Welcome to this edition of The Monching Walks, the second one for this year after Muni Market Day. Here’s an interesting piece of information to start off: Chinese food is one of the things that CJ and I both like. The Banawe area is interestingly one tricycle ride away from where we work. However, despite the prevalence of a lot of Chinese restaurants there – we found the prices too expensive. Add to that her sudden craving for siopao (steamed buns), and a trip to the oldest Chinatown in the world was in order. CJ planned out an itinerary and printed some maps for this one. Good thing for both of us as Binondo is not only known for selling affordable items, it also a stop for food finds that don’t burn a hole in your pocket.
We set aside one Saturday for this one. I picked up CJ from her house, parked the car at SM North EDSA and paid the flat rate, and then took the LRT-1 from Roosevelt Station – which was a jeepney ride away. We went down at the LRT-1 Carriedo Station in Santa Cruz, just beside FEATI University. This particular area was familiar, as I went to FEATI University four years ago to attend a cosplay event and I rode the train at this station, headed to Doroteo Jose. Below are two pictures of the BPI building along Escolta, near the Santa Cruz church. It was a rather hot Saturday as we arrived at 10:00 in the morning, but we still enjoyed the walk from there to Binondo proper. We passed by the Saturday X Future Market at the First United Building, but I didn’t have much pictures from there (CJ took most of the pictures). We’ll attend the next iteration, if time permits us to do so.
Now, let’s go back to the walking part. We managed to reach our first destination after consulting the maps that CJ printed out: Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant. It’s known for the Sincerity Fried Chicken, Fried Oyster Cake, and 8 Treasures Machang. We ordered these three dishes to start off the food crawl. It so happened that members of Ivan Man Dy’s Binondo Walks Tour were also present, and one of them passed by our table. Surprisingly, he asked our permission to take a picture of our oyster cake. He remarked that the serving they got was rather small compared to ours. The three dishes only set us back around P400. However, CJ developed allergies after this meal; I have a feeling that the oyster cake triggered her allergy since we both ate the same dish but I didn’t experience any itching.
We finished off our meal at Sincerity, and the hearty lunch gave us enough energy to continue walking. We then consulted the maps once more for the next stop: Wai Ying Fastfood. It had a branch near De La Salle University along Taft Avenue, but we chose to visit the main branch since we were already there. Wai Ying is best known for its dimsum and roasted specialties, but we were rather full so we opted not to order their savory dishes. We ordered some light desserts and Hong Kong-style milk tea. It took us a while before we got seated at the second floor as it was lunch time when we arrived. Nevertheless, we got our orders fast and we spent around P200 only. The egg tart here was unique as it didn’t taste sweet; rather, it tasted mild and the filling had the consistency of egg pie. I was expecting it to taste like Portuguese egg tarts (pasteis de nata), but I was wrong.
As I mentioned above, that particular Saturday had the highest recorded temperature – at 34 degrees Celsius. The walk around Binondo in that heat wasn’t a joke, so we had to stop by and rest. Both of us were feeling hot that time, and we wanted to drink something cool. Enter Cafe Mezzanine, situated above the Eng Bee Tin hopia store and Chuan Kee eatery. It serves a lot of Chinese dishes and is widely known for its kiampong (savory sticky rice with peanuts). Aside from this, the cafe is known for allocating 100% percent of its income for the upkeep of the Binondo Paco Fire Search and Rescue Brigade, one of the many volunteer fire brigades in the capital. If you are familiar with those purple fire trucks that respond during fires and help out the local fire marshals in putting out blazes, they’re the ones I’m talking about. If there’s one person to thank, it’s Gerry Chua of Eng Bee Tin – the same person behind the Chuan Kee and Mr. Ube eateries. We stayed there for the meantime, waiting for the heat to subside.
Finally, we headed over to our final stop as soon as the heat subsided. Dong Bei Dumpling is known for serving the cheapest dumplings in Binondo: 14 pieces for P120. Seeing the dumplings made by hand right before your eyes adds to the restaurant’s appeal. They also steam the dumplings as you order, so it’s guaranteed freshly steamed every time. The only downside of Dong Bei is its small space; you have to wait for other diners to finish before you can take a seat. Thus, it’s no wonder why most people prefer taking out their dumpling orders. Fortunately, we managed to get a seat after some diners left. It was already 4:00 in the afternoon and there weren’t much customers. Aside from dumplings, they also had other Chinese snacks that you can order.
Before we left Binondo, we bought some tablea from La Resurrecion (for hot chocolate) and hopia from Ho-Land. We also bought a dozen sachets of Choc-Nut chocolate drink, which was rather hard to find. I thought it had the taste of peanut (as the Choc-Nut brand is known for the eponymous confection), but I was wrong. It was pure chocolate, though a bit too sweet for my taste. We passed by the Saturday X Future Market again for one last time, and then rode the train at Carriedo station going to Roosevelt. We rode another jeep from Walter Mart Munoz (across Roosevelt Station) that headed to SM North and, after a long day on foot, drove CJ home.
It was a fulfilling Saturday: CJ’s craving for Chinese food was satisified, I managed to visit Binondo again after some time, and I have this blog entry. However, this wouldn’t be possible without the Big Man Above – and we took the chance to thank Him in a unique manner. Below is a picture of the Sto. Cristo de Longos, an image of the Holy Cross enshrined at the corner of San Nicolas and Ongpin streets. Believed by the local Filipino-Chinese community to be miraculous, the shrine fuses Catholic and Oriental traditions in venerating the image. You’d be surprised to see incense sticks and candles being burnt at the shrine, alongside Taoist divining blocks. Just like the maxim “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, we lit a few incense sticks and offered our prayers in silence.
I tried my luck at the divining blocks; when both blocks land with domed sides up, it means no. Both blocks landing with the flat sides up meant that I have to return some other time. Fortunately, one block landed with the domed side up and the other block landed flat side up. It meant a yes; more reason to thank Him.
Until the next post.
(POSTSCRIPT: How’d you like the new blog banner?)