31 Mar2012

Lohua/Lohwa/Ampao“Chinese pillow-shaped pastries coated with caramelized sugar and sesame seeds, ground peanuts. They are crisp, sweet and hollow inside” according to Cris C. Abiva, in her book, “A Quick Guide to Filipino Food & Cooking”.

When Footloose left the following comment on a recent post asking readers what dishes I should attempt to cook, I figured this was a good opportunity to do something to reciprocate and thank Footloose for nearly 7 years of wonderfully intelligent and interesting commentary provided from his base in Canada, and while traipsing through the jungles(?) of South America for a lengthy portion of every year:

“Aside from their famous hopia, Kim Cheong Tin in what used to be called Calle Echague also sold a pasalubong treat variously called lohua, ampaw and taimpusa. They are pillow shaped, around 3 x 1.5 inches, crisp, hollow and looked like the shell of Ferrero Rochers, they are coated with a sticky syrup and rolled in sesame seeds, popped rice or milled peanuts. If you can locate somebody who can share clues as to how they are made, you would have restored a large portion of somebody else’s happy childhood.”

I vaguely recalled this type of ampao from the 1970’s, but I don’t think I have eaten them in the past thirty years. So this morning, after shopping at the weekend markets and disgorging our baskets at home, Mrs. MM and I decided to head to Quiapo and Binondo to track down some ampao for Footloose, and try and extract some information to help him hopefully recreate his childhood sweet. :) Located at 149 “Calle Echague” now known as “Carlos Palanca”… Kim Chong Tin has been in business (probably in the exact same spot) since 1927! Just to complete the stroll down memory lane, I took some photos of the neighborhood, to see if Footloose recognizes any of it. The photo above is standing directly in front of the store.

Still standing in the same spot, to my left is looking down Echague towards Jones bridge, which we crossed to get to Quiapo. While a few of the stores that existed in the 1950’s or thereabouts are still there, for the most part, many stores are relatively new…

To the right, is a view down Echague towards “ils de tulle” or “ilalim ng tulay” — under the Quezon Bridge (and beside the rather disappointing Quinta market). Go further and turn right and you would be at Ayala Bridge…

To describe Kim Chong Tin shop as nondescript would be an understatement… But we were thrilled to find within the glass cases the ampao or lohwa coated in sesame seeds and crushed peanuts. They didn’t have the version with puffed rice today. We bought several packages of each and picked up another dozen other packages of various goodies…

I explained to the gentleman manning the cash box that I was in search of the ampao that was the “childhood” favorite of someone who used to visit the shop in the 1960’s (and had since moved to Canada) and asked permission if I could photograph the shop… he was extremely pleasant and allowed the photos… but what he said next was a bit too coincidental and raised the hairs on the back of my neck. He said that someone JUST THAT MORNING (an hour or two earlier), had come to buy some ampao, and asked to take photos so that the person in Canada who just loved the ampao would know for sure that it had come from the specific shop they sought on Calle Echague… Isn’t that weird? The only explanation I could come up with (not that an explanation is at all required) is that Bettyq might have asked her sister to buy some ampao, and it would be crossing the Pacific soon in a relative’s luggage… if not, perhaps another MM reader? Or I was just weirded out by the coincidence???

At any rate, I had no desire, nor did I even expect, that I would get any detailed information how to make the delicacy… but here is what I was told. First a dough made from glutinous rice flour is made. I gather it is rolled very thinly and cut into two rectangular pieces. The pieces are laid one on top of the other, as you might ravioli, and I suspect there is an “air pocket” left in between. The dough is then placed in hot, but not VERY HOT oil, and it almost immediately puffs out, into a roughly rectangular 3D shape. I wondered if they didn’t explain a boiling step… rather than going straight to frying…

Meanwhile, in a pot nearby, some white sugar and glucose (presumably to prevent the sugar from caramelizing and browning too much) and possibly some water is heated until it has the consistency of a light syrup. The freshly fried ampao are coated in the syrup, then rolled in either white sesame seeds, crushed peanuts or puffed rice and set aside to cool…

I noticed that the ampao was packaged under the label “Echague Bakery” or “New Echague Bakery” with a Quezon City address, so while I am not sure, I don’t think they were made on the premises in Echague, but rather, in a new location in Quezon City… But does that matter really? The ampao were still exactly as I remembered them…

…extremely light and airy base of fried glutinous rice flour that is sweet and nutty…

…and a close look inside the airy center yields no trace of a “seam” so I wonder how the two pieces of dough are fused together… At any rate, that’s all I got Footloose, and hope that’s a start if you wish to try experimenting… even I might give it a go the next time I get some glutinous rice flour…

Besides the ampao, we purchased five packages of monggo hopia, and in the car, I bit into a freshly made, still warm hopia, and LET ME SAY, it was one of the best, if not THE BEST hopias I have tasted in a long, long time! Yum! Made right there behind the shop, in slightly irregular sizes with burn marks characteristic of an artisanal process, the filling was silky and not too sweet…

…the dough was definitely made with lard and it was sweet and savory at the same time.

