A couple of months ago, I convinced my family to come with me on a food tour in the oldest Chinatown in the world.
Binondo was established in 1594, on the other side of the Pasig River across from Intramuros, as permanent settlement for Chinese immigrants who converted to Catholocism. They, and others who are not of Spanish descent or nationality, weren’t permitted to reside within Intramuros.
Now, Binondo is a bustling community of industry and commerce. And food. Glorious food.
And food is exactly why we went there.
In lieu of a fancy-schmancy dinner, I told my family I’d treat them on a food tour around Binondo. They cheerfully said yes, probably more because I said all food and drinks are on me. That’s how the Crazy people operate, by the way. If it’s your birthday, and you’re the kid, you pay for everyone. If it’s your birthday and you’re the parent, everyone pays for you.
And so, one sunny Saturday morning, six of us got ourselves there to gorge on the offerings of the place.
First Stop: Dong Bei Dumplings
The first time I tried this place was about two years ago, when a couple of friends and I decided to go on a Manila Tour and Php 500.00 challenge. I gotta say it grew on me. Ambiance-wise, there’s nothing I can say. I mean, really nothing because it’s just a small room with six tables, two of which are used to make the dumplings.
But don’t get put off by the lack of decor, the seemingly unhygienic space, and the lukewarm reception from the staff and owner. The food is great. Even my mom says so. And since she’s the pickiest eater in a family of picky eaters, when she says it’s great, it’s great.
They don’t have a vast selection, but what they do have are probably some of the best I’ve tasted. Everything is made fresh, which you can see from where you’re sitting.
What we had: One order of 14 pcs kutchay (chives) dumplings and one order of pork and kutchay pancake
How much I spent: Php 320.00 (Php 100.00 for the dumplings, Php 100.00 for the pancake, and Php 20.00 each for 6 bottles of water)
Where it’s found: 642 Yuchengco Street, Binondo, Manila
Second Stop: New Po Heng Lumpia House
This one was a bit difficult to find but since the people I’m with are fans of lumpia, I decided to go look for it. After a couple of minutes of walking along the street, we found the signage and entered through a side entrance.
The place is like a canteen in the ground floor of the building that opens up in a small courtyard.
Apart from fresh lumpia, they also offer noodles and rice meals but we decided to stick to lumpia. Their lumpia had fresh vegetables, sesame seeds, and peanut sauce. Plus they’re very plump and heavy, so we decided to just eat half of a roll each. Very tasty, didn’t even need sauce.
What we had: Fresh lumpia
How much I spent: Php 150.00 (3 pieces at Php 50.00 each)
Where it’s found: Uy Su Bin Bldg., 531 Quintin Paredes St., Binondo, Manila
Third Stop: Sincerity Restaurant
By the time we got there it was already lunchtime and the place was starting to fill up. We figured out we were lucky we got a table when the lunchtime horde came in. Apart from the brisk lunch hour dine in, Sincerity Restaurant also enjoys lots of takeout business.
Their offerings range from meat to seafood to veggies but we decided to get the Sincerity fried chicken and the oyster cake. the chicken because it’s said to be their bestseller, and the oyster because we just felt like eating oysters.
Their fried chicken is breaded, and while many suggested it to me while I was planning our itinerary, I thought there was nothing special about it. The oyster cake is better than some I’ve tried – sticky, and tastes like oyster instead of egg as some do.
What we got: One whole Sincerity fried chicken and a large oyster cake
How much I spent: Php 500.00 (Php 300.00 for the chicken and Php 200.00 for the oyster cake)
Where it’s found: 497 E.T. Yuchengco St., Binondo, Manila
Since we were full, we walked it off for a while. It was the Crazy People’s first time in Binondo after so many years (in my sister’s case, the first time ever) and they were charmed, and sometimes awed, by the things you can see around.
Binondo is a great place to walk around in. The people and the trade are very interesting, the narrow streets an adventure to stroll on, and the old buildings give a glimpse of the old Manila.
We went to a mini grocery, where the coffee drinkers (all 5 of them) got their instant coffe fix.
We walked around some and found these very large versions of everyday fruits and vegetables.
We even bought some.
Our ramblings also brought us to the relatively new mall in the area – Lucky Chinatown. Nothing really special, except that I liked this central area between the two buildings with Chinese lanterns.
After walking about, we got tired and decided to go back to eating.
Fourth Stop: Lan Zhou La Mien
It took quite a while for us to find this place. We actually walked along the street where it’s located three times before we saw it. It’s kinda hidden to us because its name is written in Chinese characters and a very small “La Mien” in Arabic alphabet below it.
Actually, I wasn’t even sure it was the right place until we were sitting inside and I saw the place’s name written in the back of their servers’ shirts.
But my, oh, my, it was all so worth it. Hands down the best noodles I’ve ever tasted. I had beef brisket noodles and had a bit of my cousin’s spareribs noodles. No other noodle house’s noodles taste better than those hand-pulled ones I had there.
What we had: Beef Brisket noodle soup, Pork ribs noodle soup, and Wanton noodle soup
How much I spent: Php 600.00 (Four orders of noodles at Php 120.00 each, and three bottles of water at Php 40.00 each)
Where it’s found: 818 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila (Beside Wai Ying Takeout window, which is more visible)
Fifth Stop: Wai Ying
We were a bit full and happy about the noodles so we decided to just get food for takeaway from Wai Ying. I’ve tried this before, and while I found the Xiao Long Bao too starchy, I loved their Hakao.
Hakao is steamed shrimp dumpling. And while there’s Hakao in almost every Chinese food resto in Metro Manila, what makes Wai Ying’s Hakao special for me is that it contains not only pieces of shrimp, two whole shrimps. I repeat: not just one, but TWO WHOLE shrimps
My sister, who is probably the world’s biggest Hakao fan, was in heaven.
What we had: Two orders of 4 pcs Hakao
How much I spent: Php 140.00 (Php 70.00 per order)
Where it’s found: 927 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila
Fifth Stop: Masuki
I’ve also tried this before and I thought that their noodles are the best – until I tried Lan Zhou La Mien. But nothing else beats their siopao.
It looks like the ordinary siopao but way larger and there’s something about the taste of the filling that I just can’t seem to get enough of. And believe me, that’s saying a lot because I am not really a siopao eater. This is probably the only place where I eat siopao.
What we had: 2 orders of Asado Siopao
How much I spent: Php 170.00 (Php 85.00 per order)
Where it’s found: 931 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila
We left Binondo full and happy, and just a little bit on the heavy side. So, to recap, we ate at five different restaurants, and I spent a total of Php 1,880.00 for 6 people. Not bad. Not bad at all.
1. Going there is easy enough. We were from Pedro Gil so we just got on a jeep from either Mabini St. or Leon Guinto St. You can also catch the jeep from the corner of Gil Puyat Ave and Taft Ave. Look for the one whose signage says Divisoria.
2. Watch out for weather forecasts when planning on going there. It is not a good place to get caught in a rainy day in.
3. I suggest just commuting going there. Binondo streets are very narrow and bringing your own vehicle is really not ideal. You could park your car around the plaza near the Church but you’re competing for parking with so many people. Too much hassle.
4. Since you’d be walking, I suggest wearing comfortable footwear and clothes.
5. Keep an open mind. You can only truly enjoy the experience if you go there with the most minimum of expectations.
6. As with anywhere else, respect people and culture, don’t litter, and secure your belongings