If you’re looking for a legit Chinese food experience, there’s no better place to visit than Binondo. The world’s oldest Chinatown, located in the heart of Manila, is a hotbed of restaurants, eateries, and food stalls, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer. If you’re in the mood for a culinary adventure, here are the seven food spots you shouldn't miss:
1) Dong Bei Dumplings
642 Yuchengco St., Binondo
A trip to Binondo wouldn't be complete without stopping by Dong Bei Dumplings, a tiny hole-in-the-wall, where batch after batch of pretty little dumplings are made by hand at a small table by the window. If you could only order one item off their menu, get the Kuchay Dumplings (P150 for 14 pieces): the wrapping is firm and chewy, and each piece is stuffed generously. However, if you’ve been spoiled by fancier dim sum places (we’re looking at you, Din Tai Fung), you might find the Xiao Long Bao (P150) at Dong Bei a bit bland and underwhelming. But for the price, it’s still a great place to satisfy a dumpling craving. You can even order frozen dumplings to take home!
2) Café Mezzanine
650 Ongpin Cor. Nueva Sts., Binondo
Eating at Café Mezzanine is always a good experience. Not only is the food affordable and consistently great, but all of the restaurant’s revenue goes to the Binondo Paco Fire Search and Rescue Brigade. If it’s your first time here, you can’t go wrong with their Kiampong (P65), a sticky, nutty fried rice, as well as their very tender Asado With Adobo Egg (P140), which, unlike other asado dishes, isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. Feeling adventurous? Try their version of the legendary Soup No. 5!
3) Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli
628 Ongpin St., Binondo
Hopia is the perfect pasalubong to take home after a trip to Binondo. Both Ho-Land and Po-Land have stores here, but our favorite would have to be the classic Eng Bee Tin. You can’t go wrong with their classic Monggo and Ube variants, but if you want a fun dessert, try their custard hopia favorites. Eng Bee Tin's right next door to Café Mezzanine, so you can’t miss it.
4) New Po Heng Lumpia House
Uy Su Bin Building, 531 Quintin Paredes St., Binondo
New Po Heng is literally a hidden gem. Tucked in the pink-hued courtyard of an old building, its “secret” location makes a visit here a bit more exciting. You don’t even have to think about what to get; their burrito-sized fresh lumpia is huge, hefty, and totally worth your hard-earned money. Feel free to go wild with the sauce—it’s not too sweet, so you can go wild!
931 Benavidez St., Binondo
Though this Binondo institusyon has been around since the 1930s, their offerings remain consistently excellent. They still use an old-fashioned machine to make their noodles, so the quality is probably still as good as it was back in the day. Go for the Original Mami (P130 regular, P140 special) with tender chicken and beef pieces, though we have to warn you: the soup as is might be too bland, so you’ll have to experiment with the condiments. Pair it with their Special Asado Siopao (P85), which is stuffed with filling and is as big as your girlfriend’s face.
6) Wai Ying
810 Benavidez St., Binondo
Hardcore dimsum lovers should make a pilgrimage to Wai Ying at least once in their lives. This Chinatown mainstay is known for its affordable yet delicious food, but is chiefly beloved for its hefty, shrimp-stuffed Hakaw (P90 for four pieces) and other dimsum. Their Siomai (P80 for four pieces) is also a good deal: its price might seem extravagant compared to your usual streetside cart offerings, but each piece is huge and stuffed generously. Before you know it, you’d be flagging down a waitress for more!
7) Salazar Bakery
783 Ongpin St., Binondo
Need a birthday cake? Looking for traditional Chinese pastries like tikoy and mooncake? Running low on tasty bread? Salazar Bakery has it all for you. This place never seems to run out of customers, too!
Now that we've got that covered, here are some questions you need to ask before diving into your Binondo food trip:
How can I maximize my Binondo visit? You can tick off all these places and more in one day by ordering just one or two dishes from each restaurant. It’s best to go with a big barkada so there’ll be more space in everyone’s tummies.
How can I get around Binondo? Binondo is best experienced on foot—almost all the noteworthy places are situated near each other. Plus, the streets of Binondo are really narrow, making parking a problem. It’s not difficult to commute, but if you must drive, you can leave your car at Lucky Chinatown Mall.
When is the best time to visit Binondo? Binondo is, hands down, best visited during Chinese New Year, when you’ll witness Tsinoy culture at its most vibrant. Not fond of crowds and tourists? Most weekdays would be okay. Note that some restaurants, like Serenity, are closed during Sundays, so time your visit accordingly.
How much should I bring? If there’s two of you, P1,000 can go a long, way. Invite more people so you can divide the costs and save up!
Where else could I go after pigging out at Binondo? Lots of famous Manila landmarks are located near Binondo, so you might as well get your dose of culture while you’re there. The National Museum is just a jeepney ride away, while Intramuros is also pretty close. If you want to burn cash as well as calories, the Divisoria area should be your next stop.