I've always wanted to explore the culinary secrets of Binondo. I always knew that Binondo has a lot to offer aside from the all time favorite Eng Bee Tin Hopia stop, or eating in the exotic Estero, or grabing a quick chinese fix from your chinese fast food chain like tasty dumpling or the usual President chinese meal. This tour is also not about the original Diao Eng Chay (popularly known as DEC) store or the famous Quan Yin Chay Vegetarian in Binondo. I got curious with the Big Binondo Bowl streetwalk tour by Ivan ManDy ever since Marketman's Binondo Food Tour post last Sept. 2005. There are a lot of articles already written about this tour and the background story about Ivan's streetwalks which I will not attempt to duplicate. What I like about this tour is that you can see and feel Ivan's advocacy on the Filipino - Chinese's rich history. At the risk of divulging the entire tour, I'll just give you a glimpse of the tour, the food stops, and try to compress the 4 hour streetwalk into one blog post. Hopefully it would also have the same effect that after reading through this post, you will say "So when is the next tour?"
The 4-hour streetwalk culinary adventure begins in the Binondo Church at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon. If this is your first time in Binondo, parking could be a challenge for you. My favorite parking spot is located on the right side of the street as you see Binondo church directly in front of you (when coming from Jones bridge). The parking lot has no name but it has this sign that says you need to park backwards. The tour begins with the history of Binondo and you can see how well researched this guy at par with Carlos Celdran.
Sidestop. The first side stop was a chocolate tablea store that manufactures them right inside their store.
The first reaction of people visiting this place is how could I missed this as I pass this chocolate store a number of times when visiting Binondo. Marketman has a nice write-up about this first stop and I quote:
"First food stop was a brilliant little chocolate tablea manufacturer, perhaps the last of its kind in Chinatown and a long-time (several generations) family run business. A modest storefront with just a few packages of tablea on display in their glass stand leads to a back room where the freshly roasted cacao beans brought in from Davao are ground up fine and cooked into a thick chocolate paste that is then dried on flat baskets stacked high. The aroma at this stop was simply amazing… it stuns me that I have walked by this storefront at least 15 times in the past 5 years and NEVER noticed what they were making within. I really have to keep my eyes open!"
Binondo's First and Only Themed Restaurant!
After all the formalities and mandatory food for the mind on the rich history of Binondo, we finally arrived at the first food stop. This is Binondo's first theme restaurant dedicated to the famous volunteer fireman organization in Binondo. Gerry Chua of Eng Bee Tin fame decided to setup this restaurant whose proceeds would go to the Binondo's volunteer Fire Brigade. You can see a lot of Fireman's hats and nuzzles along the walls and what fascinated me was Ang Sung's award winning photographs of the devastating Binondo fires. If you love photography, these photos are a must see.
Finally, the first meal of the tour is composed of Kiampong (fried rice with spring onion, pork adobo and adobo peanuts), complimented by a fish ball soup and the restaurant's famous iced coffee. Most of the chinese in the Philippines came from Hokkien ancestry and this is an authentic Hokkien style comfort food. The taste would be different from our usual cantonese style yang chow fried rice. I love cantonese chinese food and I now know what Hokkien food taste like.
Hole-in-the-wall "Fresh" Dumpling Restaurant (Voted as the best stop of the tour)
Don't be deceived by this unassuming 4 table restaurant from what Ivan calls BS chinese (bagong salta -- new breed of chinese that came over in the Philippines). This is undoubtedly the best stop in the tour and I have take homes to prove it.
This is the secret of the restaurant. Freshly made dumplings rolled before your very eyes. You can definitely differentiate the difference of a fresh dumpling from a long-time-frozen one. This is similar to eating fresh soft hand made pasta vs. eating the packed pasta you can see in the grocery stores.
Yummy Chinese Pancake! The only reason I'm not too hot about this is because it was fried but the taste is delicious.
This is the best dumpling I ever tasted! If ever I'm going back to Binondo, I won't go back to the usual fast food chain chinese restaurants. This is a winner :) I took a P100 worth of dumplings home and my wife equally loved it :)
Sidestop: Have you ever tasted an Ice Tea marinated chicken eggs?
Sidestop: One of the better merchandised up-scale chinese goodies store in Binondo.
Authentic Taiwanese Chinese Turo-Turo Resto
This is a favorite lunch place in Binondo because of its affordable value meals.
Cold Taiwanese Noodle with vegetables and peanut sauce --- this is the only cold noodle that I loved. It is vegetarian too so it is not true that the Big Binondo Bowl only serves fattening chinese food :)
Sidestop: Fear Factor style Chinese Medicine Store. These lizard lovers need to be eaten in pair.
Sidestop: There was also another side stop on the famous Fried Siopao of Binondo. It was OK different from your usual Siopao.
The grand finale: A secret Lumpia place in an Art Deco Building.
This place serves fresh lumpia that is authentic better than the Greenhills Little store lumpia. Although my wife would still say that her Amma's or grandmother's fresh lumpia is still the best! I would agree :)
Would you know where these restaurants are in Binondo? Thanks to Ivan for sharing these culinary secrets with us :)
Old Manila Walks run on weekends.
Look for Ivan or Cherry