Binondo Food Tour

Last Saturday I finally went on the Binondo Food Bowl walking tour of Ivan ManDy, walk1the self-professed “streetwalker” in Chinatown. Along with my wife and a couple of friends, we agreed to meet at the Binondo Church at 2 pm. Despite leaving Makati early, traffic from the Jones Bridge (last 1500 meters) was horrendous due to the onset of Divisoria madness in the “ber” months. We were almost 35 minutes late! Thank goodness the guide was a few minutes later still. At any rate we all set foot on a culinary adventure through Chinatown. I have been to Calle Ongpin several dozen times, but in retrospect, realized that we always drive to Chinatown, park at our favorite parking lot, walk by the hopia store, then the grocery store, eat at President, buy some fruit and head back home. That is our regular route. It was brilliant to see Chinatown through the eyes of an expert.

First food stop was a brilliant little chocolate tablea manufacturer, perhaps the last of its kind in Chinatown and a long-time (several generations) family run business. walk5A modest storefront with just a few packages of tablea on display in their glass stand leads to a back room where the freshly roasted cacao beans brought in from Davao are ground up fine and cooked into a thick chocolate paste that is then dried on flat baskets stacked high. The aroma at this stop was simply amazing… it stuns me that I have walked by this storefront at least 15 times in the past 5 years and NEVER noticed what they were making within. I really have to keep my eyes open!

Next stop was a small restaurant a flight of stairs up from the street. walk4Here we sampled a very basic Hokkien style fried rice that had soy sauce, peanuts, onions, etc. Hearty, yummy comfort food. Seems over 80% of all Chinese in Manila are Hokkien in ancestry yet much of the restaurant food we find in Manila is actually Cantonese… Along with this rice we tried a fish ball soup in a hearty broth with shredded cabbage. Overall, a nice way to start the walk. The second food stop was a nondescript storefront that turns out to be a dumpling restaurant. With just 4 tables of 4, we had some of the best dumplings I have ever eaten in Manila in recent memory. I will post a separate entry on this place in the next day or two.

We then moved on to eat some tea marinated chicken eggs and rested at another airconditioned stop where we enjoyed some Taiwanese cold noodles with vegetables and a peanut/sesame sauce. walk2 It was delicious. At this same stop, was a turo-turo set-up with over 20 different dishes to choose from should you want more than just the noodles on offer. A short walk away was a superb bakery and Chinese deli of sorts that even had on stock this famous or infamous smelly tofu that has the most off-putting odor you can imagine. They also had Chinese ingredients and sweets on offer, many for gift purposes.

We then walked for over 10 minutes and skirted portions of Chinatown walk3I have never seen before, including a temple on the third floor of a difficult to find building. On the street we tasted a superb siopao that was fried and wickedly hot and as a result, hard to handle. Finally, after seeing markets, restaurants, architecture, temples, vendors we headed to a nice tucked away resting spot in an old Art deco building where the restaurant served the most amazing lumpia which were not only stuffed to gills with vegetables, seaweed, noodles, etc but also tasted superb! With the hot sauce they offered these lumpia were memorable. Frankly, we couldn’t eat much dinner after this four hour food tour of Binondo! Definitely worth taking if you are at all curious about what great culinary finds Binondo has to offer. Many thanks to our guide, Ivan ManDy for a truly worthwhile afternoon spent eating and learning!


43 Responses

  1. MarketMan, my husband and I would like very much to invite you on a similar trip out to explore Chinese food if you happen to come to Kuala Lumpur. It will be our pleasure!

  2. ssk how nice of you to offer! If I make it to KL I would certainly take you up on it. I have been to KL thrice before on business and stayed overnight only…never got a chance to eat local…

  3. Thanks for the tip Marketman, we’ve been planning to go on a food trip of Binondo but we couldn’t find an “insider” guide. I think it’s a lot of fun to find hole-in-the wall restaurants that serve excellent food.

  4. I’ve always wanted to join Ivan ManDy’s food tour … but have always been a little afraid of the the caloric damage — at least 3 hours on a treadmill I’d estimate!

  5. the whole of binondo, with its heritage and architecture should be cordoned off and be given a historical landmark status to preserve the wonderful old structures and the shops and food joints, too.

  6. I’ve had his binondo tour on my to do list for a year now. Will have to push it up to a must do before end of the year list. Would be great to do this near chinese new year, with all the food that is just made for that event.
    What would be great is going on a binondo food shopping tour combined with a cooking class. For example, shop for the ingredients of fresh amoy lumpia, then go straight to a class to make. Culinary tours are a big draw in Italy, even in Bangkok. It would make a great learning experience.