In recent years, I have purchased a lot of hopia from more commercial bakeries, with the hopia nearly identical in shape, look and taste and packaged hermetically… and why? I don’t know. These hopia were delicious and I promised myself to get more of them whenever we are in Quiapo (which is more often than usual, as our restaurant supplies store is a stone’s throw away from Kim Chong Tin).

Other things that made it into our bags that day… a couple of packages of galletas…

…fried miki noodles…

…and finally, pilipit (the crunchy kind). Did I do good, Footloose? :)



  1. rosedmd says:

    i was here 2 weeks ago, bought hopia baboy and with condol. reminiscing the hopia i used to eat as a child when my lola would bring me to Quiapo every friday for novena and her bribe is palabok

    Mar 31, 2012 | 9:55 pm


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  3. Mimi says:

    Hopia heaven! I have not had hopia mongo in months :( The ampao looks like it is sealed from the short side. Maybe the have a tube-like extruder? I do remember eating those, but not in ages. Curious that galletas have holes that could be strung in an edible necklace. Have not tasted pilipit in ages too!

    Mar 31, 2012 | 10:06 pm

  4. Isa Reyes says:

    Our family loves the peanut ampao/lohua of Echague bakery,among others. We used to buy “scrap” lohua meaning deformed lohua but softer and stickier than the well formed ones. Unfortunately, of late we haven’t seen them on the shelves. Their Q.C. store is located along A.Bonifacio st, past Del Monte Ave.( if you are northbound, on the right side) and from past experiences, the staff is friendly and accommodating too. We don’t know if they cook the goodies there but they sell so many treats in that store/outlet.. The hopia we see there, though, is the boxed type and not the ones wrapped in paper..Thanks for the tip. Next time, we will definitely try it!

    Mar 31, 2012 | 10:26 pm

  5. ECC says:

    I am leaving for Manila in 3 days’ time and adding this to the list of places to go. It helps to think about all the food I will eat once I get there (instead of the 20+ hours of travel).

    Mar 31, 2012 | 10:52 pm

  6. Footloose says:

    Simply amazed, bowled over and evermore grateful. I shall share with everyone once I finesse a workable formula.

    @Mimi, I think you’re into something. They actually look like cannelloni that has been sealed on either end. Not to underestimate Chinese ingenuity, could they have devised an extruder that leaves a hollow in the center?

    Mar 31, 2012 | 11:51 pm

  7. betty q. says:

    MM and Footloose: search XOI CHIEN PHONG…I think the ingredients are similar to lohoa based on what MM found out and it shows you the method as well. ..but instead of round shaped, make it oblong shaped. For the syrup, maltose (in Chinese stores), water, sugar, and a little lemon juice. Ingredient list…so incomplete!

    I did send out at least 3 SOS lohoa messages to my relatives who are due com ing back home…one is due this week-end, the other on Monday or Tuesday and the other one maybe late next week…which one of them, I don’t know …OR it could have been another one of Footloose’ fan who resides in his neck of the woods! …bet you didn’t think you had a fan base too where you are, eh, Footloose?

    Mar 31, 2012 | 11:55 pm

  8. PITS, MANILA says:

    Favorites from childhood and even up till now. And Binondo is a happy place to be! Park in front of Salazar’s in Ongpin, start shopping on foot. I like to eat at the Estero, always going for the crispy squid rings, pancit canton and chop suey. Then for take home, hopia and ampao. Ling Nam sells uncooked noodles and wanton wrappers too, if you like to cook at home …

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:07 am

  9. betty q. says:

    Footloose, MM…XOI PHONG (swelled sticky rice ) on You Tube…it shows you exactly how to make it puffy….very interesting!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:13 am

  10. Footloose says:

    @BettyQ, just did that. Thanks. It turns out that you don’t even have to extrude the pieces of dough. They puff on their own.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:17 am

  11. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Yummm…till today I buy these…so good…childhood memories too Footloose..also pilipit…and galletas…walang kamatchile?

