Binondo – Gastronomy travel in Manila China Town

My travelling to Shanghai last November use Manila as transit point with almost one day in the city. First, I am a bit struggling thinking of things to do in this city, as I had been visited this city on my trip last year. Intramuros, the most famous area for tourist had been visited as well. Other nearest tourist place is Resort world resort which is located opposite the airport, which I had also visited also. Fortunately, my Filipino colleagues in the office gives me some interesting suggesting. One of those is The big Binondo food wok tour.

The big Binondo food wok tour is organized by old manila walks with one of the founder, Ivan. Old manila walks organize several walking tours, include china town tour, san miguel tour, chinese cemetery, intramuros, and the big binondo food wok tour, which is one of their most famous walking tour. There are other several walking tours organized by others in Manila as well, include Carlos Celdran which is famous for intramuros tour. Should you want to join the walking tour organized by old manila walk or Carlos Celdran, check first on their website on the tour schedule, as the tour is not organized on daily and you need to book via email first.

At first, I am not sure whether I am being able to join the Old Manila walk tour during this trip as I had not received my request from old manila walk after several days nearing my travel schedule. Finally, I decide to call them up and finally receive the reply through email. The duration of the tour is approximately 3.5 hours starting from 9 AM in the morning. This tour is walking tour with food tasting approximate 5-6 types of different food in the Manila’s Chinese town. It’s interesting tour, where you can know the history and the back ground of chinese town in Manila, meanwhile satisfy your gastronomy as well.

The meeting point for the Big Binondo food wok tour is at the lobby of Basilica Menor del San Lorenzo or more popularly known as Binondo Church.

Binondo Church is located at Ongpin road, the most famous road in Manila’ s China town. It’s said that you have not been visited the China town if you have not pass Ongpin road. The road itself is named after Roman Ongpin, a well known Tsinoy philantropist, financier and supporter of Philippine’s independence against colonial You will find his monument on the street exactly in front of Binondo church.

The original structure of Binondo Church originally built in 1594 for Chinese Catholics and for the current baroque structure was rebuilt post world war II. Currently, it is a shrine dedicated to St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the country’s first saint, who was an altar boy at this church before being martyred at Nagasaki in 1637.

My tour guide at that day is Anson, Filipino Chinese, a friendly guide who have good knowledge about the China town. After that, we are being asked to wait in the lobby of nearby hotel , meanwhile Anson, our guide will wait for other visitors who had registered their participation for the tour. It’s more convenient waiting in the hotel lobby, as it’s equipped with aircon, so comfortable in the middle of the hot weather of Manila. Participants for that day is quite diverse, with most of the participants are from 3 Filipino close friends who had resided in US and Canada with their family who are going back to Philippine for balik bayan (back home to country) and reunion among them. Other participants, two local girls with one british woman working in Manila, with me, the only Indonesian.

Not long waiting in the hotel, our guide Anson come to the hotel for briefing for our tour today accompanied with refreshment, fresh drink provided by hotel. Not wasting much time,    we start our first gastronomy trip at New Po Heng Lumpia house. The location of New Po Heng Lumpia house is  a bit hidden from the main road of China Town, hence you might not find the place easily unless you are familiar with Binondo places.

It’s surprised for me to hear the same name of the cuisine, lumpia named in Philippines, same like in Indonesia. Normally, you can also easily find this cuisine in Malaysia and Singapore, named as Popiah. Lumpia or Popiah itself is a wrap made of lettuce,  shredded cooked carrot, bamboo, bengkoang and some peanut. It has fresh version or fried version depends on your taste. It tastes better with some chili sauce put inside the wrap. Everybody have half wrap of Lumpia, not because of  the organizer is stingy on having more food for the participants, but due to consideration as we are going to have 4-5 more food destination, hence it’s better just have a bit to be able to taste all types of food served. However, should you want more, you can ask the tour guide to give you more on the food.

After having the Lumpia, Anson take us walk  around continuing our trip while explaining interesting story and fact about Binondo. The second place we are going to visit is a cafe Mezannine located at second floor at Nueva (Yuchengco street).  This cafe is a bit different compared with other cafes normally. The cafe is designed inspiring fire brigade, painted in red, equipped with fire brigade’s helmet as well and photograph of fire fighters and fire incidents that happened in past times. The story behind of Cafe Mezannine having fire fighter theme is starting from the owner of Cafe Mezannine who is volunteer of local Binondo fire fighter team. While listening to the explanation from Anson, staff of Cafe Mezannine distribute safety DVD on fire prevention as well CPR.

For the food, we had Kiampeng (salty rice), fish meatball, and also winter melon drink. I like the fish meatball as you can enjoy the fish’s taste inside the meatball, really tasteful.  Its Kiampeng (salty rice) is also nice as well. The other good thing of this cafe is there is free wifi connection, very useful especially for travelers.

