No matter how many times you come back to Binondo, there is always something different. Everyone can go on a food tour, but with the sheer number of places to eat along Ongpin and its side streets, each visit is always new.
Last Sunday, I joined my new friends Nalani, Jonats and Marjorie for a food exploration in Binondo. Costs were divided among the four of us and we added P5 each for tips.
Stop 1: Dong Bei
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Dong Bei’s one of my favorite places to go to when I’m in Binondo. It’s a small dumpling place off Ongpin. Here you can see the attendants make the dumplings and cook them in a pot of boiling water. You can be sure that what you are eating is freshly made. We shared a plate of the mixed dumplings, popped open a can of Wai Long Kat and got to know each other better.
Cost: PHP 65
Side trip: A bakery along Carvajal
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We were going to Quick Snack along Carvajal but it was closed (along with most of the establishment along the esquinita). We passed by this bakery where I bought some tikoy bread from during the Chinese New Year. I didn’t buy anything, but everyone else did. Everything was freshly baked, which added to its appeal.
Stop 2: New Po-Heng Lumpia House
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Our second stop is located inside the art-deco Uy Su Bin building along Quintin Paredes street. The location itself was a lovely surprise as outside, you may not even notice the building. It was cool inside, with an open area in the middle of the building that provided a quiet break from the otherwise busy Manila.
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We ordered two lumpiang sariwa and shared it among the four of us. It was more like a burrito, with its generous stuffing. Half was enough to satisfy me. It was nutty yet sweet, thanks probably to the mix of spices that was added. One lumpia costs P50.
Cost: PHP 30
Stop 3: Ang Tunay Beef House
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It’s quirky name will make you want to go there just to see what it’s like. Ang Tunay Beef House translates to “The Real Beef House” but it’s doubly funny because “Ang” is also a common Chinese family name in the Philippines.
Ang Tunay is located at the far end of the Estero if you are coming from Ongpin. However, it has a second entrance along Sabino Padilla street, which is more inviting for many people.
We originally wanted to get Soup #5 and turtle soup, but the former was all sold out so we settled with spicy frog legs with the soup. Frog tasted like chicken, and the turtle soup was flavorful with the herbs and beef mixed in.
Cost: PHP 85
Side trip 2: A Korean grocery
You know the Koreans are really here in the Philippines when Binondo has groceries that sell Korean goods. Much like the Chinese and Japanese groceries, Korean groceries sell dry goods and food stuff from their home country. It was fascinating to browse through, trying to make sense of the items because I can’t read Korean. Thankfully, there were English translations and a helpful staff ready to explain what is what.
Interesting finds: Silk worm pupa (canned), black sesame seed yogurt drink
Side trip 3: Formosa Bakery
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Ongpin is beginning to sport highrises. Mandarin Square where Formosa Bakery is located is an example of these high rises. They certainly stand out among the smaller buildings, and I really can’t say for now if I like them.
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Formosa Bakery can give Bread Talk a run for its money. They have a wide selection of breads, cakes and pastries at affordable prices. We decided to buy some to eat later at the Manila Transitio.
Stop 4: Lovely Citea
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We were heading towards this milk tea place where their blends are made from real tea rather than a mix. However, it was closed for renovation so we ended up next door at Lovely Citea. Think of it as the direct competitor of Happy Lemon, particularly since they also offer a variety of drinks with rock salt and cheese.
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We ordered different drinks and tried what the others had. I ordered something with red tea and cheese on top (I stupidly threw away their flier now I have no idea what I ordered). The sweet cheese made up for the bland tea taste. I liked Nalani’s order, which was a fruit concoction with citrusy gulaman.
Cost: Varies on the drink. Mine was P85.
Stop 5: Noodle House
I call this the Noodle House because I couldn’t read its name in Chinese. Here, you can order lamien (noodle soup) and see the noodles being made right in front of you. We added an order of dumplings and surprise! We managed to finish it all.
The noodles was probably the heaviest meal we had that day, although we only got one order. By this time, everything that we ate had begun to settle, so we couldn’t really eat any more.
Tips for a good food trip:
- Get rid of your urge to order everything that looks and sounds good. A food tour ideally should have you trying several different dishes in more than one restaurant.
- Order the restaurant’s specialty and split it between the people in your group. You only need to taste, and not fill your stomach. It will not only allow you to try more food, but the cost of the food will be kept down.
We left Binondo for Intramuros, hiring one of the motorized bikes along Binondo Church. The ride was an adventure and a half, with the motor having difficulty climbing Jones Bridge. Jonats had to get off and push the trike up. He even got to video it. In the end, we doubled the price for the trip just to make up for the effort. Then it was off for another tour and the Manila Transitio.