Binondo Binge: Top Food Trip Destinations of Manila Chinatown


From fat-burning trek in Laguna to binge eating in Binondo, Manila — that's how our plan for that weekend changed at the last minute. Because we're pretty good at planning, aren't we?

Manila Chinatown welcome arc

Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world, established in 1590s even before the term "Chinatown" was invented. The Spaniards, who ruled the Philippines for more than 300 years, set up Chinatown to cater to their Chinese converts; located it near Intramuros, the seat of Spanish government of that era, to keep a close eye on them. Through centuries, Manila Chinatown flourished and became one of the Philippine capital's busiest districts.

Every major city in the world has a Chinatown and these patches of the city has three common characteristics: a venue for the vibrant Chinese New Year celebration, a center of commerce, and a great food destination. Binondo is a favorite among food crawlers, many online and printed media may attest to it. We browsed several blogs (those that appeared in the first two pages of Google Search result) to see which among the seemingly endless number of diners are the most recommended. Here's Binondo's "Lucky 8" arranged in the order we visited:


#1 Dong Bei Dumpling

The small dumpling house stands at an unassuming patch of Binondo, at an apparent terminus of a street. Outside, through the glass-paneled store front, passers-by can see how Dong Bei's dumplings are made — restaurant's crew prepares them right before every customer's eyes, at one of the few tables within the relatively tiny dining space. Dong Bei's best-seller, kuchay (made from ground pork and garlic chives), is served in a platter at PHP 150 per 14 pieces.

Platter of Dong Bei's kuchay dumpling
Dong Bei dumplings made right before everyone's eye

Dong Bei is at 642 E. T. Yuchengco St.

Menu: Dumplings, noodles, rice, soup
Price: starts at PHP 100 (per dumpling platter)
Opens: Everyday, 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Contact: +63 2 241 8912 / Dong Bei Dumpling



#2 Masuki Mami House

Masuki's first store, then known as Ma Kong Mami House, was established along Salazar St. in the 1930s. Today, Masuki stands at the nearby Benavidez St. and already has several branches within Metro Manila. Photos and framed clippings hanging around the store's four corners apparently shows that Masuki has been frequented by the country's famous figures from showbiz, sports, and politics. Aside from Masuki's mami (noodle soup) variations, Masuki's asado siopao is a must-try.

Masuki Mami House store front

Masuki is at 931 Benavidez St.

Menu: Mami, siopao, dimsum
Price: starts at PHP 130 (mami), PHP 55 (siopao)
Opens: Everyday; 7:00 AM - 10:30 PM (Mon-Thu) / 7:00 AM - 11:00 PM (Fri-Sun)
Contact: +63 2 244 0745 / masuki.mami@gmail.com / Masuki Noodle House



#3 Café Mezzanine

A cozy, air-conditioned diner at "the heart of Chinatown" (Ongpin St., Binondo). Café Mezzanine is a restaurant for a cause — all of its income goes to Binondo's fire department, whose iconic purple fire truck is parked near Binondo Church (the café also used fireman's hard hats as ornament). Their best-sellers according to the menu include asado, kiampong, gokong, and lechon kawali; and I just loved their hakaw (Chinese shrimp dumpling) so I would recommend it.

Cafe Mezzanine store front

Café Mezzanine is at 650 Ongpin St., second floor of the same building as Chuan Kee and Eng Bee Tin.

Menu: Fish, beef, pork and vegetable entrée; noodles, dimsum, sandwiches, fruit shakes, coffee and desserts
Price: starts at around PHP 70; family platters range from PHP 240-650
Opens: Everyday; 7:00 AM - 9:00 PM (Mon) / 7:00 AM - 10:00 PM (Tue-Sun)
Contact: +63 2 288 8888 ext. 230 / Café Mezzanine



#4 Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli

Not really a place to dine-in because Eng Bee Tin is a grocery store — a pasalubong center — arguably one of Binondo's famous. At Eng Bee Tin's shelves (as well as in grocery stores near you), one may find their world-class, traditional Chinese delicacies such as hopia and tikoy. Started in 1912, Eng Bee Tin has become famous for their "multi-awarded" ube hopia (purple yam flavor) that has grown into around 20 flavor variations. Try kundol hopia, it's really good and I just learned that "kundol" is "wintermelon" in English (I should thank Eng Bee Tin's packaging for that).

