Pam Tan during the celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year at Pam's Kitchen. (Photo by Ced Castro, Palawan News)

Pam Tan’s move to Puerto Princesa brought with it a longing for the deep, authentic flavors of Chinese cuisine, a longing that was met with disappointment as she discovered a lack of her desired dishes and ingredients. In this culinary void, her search for familiar tastes proved futile, leading to mounting frustration.

But rather than accept defeat, she saw an opportunity. Determined to turn her personal predicament into a collective gain, Pam embarked on a mission to bridge this gap. She resolved to transform her individual struggle into a communal opportunity, aiming to provide a solution for the entire community.

“Personally, I love to cook traditional Chinese dishes, especially those we crave. And without the ingredients, it’s impossible for us to cook the dish,” Pam expressed.

Personal consumption to community sensation
Inspired by the resonance of her struggle with the local community, Pam opened a specialty store inside the family business, Budget Home Depot. Initially conceived for personal use, Pam’s Kitchen evolved into a community sensation during the pandemic, where travel restrictions hindered access to special Chinese delicacies.

Pam’s Kitchen started out with ingredients for hot pot shabu-shabu initially for family consumption turned into a business venture. (Photo from Pam’s Kitchen Facebook)

“At first, we thought this business was just for the pandemic,” Pam admitted, astonished by the overwhelming response from the community.

Pam meticulously curated the products in her store, ensuring each item’s quality by personally testing them in her own kitchen.

Pam’s Kitchen carries quality Chinese ingredients for oriental cuisines. (Photo by Elmer Badilla, Palawan News)

“All of them, I tried first before selling them here. Most of them are available in my pantry at home,” she shared.

From Chinese soy sauce, shaoxing cooking wine, peanut oil to Chinese style chili garlic, Pam’s Kitchen got you covered. They also sell bamboo steamer baskets for heating items such as siomai, siopao, chicken feet and others. Induction cookers with soup pot for hotpot shabu-shabu are also available.

Bridging cultures through food
Beyond offering Chinese favorites like hopia and dimsum, Pam’s Kitchen serves as a bridge between Filipino-Chinese traditions and local Palawan culture. The store provides authentic oriental ingredients, catering not only to individuals but also to hotels seeking these elements for their oriental dishes.

Pam’s Kitchen also sells frozen ready-to-eat dimsum that can be enjoyed a heat away. (Photo from Pam’s Kitchen Facebook)

One notable instance was when a local hotel hosted a ting hun, a traditional Chinese engagement or pre-wedding celebration. As part of the tradition, a misua guisado should be served to bring longevity to the couples relationship. Pam’s Kitchen was able to provide them with the authentic Chinese style misua needed for the dish.

What sets Pam’s Kitchen apart is the personal touch Pam brings to her business. Aside from providing top-notch ingredients, she generously shares family heirloom recipes through online video tutorials, connecting Filipino-Chinese culture with the diverse Puerto Princesa community.

Pam demonstrates ways to cook Tikoy to her customers during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. (Photo by Ced Castro, Palawan News)

“We are happy to share with them the dishes we grew up eating and, of course, the culture that we have,” Pam remarked.

Aside from Chinese staples, Pam’s Kitchen now offers specialty food items like the artisanal Filipino ice cream brand Carmen’s Best and other imported ice cream brands like Hershey’s, Lotte’s and the White Rabbit ice cream.

Novelty ice creams like White Rabbit ice cream are available at Pam’s Kitchen. (Photo from Pam’s Kitchen Facebook)

She is also the only accredited distributor of Eng Bee Tin, a Filipino-Chinese brand known for its best tikoy and hopia in Manila.

A wide selection of Hopia flavors are available at the store. (Photo from Pam’s Kitchen Facebook)

From a personal quest to a community sensation, Pam has transformed her kitchen into a haven where Palawan palates savor the authenticity of Chinese cuisine. Pam’s Kitchen isn’t just about food; it’s about heritage, connection, and a celebration of culinary diversity, inviting everyone to join the cultural feast and experience the vibrant blend of traditions.