Say Chinatown and one of the first things that comes to mind is the chow. It’s almost a sacrilege not to sample the food when one ventures to Binondo. Little wonder that Manila’s foremost streetwalker, Ivan Man Dy, came up with the Binondo Food Wok Map.
He was getting too many texts and calls from people asking about the whereabouts of eating places in Manila Chinatown that he felt compelled to come up with something to help people find their way to the divine food offerings that await in the busy streets.
Lagal[og] said: The Big Binondo Food Map maybe handy but the listing of chow places is hefty. There are 29 noodlehouses, 12 old-timers, 7 Chinese fastfood outlets, 2 vegetarian restaurants, 9 lauriat dining restaurants, 4 Filipino-Japanese cuisine outlets, 2 dessert places, 12 pastry shops, and 3 specialty shops. That’s not even counting in the 10 restaurant chain branches. It’s virtually impossible to cover even a tenth of that number even if you eat there everyday for a month. So we decided to take a vote and see where our tummies lead us.
Ironwulf said: The map is very useful for those unfamiliar with Chinatown looking for the food establishments near the periphery of Binondo Church. Don’t be intimidated by the sheer number of eating places here though. The snippets of descriptions from the listed establishments do help. It can cut down the food choices from what your gut literally is yearning for. Since it was close to lunch, we were looking for some good Chinese to go with rice first.
Lagal[og] said: We wanted to sample the Cantonese dim sum and congee of Wai Ying along Benavidez Street but it was packed with diners, with people lining up for the next batch. Hungry, we opted for Zhen Hu Fast Food, also along Benavidez. The food at the stand were really nice to look at and appeared yummy. One of the eye-catchers was the Steamed Giant Clams with Vermicelli. The clams were stuffed full with fried noodles, onions, ginger and soy sauce. The vermicelli added a nice texture to the soft meat – the dish turned out to be the best of the batch we had ordered. I added the Kikiam to the order which turned out to be okay but I like the ones of Shin Din Kha a lot better. The Lechon Kawali (Deep-fried Pork) is nothing out of the ordinary either.
Ironwulf said: The Clams with Black Beans popped out from the offerings at the counter so we placed an order with a plate of Sauteed Bamboo Shoots. The clams were okay, nothing fancy, just straightforward cooking. We wished we have chosen each shell carefully as some of them were empty. The Sauteed Bamboo Shoots was a nice in-betweener, easy to chew with an even taste. Bu I think the Steamed Giant Clams with Vermicelli made a lasting impression among the dishes we tried.
Lagal[og] said: We had a long walk (wok?) looking for Seng Guan Si Temple which is located near Tutuban Mall and the stonehouses of Elcano so that gave us an excuse to find someplace to eat again. We had tagged along our art director-friend, Jocas, who has not tried our most favorite dumpling place so off to Dong Bei Dumplings along Yuchengco Street we went. It goes without saying that we had to order their Kuchay and Pork Dumplings. These are your melt-in-your-mouth dumplings replete with the flavor of the fillings, so soft the wrapper just crumbles when the dumpling sits in the sauce for more than a few seconds.
Ironwulf said: The Dong Bei Dumplings have always been a favorite but we wanted try other dishes as well. From the poster on the wall, the Fried Beancurd appealed to our collective tummies so we placed an order. We were served a plate with 9 pairs of rectangular pieces of fried beancurd with ground meat patty sandwiched in between each pair. Probably same filing as the ones they use for their pork dumplings but fried. It was good. It’s like eating hamburgers but better.
Lagal[og] said: Since it was almost dinnertime when we wrapped up our walking tour, we wanted an early night-cap. We went to Rosso Café along Gandara but surveying the menu, we found items with prices that seem to resemble its Makati counterparts. The ambiance is also so-not-Chinatown at all so instead, we went to an old reliable, the Café Mezzanine Volunteer Fireman’s Coffeeshop on top of the Eng Bee Tin Restaurant along Ongpin. Famished, I ordered the Makimi. The serving was huge but left much to be desired – the pork bore uncooked bits of cornstarch while the viscous soup base tasted a bit sour. I really prefer the one in Shin Din Kha anyday.
Ironwulf said: I just ordered a Choco Milkshake there since I was craving for something sweet. But I did get to taste the Makimi which I really didn’t like much. I’ve been to Café Mezzanine before and still liked their Kiampong Rice offering. It’s also a nice place to hang out in. It’s quiet and warm with impressive monochrome photos of firefighters in action on the walls.
Lagal[og] said: And so concludes our Binondo food trip. But we’ll be back for sure, this time armed with the Big Binondo Food Wok map and eager tummies.
ZHEN HU FAST FOOD
832 Benavidez Street
Tel. (632) 241.4046
DONG BEI DUMPLINGS
642 Yuchengco Street
Tel. (632) 241.8912
CAFÉ MEZZANINE VOLUNTEER FIREMAN’S COFFEEHOUSE
650 Ongpin cor. Yuchengco Streets
Tel. (632) 288.8888