Last week I got a chance to go on a Binondo Food Wok around Binondo in Manila’s Chinatown led by Ivan Man Dy of www.oldmanilawalks.com, the same Ivan Many Dy who led Anthony Bourdain around. The meting place was the lobby of Binondo Church, after our small group was assembled, Ivan explained that this was not his usual tour itinerary but instead is a tour of his personal favorites.
We proceeded to walk towards Carvajal street, a quintessential alley where fruits, vegetables and all other sorts of food stuff can be had. Its translated name in Chinese is umbrella alley, because the alley used to be filled with umbrella sellers.
A couple of minutes later, we arrived at our first food stop, Quick Snack. This place is quite familiar to me as I been eating there since I was a child. Ivan shared a little fact that surprised me, Quick Snack is almost 50 years already and the old amah though Chinese, came from Indonesia, hence the influence in their menu.
We started our supposed appetizer portion of the tour with Kuchay Ah (Chinese chive pastry). A flaky pastry filled with meat and Chinese chives, quite filling and one of the bestsellers.
An flurry of dishes soon followed Sate Mi, Indonesian Tofu (P75), Oyster Cake (P180)and Fried Lumpia (from top left going clockwise). I’ve regularly eaten the fried lumpia before, its deep fried Chinese lumpia, perfect with a dash of garlic vinegar. The oyster cake is also familiar fare, a staple in many Chinese food places. The Indonesian tofu was a delight to both the eyes and to the taste buds. I initally hesitated to try it for fear that it was spicy, good thing I finally did. The fried tofu went perfectly with the lemongrass soy sauce, with a piece of the crunchy veggie, cilantro and a dash of the hot sauce, all I can say is mmmmmm. I would have had more but this was just the first stop. According to Ivan, Quick Snack is the only place that serves Sate Mi in Binondo, owing to their Indonesian influence, I had a small amount only and found it exceeding my spice tolerance.
After that we walked along Carvajal St. towards Nueva St., the place to be for stationary and paper supplies. Situated at the corner is Holland Hopia, one of the popular hopia places in Chinatown.Although they sell lots of hopia daily, they have so much more like the Fish shaped tikoy for Chinese New Year, this was imported before but is now made by Holland themselves. I got to try the peanut ampao, the far tastier one.
We continued our walk from Nueva to Ongpin st., to get to our “lunch” stop with a little side trip to Salazar St. The road sign above is one of the most photographed sign in Manila, since its nicely preserved and with a colorful dragon on top, just in time for the coming Year of the Dragon. The letter n is also painted in reverse.
On Salazar St. we spy this hole in the wall bakery called Po Chuan Tin, manned by an old granpa and grandma who sell the best tasting hopia I ever had. It looks and tastes old school, from the red wax paper cover to the flaky, uneven hopia itself that tasted smooth and fresh where you can feel the passion and skill that went into its creation.
Ivan gave us a little historical interlude as he showed where the Noli Me Tangere was kept hidden in Masangkay St., as well as holding the remains of Dr. Jose Rizal for a few days.
Rosso Asian Kitchen is located on Gandara St., across mooncake maker Far Eastern. The place is famous for its Szechuan cuisine, drawing diners from all over just to sample their spicy fare.I’ve never been here and was told that they had recently revamped their menu, the place started out serving non Chinese items.
Rosso is known for their Ji Gong Bao, a style of hotpot from Chongquing, China. You can choose from different meats like chicken, beef, lamb, pork ribs and frog legs.
We ordered a number a number of plates of assorted stuff for the hot pot dunking portion.
Ji Gong Bao is quite different from the standard hot pot or steamboat most of us know. For starters, the bowl they serve you with does not contain soup, instead it has a braised meat dish of your choice.
We got two orders, one chicken and the other pork ribs. I liked the pork ribs better since the sauce is better absorbed into the meat making it tastier.
A cast iron pot filled with meat is laid on our table atop a gas burner. The way to eat this is to consume all the meat pieces first then ask them to add pork bones soup. The sauce and bits and pieces of meat adds flavor to the soup base. The last step is to proceed to put whatever balls, veggies or seafood you ordered and then wait for it to cook.
We specified that our dish had only mild spice, they have different levels to suit different tastes going as high as Mala (spicy), their ultimate level of spiciness, reserved for the adventurous. The soup after cooking for a while was already too spicy for me, next time I’ll ask for no spice.
While we were almost bursting the proprietress of the Rosso wanted us to try some of their Szechuan dishes to trumpet the ability of their chef. The first was Szechuan Water Cooked Beef (P338). The bowl of beef looked deadly with its very reddish color as well as swimming pieces of dried chili. I gathered my courage and went ahead and tried it, it was delectable, the soft beef slices with an almost chewy consistency coated with tantalizing level of spice.
Szechuan Twice Cooked Pork (P248). Thinly sliced pork belly, think the meat used in Sam Gyup Sal, but sliced super thin, then cooked with vegetables. This was also delicious and I think with just plain rice I could have eaten more.
Our group literally had food coming out of our ears, but we still had one last stop to go. We walked along Ongpin St to get to our final destination, the original Sa Lido Restaurant, in its new location. I’ve never been her before so I got a bit of a shock after ascending the flight of stairs and was greeted with tables and tables filled with men of all ages having a afternoon cup of coffee. The place predominantly caters to men, including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who sit around chatting away about everything under the sun.
SaLido is one of the few remaining panciterias left, and probably the only one that has not sacrificed quality. Ivan proceeded to order some of his favorites as well as add a dish or two. By this point, we were already stuffed with food, good thing we traversed around on foot.
Pancit Canton, Asado and Camaron. The pancit canton looked ordinary except in taste, I was quite surprised how flavorful it was and the whole plate was packed with ingredients. The asado is cooked in a wood fired oven leading to a smoky meat taste and sometimes you can even taste the wood.
Sa Lido is very famous for its coffee, made using the siphon method, cups and cups atop different tables.
Binondo is really a mix of the old and new, newly minted fast food chains existing side by side with decades old stores and restaurants. Kalesas plying the same street as tricycles and cars. Do you want to experience a mix of history and food across the old streets of Binondo then see their special Chinese New Year tours.
The Big Binondo Food Wok (Chinese New Year Edition): Nibbling Our Way Through Chinatown
Jan 21 (Saturday) @ 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM (approx)
Jan 22 (Sunday) @ 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM (approx)
@ 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM (approx)
Jan 23 (Monday and 1st day of the CNY) @ 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM (approx)_
Rate : P1,500/head (inclusive of tasting menu and lots of surprises in line with CNY)
Book early since slots are limited.
For more info you can check out www.oldmanilawalks.com
Carvajal St, Binondo
Carvajal cor.Nueva Sts.
Po Chuan Tin Bakery
827 Salazar, Manila, Philippines
Rosso Asian Kitchen
850 Sabino Padilla St.(for. Gandara)
839 Ongpin St.,