Steamed dumplings, hand-pulled noodles in savory soup, an assortment of Hopia and Tikoy, lucky charms mostly in red and in different shapes and sizes – all these and more are waiting for you at the world’s oldest Chinatown, Manila’s Binondo district.
Binondo is known for being the home to the Chinese community here in the Philippines. It is the center of Chinese New Year celebrations with the traditional Dragon dance that is believed to bring good luck and prosperity throughout the year. Feng Shui practitioners also flock here to get their stones and lucky charms that will attract balance and good fortune into their lives and homes.
What else is Binondo known for? Food! This Manila district offers a gastronomical feast for people who love Chinese cuisine. With the many Chinese restaurants in every nook and cranny of Binondo, tourists will surely enjoy not just one particular dish but everything their tummy craves for. That is why if you are planning a trip to Binondo, a food crawl is a must!
One Sunday morning, my cousins and I met in Binondo for our do-it-yourself food crawl. We searched online beforehand for restaurants we wanted to visit and particular dishes we’d like to try. We were a group of nine and before heading off we each gave 500 pesos to one cousin and assigned her to pay for our meals.
Tip: if you are a big group, assign one person to handle your money. That way, you don’t have to divide your bill and contribute your share at every restaurant you stop by. Having one person responsible for the budget makes paying for meals faster and allows you to have more time to move from one place to the next.
Our starting point is the Binondo Church. We entered Ongpin street from that end and walked our way to our first stop, Lord Stow’s Bakery.
Lord Stow’s Bakery
G/F Unit E Imperial Sky Garden, 707 Ongpin St
Lord Stow’s Bakery originated from Macau in 1989 and is well-known for their egg tarts. The bakery opened it’s doors to the Philippine market in 1999 and the rest as they say is history. Their Binondo branch is an air-conditioned shop with bar tables and stools lining the wall.
The egg tart is soft and the crust is crunchy but I like my desserts on the very sweet side. My cousin even said, it is maybe because we were raised eating Leche Flan, that could be the reason why we prefer a sweeter version. Lord Stow’s egg tarts only had a tinge of sweetness so I am sure those who are not fond of overly sweet desserts will definitely like these.
New Po Heng Lumpia House
627 Carvajal St, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila
(02) 241 8789
The new location of New Po Heng Lumpia House is quite hard to find. You have to enter a small eskinita and if not seeing the sign on their display rack, tourists will easily pass this by.
It is a small hole-in-the-wall place with a 3 to 4 table set up of monoblock chairs and tables. Don’t expect a lot on the ambiance since this place is carinderia style, it is cramped inside and our group of nine is literally on elbow to elbow as we eat. But, their famous lumpia is worth the walk and the limited space.
I liked that I get to watch the staff prepare my food right in front of me and she’s wearing plastic gloves! Hurray to proper food handling and sanitation!
Their lumpia rolls are huge and can fill two tummies! Each roll is generously filled and freshly made. The filling is so good and made even better with their signature lumpia sauce. It’s a definite must try!
Dong Bei Dumplings
642 Yuchengco St, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila
(02) 241 8912
Dong Bei Dumplings is another hole-in-the-wall restaurant along Yuchengco street that is known for their steamed dumplings. Again, do not expect much of the place since it is pretty small and not at all like your regular restaurants with plenty of leg room and classy ambiance.
It is quite fascinating to watch the staff prepare the dumplings before your very eyes. Their fast hands wrapping each dumpling in precise shape is a feast in itself.
Take note that since they only cook your dumplings upon ordering, the wait time can get pretty long. We ordered the Kuchay with Pork dumplings and I really liked it. Kuchay or Garlic Chives is mixed with ground pork, wrapped in flat dumpling dough and then steamed. Best to dip the dumpling in soy sauce with chili!
Shanghai Fried Siopao
Corner Ongpin Street and Bahama Street
Manila, Metro Manila
This is by far the easiest to find as it is located along Ongpin Street. The store is your typical sari-sari store, no tables and chairs, just a table upfront with their goods.
This one was a surprise. By the name itself, I was expecting crispy, fried Siopao goodness but what we got was steamed Bola-bola. I am an Asado-Siopao-girl so saying I did not enjoy this is an understatement. But, it is impressive how their Siopao is still warm despite not putting them in a warmer.
Mixed reactions from our group since some prefer Asado like me. If served with sauce, this Siopao might get a better reaction from me.
650 Ongpin St, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila
(02) 241 9999
Our next stop was Cafe Mezzanine. Since it was lunchtime already, we decided to head back to Cafe Mezzanine so we can all be comfortably seated as we enjoy a proper meal.
Cafe Mezzanine is located at the 2nd floor of an old building at the corner of Yuchengco and Ongpin St. One nice thing to know about this place is all proceeds of the restaurant go to the Binondo Paco Fire Search and Rescue Brigade.
The restaurant has a simple ambiance, with plenty of tables placed closely together. Aircondioner works like a charm but it can get pretty hot if the restaurant is full. It’s a good thing that we were seated right in front of the airconditioning unit.
This is your typical Chinese restaurant yet food was superb! I immensely enjoyed the Kiampong, Miki Bihon Guisado and Crispy Chicken. The Xiao Long Bao would have tasted great if only we did not wait for all our orders to be served, the soup inside has all dried up by the time we ate it. Total bill for our order was P3170.00
Eng Bee Tin
650 Ongpin St, Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila
A Binondo Food Crawl will never be complete without dropping by the ever popular Hopia store, Eng Bee Tin. This is our final stop of the day and definitely a must for pasalubong. This Eng Bee Tin branch is huge, with a cafe located at the loft and a wide floor on the ground filled with racks and racks of Chinese pastries and delicacies.
Hopia of all flavors you can imagine can be bought here! I got the classic Mongo and Ube Hopia, along with Chocolate flavored Mochi for my boys, Pastillas de Leche and rolled Tikoy in Pandan flavor.
It was a really fun day filled with laughter and great Chinese food! We started at 9:00 am and were done by 1:00 pm.
How much did I spend?
Contribution per person ——————— P500.00
Chinese Kikiam take out ——————— P120.00
Eng Bee Tin pasalubong ——————— P280.00
Total ———————————— P900.00
Imagine that, for only P900.00 I got to enjoy a Binondo Food Crawl and that includes pasalubong, too! Am I going to do it again? Definitely! There are a lot more restaurants in Binondo that are just waiting to be discovered!
More helpful tips:
1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Sneakers and rubber shoes preferably as you will doing a lot of walking.
2. Bring an umbrella to protect you from the sun and rain, if in case it does rain.
3. Plan ahead. Do your research and list down the restaurants you were planning to visit and arrange them by proximity from each other. That way you don’t have to go back and forth Ongpin St. looking for a particular restaurant.
4. Bring a selfie stick or a tripod but most importantly, learn how to use them! I have not used a selfie stick in my life so the first time that I set up my phone on it, it was hilarious!
5. Bring a fully charged power bank. You will be taking lots of photos so a good source of power for your cameras or phones is a wise move.