What’s another thing you do in Chinatown other than buying Chinese medicines? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Food!!! Binondo is known for its authentic Chinese restaurants that serves authentic Chinese meals. Today, I will give you four of the well-known restaurants and some food tidbits along the streets of Ongpin, not only because of its food, but also because of its history.
There are two oldest restaurants in Binodo that till existing as of today, and they still serve the best meal that your great-great Grandfather must have eaten. First, we visit Ambos Mundos. Ambos Mundos was established in 1888. 1888? Wow! Yes and it was said that the restaurant is definitely “Rizal” in taste. Upon entering, the first one that will greet you are their mascots - large potbellied pigs that lay lazily near the door. There is this old kastilla atmosphere in the restaurant since it is highly decorated with antique narra furniture.
They specialized in Spanish and Chinese cuisine and if you manage to come to this place, please order their specialty, the Paella Ambos, Morcon and their Asado.
Then there is Toho Antigua Panciteria (now known as the New Toho Food). This panciteria was also established in 1888. Legend says that Andres Bonifacio dated his wife here in Toho where they ate Toho’s special asado pork. It was also said that Jose Rizal frequent the place. Both Fernado Poe Sr. and Fernando Poe Jr. were patrons of this restaurant, so does the late King of Philippine comedy, Dolphy.
One thing that Toho is very proud of is that their recipe didn’t change, so that means you will still taste what the Katipuneros eat at the very same place. I manage to taste their asado and yes,the whole meat was smoked till tender, just like how your great-great Grandmother used to make it.
Along the street near Carvajal is a store that sells different Chinese sweets. I’m talking about those sweet and sour champoy. There are other candies too, like that thin, round haw flakes, and… I don’t know – I just can’t pronounce the name of those delicacies. Anyway, the best thing about this store is that they give you a free taste first, before they encourage you to buy. Around the area are bakeries like Poland, Holand (what with all this “land?”) and Eng Bee Tin which are famous for their hopia, machang, tikoy and other Chinese pasties.
Next on the list is Sincerity. The restaurant was established in 1956 and personally I find it quite, uh… showbiz since the place is frequently visited by showbiz personalities, like Ms. Kis Aquino. Sincerity is known for their fried chicken, but what I really like is their winter melon tea which is their own brew. By the way, winter melon is what we called Kundol in Tagalog. They also serve coolers like Halo-Halo and Creamy Grass Jelly with Tapioca (hey use real fresh milk.) Sincerity is also known for their good noodle menus like Cha Misua and Chami. Ok, for your information, Chami’s noodles are fatter comparing to Cha Misua.
Last but not the least is Maki Place (Shin Din Kha Maki Place). Now, we sometimes think that congee (lugaw) is what the Chinese eat as comfort food. I learned that other than congee, Chinese also love to eat Maki. Maki is a thick, velvety soup made of fish, beef or pork with a mixture of cornstarch, egg white and oil. I find it very tasty. Other than maki, they also specialized in lumpia, and wow! Unike other lumpia that I saw, their lumpia is a large, square like -wrapped bag full of delicious combination of spices and meat. They also give demonstrations on how to wrap lumpia the Chinese way. They also serve this very delicious lemon tea (which by the way, their original brew) and I also love their radish cake.
So, that’s it folks. When you visit Binondo, just try to look for the following restaurants and you really don’t need to go to Hong Kong to experience fine Chinese cuisine. They are all just a jeepney ride away.