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:40 am

  12. natie says:

    the wonders of technology!!! oh, the joy it brings!!! CRUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(circum oral bits of sesame and delicious mess.. )

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:54 am

  13. betty q. says:

    Footloose: go to LA FLEUR AU CACAO site. Proportions of the mixture is there as well as pictures! I am dropping what I am doing and am off to buy the ingredients and start experimenting with you! But here is what I think…if it is straight glutinous rice flour, it will be chewy as it sits for awhile. Therefore, I think it has rice flour added to it to give it structure and body like when making puto bumbong (if made with straight glutinous rice, it will be so chewy na didikit sa teeth!)

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:57 am

  14. natie says:

    sounds a bit like the Visayan bichobicho–rice flour/glutinous flour mixed with liquid of choice, shaped and fried, then coated with syrup made of moscovado sugar…sticky/chewy, but not hollow inside..

    Apr 1, 2012 | 1:01 am

  15. Connie C says:

    OMG! OMG! My jaw just dropped!

    Feels like Jame’s Bond’s alter ego doing some food sleuthing. I tell you nothing is impossible with MM and this blog.
    Footloose’s request is a winner!

    And bettyQ, always a fountain of information.

    BTW, for hopia lovers, try Baker’s Hill on Mitra Rd. in Puerto Princes if you ever come that way. My pasalubongs are always a hit, many claiming they don’t make hopia that good in many places anymore.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 4:11 am

  16. Mignette says:

    this is may favorite hopia

    Apr 1, 2012 | 4:34 am

  17. biy says:

    Also try the white powdered thing only stores such as these can you get. They are actually onion soup if mix in hot water. In cebu you can buy those at la fortuna bakery.they are not at all times available though.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 5:25 am

  18. Debbie says:

    This brings back childhood memories when I was growing up in Cebu, we used to get these Chinese goodies from La Fortuna Bakery. Here in toronto, we can get frozen hopia from Chinese groceries from Eng Bee Tin, but nothings beats the freshly made hopia!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 7:05 am

  19. kcmc says:

    pilipit,galletas and hopia…it has been ages since i had these..mm,thanks for refreshing my memories and my tastebuds too…

    Apr 1, 2012 | 7:46 am

  20. bennym says:

    Here’s the closest recipe I’ve found in English. I used to love these as a kid, but haven’t had them in over 30 years. It seems actually doable!


    Apr 1, 2012 | 8:07 am

  21. josephine says:

    Thank you Footloose. Thank you MM. My Papa used to bring these home when I was very little. As TS Elliot wrote: ‘ We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring, is to know the same place, for the first time…

    Apr 1, 2012 | 8:35 am

  22. josephine says:

    Sorry – will correct that quote because it really applies to lohua ( name I never even knew) : “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive at the place where we started, and know the place for the first time” aka – lohua

    Apr 1, 2012 | 8:54 am

  23. Footloose says:

    @BennyM, thanks for the link. I made sesame balls to fill with gabi paste recently and made too much dough so I formed the remainder into palitaw and deep fried them after leaving them out to dry a bit. They did pop but not evenly, one side was a lot thicker than the other. Perhaps if tended carefully and turned around without pause just like the fellow in the video (BettyQ’s link), they would have popped evenly. Getting warmer (rubbing my palms)…

    @Josephine I thought another line of his is also à propos “April is the cruelest month… mixing memory and desire…”

    Apr 1, 2012 | 9:08 am

  24. josephine says:

    Footloose, ” But all should be well, and all manner of things should be well…” especially if we can find out how to make/ replicate / buy these things…

    Apr 1, 2012 | 9:25 am

  25. Marketman says:

    :) Amazing…

    Apr 1, 2012 | 9:28 am

  26. millet says:

    great job, MM, and so fast! you made a lot of 40-somethings (and older!) very happy. and that coincidence is hair-raising, really!

    was surprised to learn it was made of malagkit flour…i always thought it was made of plain rice flour, as the texture closely resembles that of the baked/fried rice cakes sold in US groceries.

    the exchange on this post is just ammaazing! thank you everyone!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 10:15 am

  27. millet says:

    talking about glutinous rice flour, it used to be widely available in the supermarkets, but now i don’t seem to see any of it. all i see is the plain rice flour. i wonder if that’s just a davao thing, or if that’s the same case all over the country…

    Apr 1, 2012 | 10:16 am

  28. millet says:

    and about that hopia..it’s true, the newfangled ones are nice and good, but i miss these scorched babies,,that shot of the bitten-off hopia is calling me. and the galletas de patatas made me miss my dad – those were his abaolute favorite cookies. he found it weird that i would use them like a canape base sometimes (a bit of egg salad or tuna salad, some garnish, and they’re good)

    Apr 1, 2012 | 10:21 am

  29. Maricel says:

    Yes MM truly amazing.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 10:23 am