Afterward, it’s time to walk again around Binondo before next food stop. We stop at one of TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) shop. The shop inside like other shops in Binondo reminds me on my home town in North Sumatera, Pematangsiantar where you can find both TCM and western medicine shop, stationary, toy shops in simple traditional ways, with normally owner take care the shop help with some family members and staffs. As some of TCM use some types of animals for medication, ie : sea horse, and also gecko as shown by Anson during the time which believed for asthma medication.

Dong bei dumpling was actually our next destination, unfortunately the eating place at that time is a bit full, can not acomodate for all the tour participants, then Anson change the plan to go back to Dong Bei dumpling later.

There is interesting fact on religion practice in Binondo, compared to other places where in Binondo, you can find a mix between christian (catholic) practice combine with traditional chinese kong fu cu or buddhism, for example : praying using hio/ incense to the cross, and other practices. No wonder, it’s not difficult to find stores selling incense or praying equipments, like candles in Binondo.

The journey continue explore the China Town area while Anson explain history of the area connecting the history of Philippine itself. Most of the buildings in the China Town has both in latin and also in Chinese characters on the name of the shop/ restaurants.

While walking to the next destination, some of the group member want to stop for H0-land bakery which is famous for their hopia, especially mango hopia and other traditional assortment. The next gastronomy destination is a siaopao store, in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore called as bakpao. The unique of this siaopao is where as normal siaopao will only be steamed, this siaopao both steam and fried ? Really ? When I see the pao at the first time, it  don’t not look like being fried, just steamed as normal siaopao. The uniqueness is on the bottom of the siaopao, hence you won’t notice something different until you take it and look into the bottom part of the siaopao.

Siaopao is  one of the most famous Chinese food in Philippine. People like it so much and it’s easy to find it in Philippine.  For me, I still prefer the bakpao sold in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore especially the one have mix of pork and also egg, so yummy.

The trip continue to a Ngo Hiong store. In the inital itinenary of Anson, actually the Ngo Hiong store is not included until we talk about the food during the trip then he add the Ngo Hiong place into our journey to introduce to some people who had not ever tried the Ngo Hiong. There are 2 types of Ngo Hiong being served at that time, one with chicken meat and the other using pork meat, which is more delicious. With one additional food stop, then our food stop for that day will be 6 instead of 5 in the initial itinerary.

After this, we will back to our initial Dong Bei dumpling. During our walk, we stop at Lord Stow’s Bakery. Lord Stow’s bakery is one of two most famous egg tart sold in Macau, one is Margaret De Nata and the other is Lord Stow. You will find more about Lord Stow’s bakery in coming article on Macau, just stay tune to Feastntravel. Even I just eat several egg tarts during my trip in Macau last October, see the brand of Lord Stow remind me a hot and very nice taste and creamy egg tart which make me hard to resist for  not purchasing the egg tart. Unfortunately, having taste the egg tart there become my disappointment as it serve cold, hence not taste nice and crispy like the one I had in Macau. Egg tart is nice especially when it’s served hot. Other tour member also agree with me on the taste due to cold serving of the egg tart.

There are 2 food served at Dong Bei dumpling, one is the steamed small dumpling and the fried version as well. When you enter Dong bei dumpling, you can see the staff wrapping the small dumpling with chives and meat. My office mate who introduce me to the big Binondo wok really likes the dumpling of Dong Bei as one of the food stop in the tour.

Finishing our dumpling, it is the time for our last stop at Eng Bee Tin through walking to market in the China Town, the same we pass by at the beginning of our trip.

Same as H0-Land Bakery, Eng Bee Tin is also famous for its hopia, especially ube hopia. Some people prefer Ho-Land bakery, but some people prefer Eng Bee Tin. For the packaging, I can see the packaging in Eng Bee Tin is more modern, make it more appear and hear you can have different flavour of hopia which you don’t find elsewhere. For our stop here, we will have ice cream hopia. Wait a minute, Ice Cream hopia?? Yes, it’s, it’s one of their new invention on hopia and really taste good. You should try it when you are in Manila. Closing our tour, Anson give us for free the Big Binondo Wok map, which contain more food destinations in Manila China Town, hence people can go by themselves if they want to explore more the China town.

Overall I am satisfied with the tour, with affordable price 1000 Pesos, you can go around China town in Manila with people know well the area, getting more inside information on the area while taste different type of delicious food. For you who are interested to join you can contact them on below address :
Old Manila Walks
Email    : fun@oldmanilawalks.com
Mobile : +639189626452
Phone   : (632) 7113823
Website : www.oldmanilawalks.com

Other famous walking tour, Carlos Celdran tour can be found below :
Email    : celdrantours@hotmail.com (Subject: Intramuros Tour-Chosen Date)
Mobile  : +63 920 9092021 (Lesley)
Website: http://celdrantours.blogspot.sg

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3 Responses to Binondo – Gastronomy travel in Manila China Town

  1. Gelo says:

    sharing more photos…

  2. Jon Bonso says:

    Thanks for sharing Gelo and Edy! I haven’t tried the Ice Cream Hopia so I’ll try it next time I visit Binondo.

    More power to FeastnTravel!

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