Trails of Taste: Manila-Fujian Food Exchange in the Age of the Galleons 

Jeraiah Gray

University of the Philippines Baguio

Precious Maecah Ratay

University of the Philippines Visayas

João Paulo Reginaldo

University of the Philippines Baguio

Ruchie Mark Pototanon

Murdoch University, Australia 

Vol. 17 (2023): 184–226 | Download PDF


Existing literature on galleon trade circulations tends to focus on the primary commodities of silk, porcelain, and silver which flowed between Fujian and Spanish America via Manila. But apart from these goods, food items—with the circulatory networks, spaces, and practices they engendered—also form an important topic of historical inquiry especially in relation to the regional Southeast Asian and domestic legs of the galleon trade. This ongoing research explores how the galleon trade (1565–1815) expanded the food market of Manila and facilitated the entry of agricultural products into southern China. It argues that the Hokkien Chinese and their Fujian-Manila networks were a key force in the procurement, production, and circulation of food in Spanish Manila and crucial in the “transplantation” of New World crops in China through Fujian. Specifically, it provides preliminary answers to the following questions: How did the galleon trade affect the pre-existing Chinese junk trade between Fujian and Manila before the nineteenth century? What new food-related spaces and occupations were generated in Spanish Manila? What food items were circulated here by the Hokkien and what does this reveal about the tenuous relationship between them and the Spanish in the Philippines’ colonial center?


Hokkien merchant networks, foodways, galleon trade, Manila-Fujian relations