  30. Zap says:

    I was so amazed to discover from the picture above that there’s a totally different version of the galletas from what I’m familiar with. Here in Iloilo, galletas are very thin milky discs of crunchy goodness.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 11:08 am

  31. Mimi S. says:

    This is also my family’s favorite. We are from Bataan and when there are fiestas, there are a lot of purveyors of these sweet treats. Do you know what these stuff are called in our place? It’s rather inappropriate.hahaha

    When we go to Binondo we don’t fail to visit Echague. My Dad is a big hopia fan and still looking forward to tasting my Uncles’s hopia that he said were the best he ever tasted so far. But Echague for him is at par because they do make their hopias the old way.:) Now, I’m itching to go to Binondo.

    Apr 1, 2012 | 12:24 pm

  32. thelma says:

    ecc, have a wonderful trip!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 2:14 pm

  33. moni says:

    MM, for years, I’ve been buying the Kim Chong Tin hopia whenever I am in the vicinity. I like the crispy crust and the not-so-sweet filling. It’s nice to eat it with ice-cold Coke or to be healthy, ice-cold water.

    There’s another no-name hopia store on Salazar St. in Binondo. The hopia is not as sweet as the more popular brands. The filling like pure mung bean and not yellow sweet potato. It makes other healthy stuff such as 100% whole wheat bread for diabetics

    Apr 1, 2012 | 3:29 pm

  34. melanie says:

    MM, you have truly created a ‘world’ peopled by such generous and interesting foodies who sound like ‘family’ to each other with their posts! Today’s writeup about you in Inquirer Magazine’s Margaux Salcedo’s Ten most Influential Foodies she has met describes your clout [” or should she call it CULT daw?” ] with 15,000 to 20,000 hits a day,and still growing made me laugh. No secret to the ‘cult’…it’s your genuinely sincere generosity you have put into your blog that has created this ‘world’ of like people! More power to you, MM!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 5:14 pm

  35. D says:

    I love those!!! I’ve bought hopia and ampso at that exact spot, just stumbled upon it, not knowing that it was that old! Amazing! Gotta admit they really do have good hopia, had my doubts because of thr packaging but just one bite was good enough it made me come back for more!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 5:24 pm

  36. David says:

    I have only just chanced across your blog and I am an imediate fan. I am impressed with how informative your articles are, it is no suprise why you blog has such a following. Anyhow I have added a link to my facebook account and pages and I look forward to reading past and upcomming posts. My next trip to manila will be enhanced thanks to your sharing.


    David Richardson

    Apr 1, 2012 | 5:44 pm

  37. Mimi says:

    BettyQ: Amazing that you tracked down that youtube video! Wow!
    Footloose: You need some serious kilikili power to tend to the ampao non-stop spinning and turning and dousing with oil. Good luck and ‘may the odds be ever in your favor.’

    Apr 1, 2012 | 7:45 pm

  38. risa says:

    I grew up on these hopia from their branch in A.Bonifacio in QC, which was on the way home from St.Theresa’s College. Before the box of assorted donuts came to Manila, it was a box of hopia I was more familiar with–baboy. Munggo. Hapon. Peanut. Pineapple. There was no ube then, there could be now. Memories!

    Apr 1, 2012 | 10:37 pm

  39. Z @ GOAB says:

    I’ve never tried nor seen hollow ampao before. We buy “pasalubong” from that store and a lot of other food stuff on Echague, which is a really great place for food in Quiapo, but I never thought of getting this. I’ll try it next time. I imagine it’ll be weird eating hollow ampao after getting used to the dense cubed ones. Anyway, I love the freshly made hopia cubes in Quiapo, although they are also available in other markets around the metro. I enjoy seeing them cooked out in the open. Waiting for your orders adds to the excitement.

    Apr 2, 2012 | 7:54 am

  40. Jessi says:

    Am so glad you posted this, MM! And many thanks to Bettyq and all other posters, i have to see if I can make this, its not easy to find fresh ampao and hopia. Thank you!

    Apr 2, 2012 | 12:18 pm

  41. linda says:

    Yay! I’m one of those who suggested “ampaw” too. Many many thanks MM, BettyQ and Footloose. Have to try making these after Easter.

    Apr 2, 2012 | 3:20 pm

  42. barang says:

    Just came back fr Mla visit with a box of Echague hopia. Got the butter crust hopia. Yummy.