Eng Bee Tin store front
Pasalubong shopping at Eng Bee Tin

Eng Bee Tin has several branches in Binondo. We visited the one at 650 Ongpin St. (beside Chuan Kee) and found their branch along Quintin Paredes St., right across New Po-Heng Lumpia House.

Menu: Hopia, tikoy, mooncake, and many pasalubong goodies
Price: starts at PHP 20
Opens: Not sure, but they're still up at 7:00 PM when we left Binondo
Contact: +63 2 288 8888 (hotline) / Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli



#5 New Po-Heng Lumpia House

A secret nook, I must say, as New Po-Heng's entrance was kept from sight by a passageway of the old building where it stands. The dim walkway, that seems like someone would pop up anytime and ask for a secret password before entry, opens to New Po-Heng's dining place that has an Oriental ambiance and a refreshing courtyard adorned with a Roman fountain at the middle. The name itself tells you what to try: their Hokkien-style fresh lumpia. It was a large, thick roll of tofu, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cilantro, ground peanuts and seaweed in thin lumpia wrapper — can you imagine how siksik it was? At PHP 60, it's a value for money.

New Po-Heng Lumpia House entrance

New Po-Heng is at Uysubin Bldg., 531 Quintin Paredes St.

Menu: Lumpia, maki, misua, kiampong
Price: starts at PHP 60
Opens: Everyday, 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Contact: +63 2 241 8789 / New Po Heng Lumpia House



#6 Sincerity Café and Restaurant

Sincerity is Binondo's go-to place for a crispy outside, tender juicy inside fried chicken with a kick of Oriental spices. Topping their best-seller list is the self-titled dish, Sincerity Fried Chicken, that has been featured in several culinary publications. Other recommended dishes from their menu include fried oyster cake, frog adobo, shrimp omelet and barbecue spareribs. The homey, well-lit diner has been around since 1956.

Sincerity Fried Chicken

Sincerity is at 497 Yuchengco St. They have several branches around Metro Manila.

Menu: Chicken, beef, seafood, pork, and vegetable entrée
Price: starts at PHP 150; whole Sincerity Fried Chicken costs PHP 320, also comes in half
Opens: Everyday; 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM (Mon-Sat) / 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM (Sun)
Contact: +63 2 241 9991 / Sincerity Café and Restaurant



#7 Quik-Snack and #8 Shanghai Fried Siopao

Since planning a trip is what we do "best", we're not able to visit two from this list. We ran out of time and we forgot to check what time these stores closes (which is somehow a good thing since we're already in the state of food coma with the first six). Quik-Snack and Shanghai Fried Siopao, for now, are just reasons to visit Chinatown again. I got some details for you, anyway:

Shanghai Fried Siopao is at Sabino Padilla St. Opens Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM. Fried siopao costs around PHP 20.

Quik-Snack is at 637-639 Carvajal St. Opens Mon-Sat, 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM. Prices range at PHP 35 - PHP 385. Contact: +63 2 242 9572 / +63 2 242 9589.


Honorable mentions (and a slight blooper)

Uniqueness counts so I must include Chuan Kee Chinese Turo-turo and James Grocery to this list.

We're supposed to had our first stop at Café Mezzanine until Chuan Kee came into picture. They both occupy the same building at Ongpin St., Chuan Kee is at the lower level where we got our first meal unintended. It was only when our orders were already served that I realized: we're not at Café Mezzanine!!! (Duh? "Mezzanine" and we were at the ground floor??? Haha!)
Chuan Kee's Soup #5
 Chuan Kee's Soup #5

The oversight, anyway, introduced me to the exotic Soup #5 — a known aphrodisiac soup made from bull's testes or penis. I don't like it, though; got no adventurous palate for that delicacy. But Chuan Kee's line of noodle soup is good; try their Beef Tendon Mami (and soup #5 for a change).

James Grocery at the corners of Carvajal and Nueva streets sells a variety of pickled fruits that, they say, were pickled using the popular Chinese-brand beer Tsingtao. These colorful fruit bits are kept in a traditional samalamig (refreshments) containers displayed side-by-side at the store front, creating an iconic presence in Binondo. Those pickled fruits make a good pasalubong, but of course, we're not able to visit it so... #nganga haha!
Binondo Church
 Binondo Church

That's it! Binondo's "Lucky 8" (plus two). Watch our Binondo food crawl here, documented by my friend Edwin of ETVLogs.

Disclosure: I'm not in any way connected with business entities mentioned in this blog post. All views and opinions expressed are inspired by my own experience.


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