Mr. Sun was shining its brightest as everyone celebrated Valentine’s Day + Chinese New Year. There was never a day better than last Sunday to take a walk through the streets of Manila China town.
I arrived at Manila Central Post Office fronting Liwasang Bonifacio, now known as Plaza Lawton, a few minutes before 10:30AM. This majestic building served as our meeting place for Dong Ho’s KaESKAPO sa Binondo.
The blog contest winners were selected based on Dong Ho’s querry :
Why do you deserve this map and join this food trip ?
It was a pleasure meeting young breed of fellow bloggers Chyng, Cher, Josh, and Ann (with her BF); all of us were recipients of this map from the Dong himself. Although I was the most senior of the group, it just felt like I was only with my students, less the toxicity of classroom lectures We were all amazed how The Big Binondo Food Wok Map was conceptualized; it points out heritage trail and of course, the most interesting food shops in the heart of Manila, from the cheapest finds to the most upscale restaurants. The coupons in the map for some freebies were certainly not left unnoticed.
After a short briefing about the activity and a casual intro to ourselves, we started the walk that led to one-of-a-kind-Binondo trip.
I am not new to the place. I have been to Binondo and Ongpin areas up to Recto and Divisoria countless times actually. But exploring it with strangers bloggers whom I haven’t met is a new experience for me and perhaps the same thing for them. Gladly, we instantly gelled as we enjoyed several hours together.
We’re fortunate to witness a Dragon Dance just few steps from the gates of Manila China town after Escolta.
We had a short stop at Binondo Church…
Then after I uttered my prayers, we headed off to Ongpin…
A festive welcome to the Chinese New Year isn’t complete without Lion Dances…
The colors of Ongpin and its side streets never fail to fascinate me… I’m sure my fellow bloggers were also delighted with such vibrant hues!
From freshest fruits to veggies, lucky charms and figurines; gold jewelries and more; almost everything is in Ongpin!
Although our son, Gabby had been to Ongpin more than a couple of times recently, I’d also wished him to experience Chinese New Year in Binondo. But his mom and I agreed for them to stay at home to avoid too much crowd and all. He’ll surely enjoy the celebration soon when he grows older.
After a few steps and shots, we headed to our food tripping!
Our first stop : the immediate left street at the back of Binondo Church for some remarkable dumplings!
It was only my second time to try DONG BEI DUMPLINGS - the famous KUCHAY or CHIVES DUMPLINGS of Binondo. I’ve written something about these dumplings May of last year, after I’ve tasted them and compared with the same steamed delight from a Chinese resto in a mall (view HERE! ) The major difference : Dong Bei’s version is more flavorful but doesn’t have overpowering taste. Plus, you get to view how it is prepared…
Freshly made dumplings, anyone ?
Your options : Plain Kuchay or Plain Pork; Combinations of Kuchay + Pork (last year I had Kuchay + Shrimp) either steamed or fried; 13 -14 pieces for only PhP100+. Guess what our team had? All of them! Have you tried Dong Bei’s Kuchay Dumplings ? How do you like them ?
Their both best dipped in chili sauce! Some of my co-bloggers didn’t like them that much, perhaps because it’s quite new to their taste buds or they’ve been more familiar with other Chinese dumplings than chives.
Dong Ho (not the owner of Dong Bei, LOL!) also introduced as to Dong Bei’s PANCAKES! These aren’t your usual pancakes served with butter + syrup *yum!* but it’s fried with stuffings of ….surprise –> Kuchay +Pork again! But its thin fried dough was more sticky than the fried Kuchay dumplings and thankfully, both were less oily.
And since I vowed with Tina and Gabby not to drink Coke and other sodas again (deliver us not into temptation, hehe!), I tried for the first time this Chinese iced tea on a can (but forgive me, although i hope it has less sugar, it’s carbonated too!)
My co-blogger Chyng didn’t like the canned Chinese cold tea that much; it was OK for my taste but nothing to rave about and would not cause you to crave for it.
After that quick bite at Dong Bei, the walk continued to the corner of Tomas Pinpin + Ongpin Streets where a shrine is venerated by Tsinoys.
SANTO CRISTO DE LONGOS
Note that incense sticks are used by the prayerful to adore the Holy Cross. It’s an apparent fusion of Catholic and Chinese beliefs.
Moving on… Do you like Tikoy ? What’s a Chinese New Year without Tikoy a.k.a. NIAN GAO / YEAR CAKES or Glutinous rice cakes ? What’s Binondo without horse-driven kalesas? (Note to Gabby : We’ll ride kalesa one day either in Manila or in Vigan!)