    Apr 2, 2012 | 7:26 pm

  43. EbbaBlue says:

    I already texted my hipag to buy these things before I arrive in Pinas this end of April. Pagdating ko kasi ng Manila, madaling araw, and then crack of dawn straight Quezon na kami for ministry trip. So ayun, sabi ko bumili na siya sa exact store. Oh, gosh, pati na yung pangbalot ng hopia, ganyan-ganyang ang pasalubong ng Tatay ko sa amin tuwing sweldo, (he worked at San Miguel sa may Ayala Bridge), at pati na yung galletas.

    I was one of those voted for ampao too.. yehey…

    Pati na rin yung fried miki at pilipit. Sus talaga, ako ngayon ang may pasasalubungan… I am excited na dumating dyan…

    Apr 2, 2012 | 8:44 pm

  44. Eileen says:

    These goodies bring back so many fond memories of my Dad coming home from work, dropping by Binondo first to buy us pasalubong. Yummy snacks and great memories =)

    Apr 2, 2012 | 9:35 pm

  45. Eileen says:

    These goodies bring back so many fond memories of my Dad coming home from work, dropping by Binondo first to buy us pasalubong.

    Apr 2, 2012 | 9:35 pm

  46. Nel says:

    I miss Echague! There used to be a branch in QC along A. Bonifacio and we were there almost every week to get stuff to resell in our bakery.

    The ampao and pilipit are good memories as well as peanut cakes. Will have to get to the Quiapo branch some time soon.

    Apr 3, 2012 | 7:25 am

  47. Meg says:

    I remember those lowa. We buy them every Sunday morning from BoomTown bakery along Kalentong beside the Mandaluyong Market and the Empire Theater. It seems like only those Chinese bakers know how to make them perfect. Yes, they come in sesame seed coated, peanut coated, caramel coated and sugar coated varieties. Brings back childhood memories which i can never, never get tired reminiscing….those were the days.

    Apr 3, 2012 | 10:04 am

  48. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    Here in Washington state,we have a lot of Asian stores that carry all kinds of ampao in packages at any given time,their version has less sugar’.. but nothing as good as the freshly made ones i get from home.

    Apr 3, 2012 | 10:57 am

  49. Akeeno says:

    Yesterday, I craved for lohoa (ampao) so I went to Echague Bakery in Bonifacio to buy some peanut and sesame flavor. I also bought a pack gurguria to try, the dough is similar to pilipit but it is straight and they are cut into 3/4 inch in length.

    The gurguria tastes ok but it is a different version from the one I used to buy in Bulacan which has some flavor of dayap. Unfortunately, I think I got the bad batch of lohoa because the dough was a bit tough. :( I will visit again next week, they may have the good batch by then. :)

    Apr 3, 2012 | 1:34 pm

  50. lee says:

    Marketman’s Rapper name = Puff Daddy

    Apr 3, 2012 | 3:47 pm

  51. Enteng says:

    Puff Daddy… That’s funny!

    I know what to ask next for a pasalubong from back home. :-)

    Apr 4, 2012 | 9:11 am

  52. Mel Wood says:

    Funny, but I also happened to find ampaw last week in an Asian store here in New Zealand. I was pleasantly surprised to find some because I had not seen them for ages! As in several ages ago! I remember these ampaw (I don’t know why but back then we called them ‘taklang pusa’ in Pampango (tae ng pusa), when I was growing up in the 60s. My two late aunties who lived in Divisoria back then would buy these ampaw for pasalubong everytime they would go home to our province in Pampanga. And I remember the same pasalubong from other relatives who often travelled to Manila. Apparently, these were sold inside buses and in the case of my aunties, they lived nearby a hopia factory that also made these ampaws. I could still remember the paper bags wet with the oil as they handed us their pasalubong. So you could just imagine the flood of memories in finding these ampaw. I could not contain my excitement, I had to call my sister in the Philippines to tell her about these ampaw:))

    Apr 4, 2012 | 9:49 am

  53. millet says:

    puff daddy! so apt, Lee!

    Apr 4, 2012 | 12:05 pm

  54. charryb says:

    hello! i just saw this site in search of where to buy sage tea here in manila and found your blog but that was about 4 years ago as it was dated last 2008…anyway, i just wanna ask you if you know sage tea and where to buy for it? it is said to be effective in limiting if not to eliminate hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating of some areas of the body like hands, feet, underarms, face and back). thank you so much in advance for your reply if there’s any.

    Apr 6, 2012 | 10:24 pm

  55. zarina says:

    Hi Marketman!

    I have been reading and following all your posts for a few years now, I forgot to thank you for the leche flan post you did a while back. I still use the same recipe and the same technique you posted as I have always wanted a mala-yema type of leche flan and it never fails :) Again, thank you!

    May 25, 2012 | 12:57 am


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