Five Hours in Binondo

Two years ago, I was glued to a radio program offering public service nationwide. Since there was a survey regarding the profusion of obesity cases among Filipinos conducted during that time, the anchors placed the survey to the pedestal and made it appear as one of the fieriest issues in the country. They invited a nutritionist dietitian to guest on their show to tackle proper and healthy diet. I found the topic interesting for health is an issue I easily get into, so I took a break anon from my regular routine which at that time dealt with extensive tracking of news and current events. I am no health buff but I am sentient for I want to enjoy my life sans getting rid of one of my favorites—eating. One thing I learned from the program is “a person who doesn’t have any health problems must be conscious on what he eats at the age of25.”Okay. IT IS TWENTY FIVE! Being 22 then, I was reminded that I still have three more years to gorge all the food that are saporific to my taste buds and indulge into food-trip without feeling sinful of what I had allowed my stomach to digest. And when I hear of food-trip in Manila, Binondo—although sounds as a cliché—comes first.

Welcome to Binondo

Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, was a huge prey of two affable souls on one fine Saturday searching for worthy food finds. It is a sanctuary of voracious eaters and food enthusiasts for it caters delectable tummy fillers ranging from street foods to cheap and affordable cafeterias to high-end restaurants. Binondo doesn’t only offer Chinese delicacies; Filipino cuisines are also budding here.

Food is a temptation which is very hard to repel even to a nutritionist who knows the amount of calories, carbohydrates, proteins she would acquire from every dish. What more to me whose only concern is the price and taste of a food? Anyway, my friend (who was with me during this adventure) is a nutritionist working for Nestle who used to give me conundrums about the nutrients of the food I intake when we were still working in the same company.  One good thing about her though is she’s not a picky eater, making it effortless for me to coax her to get thrilled on every menu that we ordered, even the exotic ones.

Sta. Cruz Church

Binondo Church

We first stopped at Sta. Cruz and Binondo churches before we finally settled on deciding what to eat. We didn’t have the Binondo map and itinerary prepared so the main challenge for ravenous invaders like us was finding the first-rate dwelling to calm our tummies. We relentlessly stride for an hour until a lilac signage held our eyes immovable—in a perfectly carved yellow paint says: Mr. Ube rice and noodle house. “Oh that’s the restaurant my friend kept on bragging these past days,” Rechel ecstatically uttered. With no further comment, we went inside. We were both surprised when the sliding glass door with a sensor automatically opened, giving us a real feel that we are guests. At last, first meal of the day!

Mr. Ube especialty (P115)

Pork Shomai (P50)

Enjoying the cozy ambience (Green tea-P28, Sago and Gulaman-P48)

We paired the house’s free soup with Mr. Ube specialty (solo order, but it’s good for two), 5 pieces of shomai (one order), green tea, and sago and gulaman. I’m not a pancit lover that’s why I’m very fastidious when I taste one, but Mr. Ube specialty had exceeded my standards. Aside from seafood and meat, it is also blended with egg, making it seem like Lomi without broth. Shomai should not also be unkempt for it is matched perfectly with sweet soy sauce.  Their sago and gulaman was my refresher, better than the two famous fast-food chains which offer the same beverage. I didn’t like their green tea though, however it was tolerable. I’d rather not try it again, maybe because my taste buds could not accept green tea as a refreshing drink. Free soup was bland. I think their chef has to improve its taste.  My overall experience was above average. Apart from the luscious dishes, it also offers air-conditioned and cozy ambience. Another good thing about Mr. Ube is they don’t use Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).

One of the Chinese stores in Binondo

Ensuing to our supposed breakfast turned brunch was leisurely walk around Chinatown. It was high time to burn some calories, loiter and get lost. The burgeoning of Filipino cuisines was one thing I noticed in the area, of course not counting the presence of new stores which I can’t remember were here during my previous visits five years ago. We bought some goodies too and enjoyed queuing with other tourists who ransack various Chinese stores.

When Chinese pray, they offer incense instead of candles.

Half past 12 in the afternoon, we were already exhausted and the need to get sedated was indispensable so we hurriedly swerved left at Estero Fast Food. Don’t be bewildered what’s beyond the name “Estero” for the long pile of cafeterias is factually situated beside an inlet canal. You wonder about the stench? It wasn’t suffocating. In fact, I didn’t notice if there was pungent air circling in the zone whenever the wind blows to East.

Fried Frog Legs with Chili (P110)

Mixed Seafood (P95)

We had fried frog legs with chili and mixed seafoods with two freezing bottles of softdrinks. It was the first time of my friend to eat frog and she was instantly seized by its palatable flavor—her appetite and expressions narrated the whole story. Though I have tried frog tinola and frog adobo during my younger years (this is very common in Zambales), I still find fried frog with chili a new recipe to recommend to my relatives who are fond of eating frog. Mixed seafood is cooked like chopsuey, just replace the veggies with squid, clams, and shrimp. That’s it!

My food affair has to end with a dragon fruit and packs of pastillas on my hand while I count the remaining months I have before I reach 25. Reaching silver year will definitely remind me of two rumbling words as I pursue my venture as a foodie: consciousness and limitation. The former as a reminder in picking the right food while the latter as a caution whenever I extend yonder what is right. Well, that is if I am stout enough to resist the temptation that food brings and if I would adhere to the point of view the nutritionist I came across with when I was 22. Although most of the time, when I see food before me, especially sweets and seafoods, I become weak and easily give in. I will see then when I turn 25.

Food is best consumed when it is good and at the same time it is free.

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14 thoughts on “Five Hours in Binondo

  1. This is your first blog about food and this is really nice (health concious!?hehe). Parang gusto ko sumama s next photowalk-slash-foodtrip mu s Binondo (if you are planning to do more blogs about food/exotic foods!)hehe.. Prang best time pumunta jan is pahapon taz foodtrip s iba-ibang resto! Fave ko ang siomai :). Thank you for sharing this to us!

  2. Napapalunok tuloy ako habang nagta-type ng komento, dati kse halos every week kaming pumupunta djan sa may Ongpin para lang kumain ng masasarap na Chinese food. Naalala ko pa nga ung mga dating restaurants gaya ng Royal Garden, President Restaurant at ung bulaluhan djan sa may estero… :P

    isama mo na ung yummylicious na hopia djan malapit sa may simbahan. :)

  3. It was only last year when I got to visit Binondo with the 1st batch of PTB. The food is really good, kaso mejo nabitin ako. I hope to do the Binondo walk again. Btw, I love tyour shot of Binondo church, ewan ko ba, jan ang meet up namen date pero ni isa wala akong photo nyan. haha

  4. Ooooooh I never did pay much attention to Mr. Ube before cause I wanted to go to the less fancier looking ones… but seeing that Green Tea…. I’ll have to go back AGAIN!

    Estero looks a bit grimy, but I go there everytime I’m in Binondo to food trip! Spicy frog legs! :D

  5. I remember last year namin in college, the barkada decided to go to a “cultural/gastronomical immersion” sa binondo and quiapo, naloka lang kami sa dami ng pagkain! Nakakagutom ‘tong post na ‘to!

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