7 delicious Binondo food discoveries
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Binondo. Otherwise known as Manila Chinatown, its very charm lies in its unapologetic chaos.
There’s no place quite like it: where every street is alive with its own character and history, where no sight or smell is too peculiar, and where savory treats can be found in just about every nook and cranny.
Walking around is still the best way to explore the colorful streets. Today, modern meets traditional as some of the location’s older institutions stand side by side with fast-rising developments.
As part of the Philippine Bank of Communications’ 75th anniversary celebrations, Rappler was part of a group that was taken around Binondo by local tour guide and food expert of Old Manila Walks, Ivan Man Dy.
“The best way to get to know this place is really through your stomach,” says Ivan. “The food you’ll find here might not be the exact same taste as what you would find in Hong Kong, but it is authentic to the community here. The food scene here is very eclectic, with the high density of dining spots here.”
Here are just a few of the stops on his food tour:
531 Quintin Paredes Street / 937 Ongpin Street
Tucked away in Quintin Paredes Street, this small, family-run eatery offers fresh lumpia rolls which will give other establishments a run for their money. Try the lumpia (which Ivan says is really pronounced as “lumpyahhhh” with a prolonged nasal finish).
This was about 90% vegetables and surprisingly filling. Homemade condiments brought out the best of the lumpia’s flavor. A dab of sweet and spicy sauce, a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and sugar powder plus some bihon with seaweed took the lumpia from ordinary to memorable.
If you’re looking for a cheap thrill, their lumpia fits the bill: only P50 (a little more than $1) for a fat roll. A simple canteen-like setup adjoined by a little open-air courtyard, the place lets the food speak for itself. You might have difficulty locating it though, so make sure to ask for directions when you hit Quintin Paredes Street. It’s near the corner of Hormiga alley which connects Quintin Paredes Street and Juan Luna Street.
637 Carvajal Street (“Ho-Sua-Hang”)
An unassuming market alley, Carvajal Street is home to a plethora of stalls and vendors selling everything from fruits to sea cucumbers and every little delicacy in between.
Among this humble roster is the long-standing Quick-Snack, one of the more well-known establishments in Binondo. Here, they serve what Ivan calls “Tsinoy lutong bahay” (home cooking), and original dishes concocted by Quick-Snack’s patron, Amah Pilar.
Here there are Tsinoy-style pork empanadas, a zesty version of tokwa and an unexpectedly spicy Satay pancit.
With its unpretentious ambience and inexpensive yet good food, it’s not hard to see why QuickSnack is an old local favorite. It’s where you might want to go if you’re just looking for honest-to-goodness Tsinoy food.
Dong Bei Dumplings
642 Yuchengco Street
This hole-in-the-wall dumpling joint specializes in Northern style dishes. Dumplings are rolled up out in the open and quickly served to you. For a taste of authentic regional food, Dong Bei Dumplings is worth a try.
There are veggie and pork-filled dumplings (P120 for 14 pcs), chicken with an almost curry-like spice to it, and fried stuffed pancakes cut into quarters.
From these three, the pancakes in particular stood out with its warm stuffings—a mix of vegetables and pork—and flaky outer texture fried to a delicate crisp.
Dong Bei is also known for their xiao long bao ( 6 pieces, P120), which are pork dumplings with a rich broth inside.
Top off your meal with a refreshing cold herbal tea drink. An all-around enjoyable experience, but the downside of this establishment would be the limited seats available inside.
At the heart of this story? Ivan could not have put it better: “Cheap thrills, mid-range eateries and splurge-worthy restaurants—you’ll find all of that here. But at the same time it’s all very homey and casual, with plenty of the establishments being run by small families. And in the end, that’s what I love about Binondo.”
497 ET Yuchengco St
One of the restaurants Ivan took us to was Sincerity Cafe. Since it first opened in 1956, Sincerity's fried chicken has made a name for itself as a great spot for chicken in Chinatown. The restaurant's even opened up branches in San Juan, Banawe, and Lucky Chinatown Mall.
The cafe is best known for its fried chicken (P160, half; P200, whole), but their kikiam (P55), oyster omelette (small, P240; big, P300), and wintermelon iced tea are good choices for a quick afternoon snack, too.
Quintin Paredes 518 Quintin Paredes St
Ivan took us to Eng Bee Tin for dessert, a hopia store famous for creating the ube-flavored hopia. They have many other flavors too, aside from the traditional monggo, like custard and pandan.
Eng Bee Tin is set up like a grocery store, with rows and rows of their packaged hopia wrapped in shiny aluminum.
Alternatives at the mall
Now if the heat’s getting to you and you’d rather walk around indoors, the Lucky Chinatown Mall has several food options, too. Rappler was recently shown around Lucky Chinatown mall by Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet and RJ Ledesma of Mercato Group, who pointed out a few great eats along the way.
Fu Dao Dumpling
Lucky Chinatown Walk
This food stall offers a mix of recipes from mainland China, Malaysia, and Singapore. A must-try is their Satay Seafood Noodle bowl, which is spicy and heaped with shrimps and dumplings. It’s like a richer take on laksa.
2nd Floor Lucky Chinatown Mall
Don't miss the chance for a feast at Tao Yuan restaurant. No Chinese occasion is complete without having lauriat – where at least 10 special dishes are served and dining lasts for hours.
The dishes at Tao Yuan have a Singaporean feel to it – Hainanese Chicken (with the famous accompanying rice) is one of the stars here, after all, along with Singapore Chili Crab. One of their popular dishes is the fried Lapu-Lapu, but with a tangy green mango and onion salad on top, smothered with a rich, sweet sauce.
These are just a few of many, many food stops to be made when visiting the area. Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below! – Rappler.com