because of the collagen issue, and it is not something very common for Panamanians to eat, who consume the Chinese tamale, made from rice,” he added.
A SOCIAL BUT NOT GASTRONOMIC FUSION
Panama City’s Chinatown has been moving in location: at first it was in the Old Town of Panama, commercial headquarters and epicenter of the capital, and today it is in El Dorado, in the northwest of the city.
In addition, throughout Panama City you can see commercial areas operated by Asians and their descendants, who welcome the visitor with a giant Chinese gate, decorated with traditional red, black and gold.
“In the social part, as we have seen, many families enjoy gastronomy”, while in the commercial part we see how, when trying to sell a product to the Chinese, “events are held and it is almost all Chinese food”, he pointed out. Quintero.
However, despite the social rapport -and the almost incalculable Chinese descent in Panama- Chinese and Panamanian gastronomy have not managed to merge, as has happened in other Latin American countries such as Peru, recognized as one of the best cuisines in the world. .
Despite Panama being a historically commercial country, thanks to the Canal and its geographical location, both cuisines continue to be separated and the Panamanian citizen “consumes local products,” according to Quintero.