  7. I’ll be taking this tour with foodie friends on the 24th, MM! Let’s just say your blog stirred up a strong Pavlovian response and so I just had to haul myself to Chinatown that weekend! My shoes took me walking to the labyrinthine Binondo last Saturday with a couple of friends. I had lunch at famed Sincerity Restaurant in Nueva for their fried chicken, oyster omelet and saucy liver steak dish (I used to ABHOR liver but this dish converted me. It’s got a sweetish sauce that looks like adobo but it’s studded with kuchay stalks and wedgest of tomato. Liver was tender and pink inside like good steak and was flavorfully seared on the outside.) Hopped next to Holland Hopia for that old-Chinese flaky hopia (I don’t like the soft, mushy Engbeetin type) and barquillos then had the energy to scoot to Echague for Excellente Cooked Ham (that’s still sold in those red boxes!) and their sweet chicken longganiza. It was a blast. Got lansones and rambutan too.

    Still not content, we went to Assad’s in UN Avenue in front of Unilever office for the best samosas that came with a tamarind dipping sauce and washed it down with lassi –yoghurt drink. Oooohlalah.

    It was a fan.tas.tic Saturday.

  8. Gigi, have fun on the Binondo tour. Tell Ivan, the guide that Marketmanila sent you… and don’t grill him too much on what Marketman was like…I might lose my anonymity…heehee.

  9. Hello, Marketman! What a great tour this one was! And no, I didn’t even mention you to Ivan because I was too busy coooing ooohs and aaaahs over the lumpia, dumplings and fried siopao! I was happy to have pushed thru with the walk despite the rains and traffic! I followed what you said and emailed Ivan that my friends and I are big eaters kaya naman during the food tastings, he would single us out and say, “Gigi, this extra serving is for your group!” How funny and embarrassing (yeah right. I’d muster anything for second … and third helpings)! Sa first stop pa lang, we counted 15 empty black bowls (the “debris” of the fried rice we snorted in under a minutes) and we were just 5 on top of the 12 empty bowls of the fish ball soup!

    Despite all the food we packed in, we still managed to swing by our all-time favorite Sincerity restaurant for the famed fried chicken, oyster cake and liver steak dish! Talk about hitting the ground eating! We also took home dumplings and pancakes to cook at home!

    Thanks for the lead, MM!

  10. Gigi, glad you enjoyed the tour. This reminds me that I have two dozen dumplings in the freezer… hmmm, dinner is solved!

  11. Hello Marketman! This is a great post. It evokes wonderful gastronomic memories of Binondo. I miss the fried siopao from Ongpin, as well as Sincerity fried chicken, and the countless other goodies only Chinatown back home can offer.

  12. hi!! I’m kathleen, and i am a student of a christian school here in manila.. I saw your website and I was just wondering if maybe you could give the recipe of fried siopao from Ongpin. I find it interesting and I want to use it for my thesis… so please kindly send me the recipe if you have one. thanx!!

  13. hi kathleen, thanks for visiting the site, unfortunately, I do not have a recipe for the fried siopao on Ongpin. Perhaps the best way to do your research is to go to the store itself and interview the cooks or owners. Take the tour with Ivan and maybe he can help get you an interview!

  14. hello kathleen did you happen to find the recipe of fried siopao… iwanted to cook one…. thankyou and more power!

  15. i happened to see what you wrote of your food trip down binondo. it made me remember this chinese dimsum place iwould go to as a kid along carvajal – Quick Snack. i swear they have the best ma chang this side of town. i like it with lots and lots of garlic bits sprinkled on it. i remember the fat lady behind the counter who’d give bark orders to the waiters. the only movement i see her do was pick up the phone, yak on it to take orders and bark at the waiters.

    last saturday i thought i would bring a friend there after we hunted for pirated dvd’s of old movies in quiapo. alas, they were closed for renovation until the 16th of april! sigh… i ended up taking my friend to eng bee tin around the corner for their wondrous hopia.

    i miss Quick Snack’s ma chang… :-(

  16. me again… by any chance, do you know that restaurant’s name along ongpin before Salazar (if you’re coming from sta. cruz) where they serve these bottomless pancit. they serve it in very deep bowls and it’s really like you’re eating bottomless noodles. hehehe, i can’t seem to remember the name. anyone who knows? :-)

  17. i love going there even eating but can you give me the recipe of makimi or maki me pls pls pls tnx

  18. hi daniel, are you talking about Ma Hong (otherwise known as Masuki)? its in Benavidez not Ongpin so I doubt if that’s what you are asking,

    anyway I am taking a few people to a binondo tour this saturday and I really would like to know the exact name or exact site of the dumpling place.

    would you believe I’ve lived in binondo all my life and never ate there? I only know Suzhou in Gandara (or is it Nueva?)

    anyway can you suggest any more place to visit in binondo for my friends? thanks :)

  19. My goodness, dear Marketman! Reading you is one big gastronomic delight! Call it serendipity but I was surfing the net for vegetarian stuff and was on the lookout for kuchay dumpling recipes when I stumbled upon you and your trip with Ivan Dy. I didn’t get the exact recipe I was looking for – but I certainly got so much more! Will take the highly acclaimed Binondo trip with my hubby ASAP. Meanwhile, can you help me source out a recipe for steamed kuchay dumplings (Causeway style)? I’d really appreciate it – I tujrned vegetarian six months ago and have been badly craving fpor this. Causeway is off my residence and workplace so I decided to make my own. please help! More power and I really enjoyed the food trip by reading your thoughts!

