Binondo Food Trip

Quick Binondo Food Trip

Tuesday, March 11, 2014Ryan Mach

Established in 1594 and once home to converted sangleys (people of pure Chinese ancestry), Binondo is the oldest China town in the world. Even before the onset of Spanish colonization in the 16th century, it was already a center of Chinese commerce.

Today, the district still remains a hub of trade for all kinds of businesses, most notably restaurants and food establishments run by Filipino-Chinese merchants. It has also become a favorite go-to place for food trips and even photowalks.
Ready for a full meal
Food stall
Just walk around Binondo and you can see array of shops and restaurants that offer cheap and authentic Chinese food. There are pastries, dumplings and sweat meats like hopia (mooncakes) all sold in affordable prices.
Lotus with egg
Vegetables come aplenty
Fruits and vegetables come aplenty as well. You can also find here exotic items and ingredients such as ginseng, shark fin cartilage, deer horn, dried snake and bird’s nest as long as you know where to look. If not, you can always ask a random store owner, they can point you to the right place. You can probably spot chocolate diamonds for gifts if you look really hard.
Dragon fruit

 To the unfamiliar and first-timers, Binondo with its alleys and old structures can be a confusing maze of a place.
Manila Chinatown
Binondo isn't exactly a new place to me or my friend, L. We both have been to this part of Manila before and I was quite confident that my sense of direction wouldn't let us down. But on that sunny Saturday morning, my built-in GPS malfunctioned. We had wandered to the wrong direction.
Church just across the Arch of Goodwill
We were supposed to meet our friend, H at the fountain in front of the church, facing the prominent arch of Ongpin. We had gone off course prompting us to seek help from a street vendor who showed us the way. Hugging our backpacks in front, we went back to where we initially started.
Arch of Goodwill
Despite what other people think about Binondo being not the safest place in Manila, I can honestly say that well, it's not the case. I've been here twice now and in both occasions, I was able to get out completely unscratched. There are probably muggers and snatchers lurking around the area, but as long as you take precautionary measures, you should be okay.
One of the old buildings in Binondo
Now, the food. Ah, with plenty of eateries and restaurants to choose from, it's a bit of a challenge to decide where to spend your hard-earned money. If it's your first time here, it's a good idea to tag along someone who knows the place by heart, or someone who has an idea where to go. In our case, we had H, our Chinese friend, for company. He is a regular in Binondo because his family regularly eats here.
Although he already had a place in mind, he still gave us the liberty to choose which restaurant we wanted to try. Kahit ano, basta may sea food, I told him.

We passed by at Estero, a hash house located beside the river where various meat, seafood and vegetables were on display. Just let the waiters know what you want and they'll fish your order right from the display and have it cooked for you pronto. The selection looked yummy but the pungent smell coming from the river was a big turn-off.
Seafood at Estero
We ended up at The President Tea House (809 Salazar St., Binondo, Manila), an old cinema converted into a dining house. H told us this fact as we were ushered by a Filipino waiter to our table. The structure of the interior is similar to that of a cinema indeed, sans the slope. A spacious area in front where the screen had been is separated by a waist-high divider and was temporarily off-limits to other customers - wedding reception as we learned later on.
Peking Duck on display

Famished, we ordered beef salpicao, steamed shrimp and some pork (I don't remember what it's called).
Beef Salpicao
Rice, of course


Some pork dish.
 We wanted to try Peking Duck but a whole order cost P800. We talked about work and H's life while wolfing down our food, which wasn't very great, if I were to be honest. The steamed shrimp was a bit chewy and had an after-taste.

When the waiter approached to collect our bill, H asked for a discount. He was told blank-point that they didn't have discount, so H asked for the manager, whom H talked to in Fokien. We were given a 20% off our total bill. Sweet!

It was already past one when we left The President's Tea House. Full, tired and sleepy, we walked our way back to the LRT station on foot, passing by at Binondo Church where we took cover when the rain came pelting down. I also managed to buy some castanas. 

How to Get to Binodo

If you're commuting, you can take the LRT and get off at Carriedo Station. Walk toward the old BPI building and turn right until you see Binondo Church. You can also take a cab up to Binondo Church. Or hop on a jeepney bound to Sta. Cruz and get off at Carriedo.

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