Binondo Bites (Part 1)

by misslampa

Established in 1594 (according to this website), the noisy and bustling town of Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world. No wonder it has this very old-world, turn-of-the-century, chaotic vibe about it that locals love to hate and tourists love to love.

You know you’re in Chinatown when you see the Fil-Chi Friendship Arch
and The Minor Basilica of St. Lotenzo Ruiz, also known as Binondo Church.

 

But it wasn’t that which beckoned my friends and I to brave the tricycle-then-train-then-jeepney commute (not to mention the pollution and the heat and that perpetual smell of incense emanating from every nook and cranny in Binondo) late last year. We came to see for ourselves whether the claim made by those who know their dumplings and their noodles is true: that the best and freshest Chinese food in the country can be found here.

Last November’s Ultimate Food Trip in Binondo team was made up of Juay, Nherz, Amer and misslampa.

 

We didn’t have time to get that famous red map put together by foodie and walking tour guide Ivan Dy, but with a little help from this very detailed post about doing a self-guided Ultimate Binondo Food Trip (thank you!) plus Juay’s Excel and Google Maps printouts, we conquered Binondo like a boss! And I tell you, what a food trip it was!

We’re nerdy journalism majors and are well-trained in doing online research.

 

As with all food trips, you must come hungry, and with your friends/lover/family in tow because the only way to make the most out of the experience is to share the food. Para makarami (so as to be able to cover more ground), as they say in Filipino. The trick, really, is to just sample the fare – no matter how good it is. Otherwise, the space in your tummy is bound to fill up, and fill up quick. And if that happens when you are just on your third stop, that would be a very sad thing indeed.

In short, as with many things, pacing and discipline is key.Ü

Anyway, here are some of the fare we sampled, in the order that we sampled them. I’m including the streets on which the food shops are located for the benefit of those who are thinking of embarking on this kind of adventure themselves. They’re not always easy to find, I tell you, but knowing on which street they’re on is a start. I’m throwing in pictures of the signs in front of the store as well, because having an idea of what you’re supposed to watch out for is going to help you greatly.

 

1 >>>>>

First up, New Po Heng Lumpia House
on Quentin Paredes Street.

This sign isn’t visible from the street, though, so it’ll be good to ask around. The shop is located in what used to be the lobby of an old apartelle, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. The lady who prepared our lumpia said that on a regular day, they sell about 500 of these heavenly pockets of vegetables, seaweed and peanuts at P50 a pop. (exchange rate at P42.33 to US$1 at the time of writing).

The classic Chinese lumpia. No fuss, sans meat, all good.

 

2 >>>>>

Then we looked around the food shops
along the famous eskinita that is Carvajal Street.

There were lots of pre-packed food, fruits and vegetables, and I find myself amused by the lack of logic in the way the stalls were clustered. We still had a long day ahead of us, though, and this was all I was willing to carry in my backpack for the next few hours:

These knobs of pork and shrimp which are then seasoned with vegetables
are called que kiam or kikiam, depending on who’s spelling. (P150 per pack)

 

3 >>>>>

Along Yuchengo Street, near the part where it intersects with Roberto Ty Street,
we entered the dumpling mecca that is Dong Bei Dumpling.

They have a limited menu, admittedly, but I didn’t find that a reason to complain. After all, just how many dumplings can I cram into my tummy, right? It’s a very cramped place, though, but this makes it easier for you to watch the demo show of sorts by the window while enjoying your food. During our stay there, one of the staff was making fresh egg noodles.

The egg noodles I just referred to are shown above. And yep,
I did make tusok-tusok the kuchay dumplings (dumpling and chives, P100 for 14 pieces) with the steel chopsticks because they kept slipping. Sue me.

 

4 >>>>>

We were more salt than sugar people, but we’ve read that Shin Tai-Shang Foods along Salazar Street sells good and pretty single-serve cakes. So in we went.

We were already feeling a bit full by this time and we were just on our fourth stop, hala! Good thing we weren’t in the mood for sugar that day, so all we ended up getting was their green tea plum cake. We even had to share it among ourselves!

It’s small and I still think it’s a bit pricey at P40 a pop, but in all fairness, it’s so compact and dense inside.

 

5 >>>>>

We weren’t hungry at all when noon came around, but in the Philippines, everybody stops to eat when the clock strikes 12 noon. And hey, we were in the Philippines, right? So our unanimous decision to head to our next stop made perfect sense to me.

We trooped to Wai Ying Fastfood along Benavidez Street, specifically the part which intersects with Salazar Street. And there, we feasted on milk tea (P50), pork and century egg congee (P100) and heavenly hakaw (P65 for 4 pieces).

This shop is the easiest to find, in my opinion. And I’ve been told it has other branches in Binondo, too!

 

———–

 

So I’m down five places, and I have around another four or five to go! If I find time tonight to blog about the rest of it, then I’d have Part 2 by then. But for now, I’m signing off to eat. It’s 3p.m. on my side of the world and I haven’t had lunch yet. And between food and blogging about it, guess what this foodie will choose? :-)

Correct. I’m sure that didn’t come as a surprise.

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