Shiang Ma Nou Chinese Restaurant

There are a number of restaurants in Tagbilaran City that advertise Chinese cuisine but unlike much of the Chinese you would expect to find around Asia, the Bohol versions are not easily characterised by regional nuances such as Cantonese or Szechuan. Frankly most of the ‘Chinese’ food in Bohol are homogenised versions of famous dishes that you would more likely find in shopping malls in western countries served in styrofoam take away containers.

When I say homogenised what I mean is that the ‘soul’ of the food has been usurped by the need to make the food palatable to the Filipino palate that is notoriously ‘anti chili’ and anti some of the essential herbs and spices that make Chinese food world famous. (If you are a Pinoy reader and take exception to this generalisation please accept our apologies).

One such restaurant serving homogenised Chinese is the Shiang Ma Nou Restaurant.

The Shiang Ma Nou looks like a Chinese restaurant, the menu reads like a Chinese restaurant menu and even the glassed in kitchen looks like a chinese restaurant kitchen but the food is decidedly a “Bohol’ interpretation of Chinese food.

We have eaten at the Shiang Ma Nou several times so we have had the chance to try a wide selection of dishes and feel we are able to offer a balanced critique. The restaurant serves an eclectic mix of Dim Sum, Peking Duck and general staples such as Singapore Spicy Prawns, a range of omelettes, vegetable dishes and a range of meat dishes. The service at the restaurant is always competent and professional and during one of our visits the restaurant was catering for a very large group celebrating a reunion yet we were still served promptly. The meal sizes are well proportioned and nicely presented yet most of the dishes we have tried are cloyingly sweetened and lack any finesse in the preparation.

Two such example was the aforementioned Singapore Spicy Prawns that had been doused in copious quantities of mass produced minced bottled garlic that overwhelmed the succulent (and large) prawns. The mass produced garlic has an ‘impossible to miss’ astringent taste that pretty well assassinates any possibility of a dish to taste good. Is there a shortage of garlic in Bohol that necessitates using commercial rubbish in place of fresh garlic? I doubt it.

The other dish was the radish and pork omelette served as a greyish unappetising pancake that tasted like uncooked flour and batter.

Many of the dishes we have tried at this restaurant could well be described as ‘competent’ however these are usually the dishes that stem from the restaurant’s live produce on offer such as the crabs and live fish (on display). The Dim Sum is also good but there are better examples elsewhere in Bohol.

The Shiang Ma Nou is a great place for large gatherings and every now and then you can get a dish that really surprises you. But if you are looking for authentic Chinese cuisine that knocks your socks off you would be disappointed.

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