September 8, 2016

Hungry Critters in Binondo

     Manila is a city where you'll never go hungry. Ever since I studied here I've turned every stone looking for a great place to eat. But there will always be one place where I'll never be ashamed of admitting that it's my guilty pleasure to stroll around with food in my hand - and that is Binondo.

     Binondo is an ancient district just north of the walls of Intramuros, it was founded in 1594, just 30 years after the walled city was founded. It is where the Chinese settled, and so did their legendary cuisine, it was once home to the great Noodles and Siopao of Ma Mon Luk. 

     Today, the Chinese still reside here and with it, the food. I first discovered the wonders of Binondo when I joined the "Binondo Food Wok Tour" where hungry tourists gathered and went chow-hopping. After that, armed with a foodie map, I'd go explore alone, and sometimes with friends.

     This time, I went with 2 of my close friends who had never crossed Jones bridge to taste the wonders of Binondo, so without hesitation, I volunteered as a guide and off we went and crossed the bridge.

Me and my favorite noodle house
     For the benefit of all, I'd like to tell you guys that when you tour with me around Manila, I love sharing historical pieces about the place (I'm a history buff) because I'm so passionate about Old Manila and the rich history it had before the city's decay in the 1970s.

     Because it was traffic in Binondo district, we left the car in Intramuros and walked toward the food haven. I'd occasionally point to directions and buildings, sharing what it was before and when it was built and who were the famous people connected to such places. I don't know if they were interested at what I had to say, but I said it anyway, because baby I was born this way (Thank you Lady Gaga)

Jones Bridge
     Before I forget, I want all of you to know that I don't know the streets in Binondo, I just remember by memory where to turn to get to these places, so if you'll ask me how to get there, might as well just use Waze or Google Maps.

     The first food place I took them to was the "New Po-Heng" where they served vegetable lumpia, I always prefer to it as the appetizer. The place was inside an old condominium building, there's not even a signage to direct you inside. When we got inside, only a few tables were being served and because we came in the afternoon, the food tours had already stopped. And so I got our orders - 2 lumpia both cut in half (because the serving was enormous and I was afraid my guests for the day would have full stomachs)

New Po-Heng's Famed Vegetable Lumpia
     The lumpia consists of greens, carrots, a kind of nori, brown sugar mixed with nuts and of course, a wrapper. But what makes this appetizer a winner is the sauce (which is not in the photo, you have to find out for yourself!) The sticky sauce complements the lumpia and without question, they loved it. Our expense for the 2 lumpia? $2 (Php100) It's so cheap, right? 

     Up next was "Dong-Bei Dumplings" which I think is the most popular dumpling place in Binondo, I've heard many friends eating here and I won't argue with that, it is the best dumpling house in town. And why is that? Because they only sell dumplings! That's why they're so good at it!

Steamed 'Kutchay' Dumplings
     I really wanted them to try the shrimp dumplings but by the time we got to Dong Bei, (Around 5pm) there was really nothing left on the menu but the Kutchay Dumplings. I was quite disappointed that they won't get to taste what I wanted them to have but I guess there's always a next time for that. We opted to get 2 kinds of the Chinese Chives-filled dumplings - Steamed and Fried, and there were 10 pieces of each order.

     It is simply delicious, I have no words for Dong Bei Dumplings, they never fail me. I've brought a lot here and they all loved it. The good thing about Dong Bei is that you can watch them do their dumpling magic, they prepare it right in front of the window of their hole-in-the-wall, 2-storey unit, which the second floor houses the owners of the restaurant. Here's another trivia, the owners are from mainland China and so the recipe of how they prepare the dumplings are of authentic tradition, there's really no need to go to China to taste authentic dumplings! And the cost for the 2 plates of dumplings? $4 (Php 200) and we're almost full!

Trivia: Dani is my first friend in college
     We got a little stuffed in the waist area so we decided to take a rest first and let the critters of our tummies devour our food first before moving to the main event of the food trip.

Just missed the Fried Siopao
     I also wanted them to try the fried siopao, but because it was already nighttime, everything was sold out.

     And for the main event, it was noodles time! I accidentally found this restaurant during my 'research' in the net about Binondo (Whenever I'm bored or I have nothing to do, I usually read about the history of places and in this case, Binondo) and it became my favorite last stop in Manila. This is one of the few places where I can eat alone even if it's crowded, I didn't care, the noodles are divine.

Beef Kan Pan La Mien
     Lan Zhou's Kan Pan La Mien is their best seller and I would even recommend it for a Michelin Star, I swear it is that good! I drive and suffer Manila's traffic for their heavenly noodles. You have a choice of Beef, Chicken, Spareribs, and Seafood for your toppings and each choice comes with a soup. What I love about this place is that they have an open kitchen so you can view how they make their noodles and the serving is already enough for two, but since I want them to have the full "La Mien" experience, we ordered one for each of us. The noodles costs around $4 but it's really a bargain considering the serving, and yes they give free tea.

Death by Binondo

     I asked them how the food trip was and they said it was fantastic. I take pride in recommending food places because, you know, food is the extension of my soul.

     It was actually hard to walk back to Intramuros to get the car because by the time we finished the noodles, we couldn't move. We dragged our feet walking back slowly and stopping after a few hundred meters to say how stuffed we were.

     As you can see in the photo, I died from gluttony. It was a fun afternoon sharing the wonderful district of Binondo to my friends, and I'm looking forward to bring other friends here, even you! Yes, you who is reading this, just hit me up here, post a comment and let's schedule your trip to Binondo. Don't worry, I don't charge a tour fee, it's free, but you have to treat me! (Joke)

     See you guys on the next Bumpy Journey, cheers!

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