It took more than a month of email exchanges, but my sister, two friends and I were finally able to see each other and stuff ourselves at Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown one afternoon. While my sister and I spent a large part of our childhood frequenting Binondo and nearby Divisoria and Escolta, we never really ate in many of Binondo’s restaurants back then (save for the Estero and one old resto my mom liked that was just between Escolta and Binondo).
That all changed years ago when some clever folks started offering food tours in the area (Ivan Man Dy is a favorite), pointing out where you can eat the best dumplings, where the Chinese residents eat, etc. As we were all a bit familiar with Chinatown and have done previous chowdowns separately, we decided to do our own food tour. From one resto to the other, we just went about sampling a little dimsum here, a little roasted duck there, so many little bites that still made for one gut-busting eating marathon.
If you also want to do it on your own, you and your friends can meet in front of Binondo Church. Start to your right at Ongpin Street (if you’re facing the church) and walk over to Tasty Dumplings. With a bright yellow signboard near Eng Bee Tin (a store you have to return to before heading home if you want to bring home traditional Chinese pastries), Tasty Dumplings is known for its thinly-sliced fried pork chop, boiled kuchay dumplings, silver roll and winter melon juice. (The more beloved dumplings in the area can be had at Dong Bei Dumplings along Yuchengco Street)
Just go straight along Ongpin Street then turn left at Salazar. Along this street you can find fruit vendors, shops selling Chinese trinkets and President Tea House. This popular Chinese chain was our last stop for the day, but if you want to have more dimsum or take your lunch at a clean, mid-range restaurant, get it here. And get many choices of dimsum from the cart being wheeled around the place. (The Tea House is not to be confused with President Grand Palace Restaurant, along Ongpin, which is considered one of the best restos in the area and a little more pricey.)
If you prefer some place cheaper, even more casual, cramped and with the sound of clanking utensils accompanying your feast, just go straight down Salazar and turn right at Benavidez. Wai Ying Fastfood would be to your right. You can’t miss it especially during the lunch hour when many Chinese-Filipino residents grab a bite there to eat. It serves several types of rice meals that come with two kinds of meat/poultry dishes. P and I shared a Roasted Duck and Asado Rice combo for PHP140. (It’s only good for one person, but it was just one resto out of four and we wanted to make sure we had room for the rest of the food.) While Wai Ying is known for its roasted duck, I actually preferred the slices of Asado.
For xiao long bao, Suzhou Dimsum is a favorite in the area. Go back to Ongpin Street (turn left from the corner of Salazar), take it until Padilla/Gandara Street and turn right. The soup dumplings are served on a small bamboo basket. Be careful when you take a small bite to sip the soup. The soup inside though wasn’t as hot as I had expected; it was better the last time P and I ate there. (My companions mentioned that Shi Lin in Podium has better xiao long bao.)
The photos might not look like we ate a lot, but we were definitely stuffed from our four restaurant stops. The other Chinese goods, we decided to just bring home. On the way back to Ongpin, you can go inside Salazar Bakery for some baked goods. I always make a stop at this bakery, which has been around for several decades, as it is my mom’s favorite. (She always mentions that she and dad got their wedding cake there back in the 1970s). Some slices of taisan cake make her go all nostalgic on us. Eng Bee Tin for hopia and Poland for mochi (also hopia) are also good Binondo pasalubong stops.
Tasty Dumplings 620 Ongpin Street
Dong Bei Dumplings 642 Yuchengco Street
President Tea House 809 Salazar Street
Wai Ying Fastfood 810 Benavidez Street
Suzhou Dimsum 807 Gandara Street
Salazar Bakery 779-785 Ongpin Street