My wife knows how we share the love for FRESH LUMPIA. This made our next pit stop as one of my favorite food places we’ve been to. I recall one of my kind readers, JP recommended this when I posted SOMETHING ABOUT LUMPIA few weeks ago.
Tucked inside Uysubin Building beside HSBC, located along Quintin Paredes Street, is a courtyard where New Po Heng Lumpia House is.
I guarantee you satisfaction from these freshly rolled Hokkien-style lumpia! For only PhP 45 per roll, you can taste heaven in every bite! What I like about Chinese Fresh Lumpia is the inclusion of fried vermicelli + seaweeds and lotsa ground peanuts! It’s so delicious even sans sauce! I give my two-thumbs up to New Po Heng Lumpia! Definitely, it won’t be my last there; i’ll surely bring my family and friends there soon.
As we entered New Po Heng, we’re lucky to see the Ivan Man Dy in person on his last leg for that day on his Old Manila Walks. Dong Ho introduced us to him and to my surprise, he said, “Oh you’re the doctor who joined Chuvaness’ contest. Did you win?” I smiled back and said “No” (It was another blog contest with his map and his TOUR as one of the top prizes–The question was : If you were a Chinese dish, what would you be and why? My answer : Chinese Fortune Cookie -Because I believe I am more than meets the eye). I wasn’t only starstruck but was literally in awe because Ivan actually reads comments and entries! Wow!
Chyng had taken the chance to have photo-op with Ivan. I was shy to do so. Perhaps when I and Tina find time to join his once-a-month-Malacanang tour. Ivan is nice; he even offered us tikoy, part of the freebies he was giving to his local and a few foreign tourists who joined his walk.
Another treat for us bloggers was when Ivan introduced the next guy to our table as the TUTUBI of BACKPACKING PHILIPPINES AND ASIA. It was really one lucky day!
Still following some suggested heritage trail in The Big Binondo Food Wok Map, our group went to Ongpin again and went up flight of stairs to visit TE YA KONG TEMPLE…
Seeing almost all people in red, lighting incense sticks and praying, I can’t help but to admire the Chinese-Filipino community for their strong faith.
After several minutes, we’re on to our next merienda stop (I like the way we took this “NO-RICE”- Binondo Food trip; LIGHT & YUMMY) : SHANGHAI FRIED SIOPAO! Have you sampled one already ? It’s more flavorful than ordinary siopao.
The Dong bought fried siopao for all of us and split the bill just before we part ways. We brought them to Eng Bee Tin restaurant where Dong Ho suggested to have refreshing avocado shake; but it wasn’t in season so we all went for the next best thing : mango shake! (I like riped mango). I just forgot to ask Dong Ho how much fried siopao a piece but the mango shake was so good at PhP 50+.
Then after another hearty snack, we’re on our feet again for our last pit stop… On way there, we passed by Plaza Calderon dela Barca right in front of Basilica Menor del San Lorenzo a.k.a. Binondo Church…
I like fountains. (note to self : work for you to bring your family to Europe one day!). The sight of dripping water somehow recharged me to walk a few kilometers from Binondo to Reina Regente, Recto and finally reached Narra Street at the back of Tutuban Mall where the biggest and grandest of Chinatown’s Buddhist temples…
SENG GUAN SI TEMPLE
The facade of Seng Guan Si Temple is already amazing but there’s more than that beautiful front this place of worship has to offer.
The first floor was awesome. But the second floor of this temple was even more fantastic! There was even an enormous section that’s probably considered as the most sacred of them all. I thought that part of the temple is comparable to the Catholic church’s Adoration Chapel.
It was indeed a loooong tiring day but believe it or not, I enjoyed it to the fullest! Although I wasn’t with my family (Gabby + Tina), I’m glad to meet and gain new blogger-friends. Thanks, Dom (a.k.a. the Dong Ho)! Sa uulitin!
We could not let the day pass without taking photos of ourselves of course! So meet my Ka-Eskapo sa Binondo :
from left to right : The Dong Ho and docgelo; right : Chyng, Josh and Cher. photos by Cher Cabula (thanks, Cher!) these photos were taken at New Po Heng Lumpia courtyard.
Newbie and young blogger, Ann with her BF Archie and on right photo, the Chinese charm Dong Ho got for each of us.
One last group shot before parting ways… photo by Dong Ho
You may want to view (again) my previous posts about this most interesting part of Manila called Binondo. Thanks!