  20. neri, sorry, I have never had kuchay dumplings and don’t have a recipe. Will keep on the lookout for one but I suspect if you order them at a restaurant and try to reverse engineer them you might eventually figure it out…

  21. Kuchay dumplings (in chinese “shu cai jiaozi” pingyin transliteration) are merely dumplings with mixed vegetables fillings. Kuchay means vegetables in Chinese, and this sort of jiaozi are mainly considered as Buddhist monks fare. Causeway style, Hongkong I presume, I wouldn’t know nor care, but in mainland China this would include previously lightly cooked and chopped dabaicai (Chinese leaves), carrots, doufu, mushrooms, bean sprouts. Not being Buddhist monks, you can of course spice the fillings with onion, chili, and pepper.

  22. greetings!

    i am Gian Carlo Tauro, a 4th year Journalism student of the University of Santo Tomas.

    i am currently doing an article with the topic CHINESE CULTURE IN BINONDO for my Specialized Writing preliminary examination.

    with this, i would like to ask you for the specific location of your stop-overs so i may visit them myself.

    also, is there a way for me to contact Mr. Ivan ManDy? i would like to ask him for an interview with me on the same topic.

    should there be a need to contact me, you may reply to me e-mail: or contact me on my cell phone: 0906-492-7070.

    i am hoping for your favorable response.

    thank you very much.

  23. Gian Carlo, click the link ti Ivan Mandy in the article above which has his contact details. I cannot give you specific details of stopovers as it is part of Mr. Mandy’s Tour. Best if you contact Mr. Mandy and take the tour so you experience it firsthand…

  24. Hi! Where can I buy crispy noodles with seaweeds to put in making chinese amoy lumpia? Please help…. Thanks

  25. to geraldine tuason, did anybody answer your inquiry about that seaweed for the lumpia? do you know what they call that seaweed?

  26. I wish U can send me, a place to go in Chinatown I want to try all foods and buy some stuff in ongpin and I want ask one more question do you know sara jane dee? thank’s and more power to you’re bussinness peace out^_^conichiwa!!!

  27. hi, marketman! please give me details through my mail on how to go about binondo tour. would like to celebrate my bday by going on a binondo tour. thanks

  28. MM,

    When are you doing that food trip again? I really wanna try it. Or betteryet, if you give me the names and addresses of those stores and restos.

    I would really appreciate it. I am a friend of Wyatt (wyattkitchen). Thanks a lot!

  29. Jacq, I am sorry, I cannot recall how much we paid. But it was reasonble considering it included the meals… please contact Ivan directly at Old Manila Walks… thanks!

  30. We took this tour a couple of weeks back. I have to say you got lucky coz we didn’t get to pass by some of the stops you took. For example, by the time we got to the tablea, the cooking “show” was already over, and we had to imagine things based on narration. Also, we didn’t get to pass by the cold Taiwanese noodles.
    My favorite dish was the lumpia. Never have I tasted lumpia so tasty, healthy, and densely stuffed with vegetables, rather than air, or the balot itself. It was delicious!

  31. Hi MarketMan,

    I am a filipino studying in University of California right now. I just want to say that reading your webside fills me with pride; its really beautiful that we (Filipinos) are starting to appreciate what we have. I’ve been to many chinatowns– Australia’s, Singapore’s, latest in LA, and really, Manila’s Chinatown is so much more alive and festive.

    More power!

  32. WOW!!!! Lumpia is my favorate in the entire world. I just can’t wait to experience that gastronomical adventure. kaya lang wala akong pera…he he he pahinge naman!! ; ) have you tried going to Guimba Nueva Ecija? they also have GOOD FOOD I mean great tasting FOod… Philippines has so much to offer

  33. i’m really very dissapointed when i tasted this fresh lumpia in this art deco place in binondo. honestly the day after i read your “binondo food tour” i readily had all excuses why i should be in binondo that day.telling my wife that i need to check some aluminum bars in alonzo st., and boy i was out there for hours searching for that lumpia place and when i finally found this place in q. paredes i felt the excitement, etc., etc., but when i had my first bite i was pissed off. it was not worth all the hussles i’ve gone through, the taste was even worst than this lumpia house in front of maxim in ongpin. excuse me but the lumpia was really bland, i tried their maki,too unfortunately it was as bad as the lumpia.well at least their kiampong was good enough.

  34. Very inspiring write-up. Do you know of any Binondo Chinese cooking schools that I can send my kids in August for their summer break?

  35. Hey Marketman;
    I thank you for bringing up Binondo and trips down the aisle there in the maze walkways. I remember when I was little girl going in the town, but I have been yearning to go back since I’m here in the US for 23 years and never have return. It brings a lot of memories and emotions and I remember the rice with peanut.. I was 7 years old since I last tasted that.. Oh I definitely will stop there on my future plans to go back to the Philippines. If you have more to post (pictures etc) like Little Ongpin, Divisoria, etc. Pls. post it here.. I really have to say that it’s sad that I have not return back to the beautiful Philippines…Keep up the good work…

  36. Hi,Marketman
    I’m Indonesian-born Chinese..and I’ve ever been to Manila a few months ago.I really loved the ambience of Binondo.and sometimes had yam-cha at a small restaurant there together with my Indonesian and Filipino friends.If you like to visit Indonesia would be great if you explore the traditional food here, but overall Indonesian foods are a bit spicy…(or “maanghang”,right? (in tagalog))

  37. Hi everyone,
    Kuchay dumplings can be bought frozen at meisan noodle restaurant .. in front the pinoy furniture stores in ortigas extension near greenhills … sorry am not good with the street names wala si hubby ….
    Fogive me if this is not at par with the maki of Ha yuan or other maki that you have tasted but here’s my recipe:
    1/4k Lean pork or kasim pounded till very flat then slice it in serving size
    you need the following – soy sauce i prefer coconut brand… why you ask? … i dare you to buy one and taste it compare it to your other commercial brand, but doble presyo nya, its quality your paying for :D
    1 – 2 minced garlic
    worcestershire sauce (don’t ask why, this was one secret the cook gave me)
    beaten egg, about 3 would do
    chicken powder cos chicken broth cubes have overpowering taste
    sesame oil optional
    Kamote powder or starch

    Make the broth about 4 to 6 cups
    Add to the slice pork the 2 tbsp soy sauce, minced garlic, a drop or two worcestershire sauce and sesame oil… mix very well
    Pour a half or 1 beaten egg then add some kamote powder about 2 to 3 tablespoon and coat evenly
    When the broth comes to a boil slowly drop the pork one by one so that it wont stick to each other then let it boil again to cook the meat.
    Add some soy sauce again, salt, pepper and a pinch or two of sugar, all this according to your taste
    When it comes to a boil again turn of the stove then pour the rest of the beaten egg like a stream while whisking the soup or if you want big chunks of egg, drop small amounts while whisking it.
    Hope this would help
    PS if you want the Maki MI, add it to the last one but you need to clean the noodle first by boiling it. you can buy some noodles at aranque or at noodle shops

  38. Hello again to everyone,
    I made a boo boo on my last post about MAKI soup
    i was about to go home from the office and i didn’t check first what i wrote … very sorry :(

    Here’s the correct ingredient and procedure for MAKI

    First the MEAT:

    1/4k LEAN PORK or KASIM pounded till flat then slice in bite size
    1 – 2 tbsp soy sauce (I like coconut brand)
    1 – 2 finely minced garlic
    1-2 drops KNORR SEANSONING sauce ( i put worcestershire sauce on my previous post which was a major mistake)
    sesame oil (optional)
    1/2 to 1 beaten egg plus 2 more beaten eggs to be used later at the end
    1 – 2 tbsp kamote or sweet potato starch
    Mix everything evenly then set aside

    Second the BROTH:
    4 – 6 cups broth ( i use chicken powder but you can use either pork or chicken broth cube, 1 cube would do)
    2 – 3 tbsp soy sauce or more if you want but beware of your local commercial soy sauce which are all salty and please don’t use kikoman.
    Boil the broth then add the pork one by one
    Let it boil till pork cooks.(this won’t take long cos the pounded meat will cook fast)

    Third the THICKENING:
    Mix together 4 – 6 tbsp kamote starch with 4 – 6 tbsp cold water ( always remember this when using starch on soup 1:1:1 meaning 1 tbsp starch to 1 tbsp water to 1 cup broth) if you wanted it really gooey add a couple more tbsp.
    When soup boils after pork is cooked add this slowly and mix the broth vigorously then let it boil again till it becomes glossy and bubbles :D

    LASTLY add to the soup:
    salt and pepper TO TASTE
    a pinch or two of sugar

    Add the remaining beaten eggs and slowly pour the rest of the beaten egg like a stream while whisking the soup or if you want big chunks of egg, drop small amounts while whisking it.

    PS if you want the Maki MI, you can buy some noodles at aranque or at noodle shops. You need to clean this by soaking in boiled water for a while. Watch how this is done at noodle restos and you know what i mean. Afer washing put it in the bowl then add your soup.



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