357 – On The Mr. Ube Experience (Part 1)

Hopia (pronounced hop-ya, with the second syllable sounding like the second syllable in the word “apiary”) is a baked pastry filled with mung bean, jackfruit or purple yam (ube) that is a favorite snack in both Indonesia and the Philippines. The brand Eng Bee Tin, which is more than a century old as of writing, is synonymous with the best hopia.

From its beginnings in 1912 as a purveyor of hopia and tikoy (pronounced tee-coy, the equivalent of the Chinese nian gao), Eng Bee Tin has diversified to other foods as well. The firm originally established by Chua Chiu Hong was about to permanently close shop in the 1980s, but the timely intervention of his eldest son Gerry “Mr. Ube” Chua saved the day. Gerry pioneered the company’s ube hopia after discovering the popularity of ube ice cream.

Various food establishments under the aegis of Eng Bee Tin‘s UBE Group include Great Buddha Café, Chuan Kee Eatery, Café Mezzanine and Mr. Ube Rice and Noodle House. I’ve featured Café Mezzanine in a post from 2015 alongside other favorites in Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown and the world’s oldest. Mr. Ube also donates violet-colored fire trucks used by volunteer fire brigades to give back to the community, and a portion of the profits from Café Mezzanine is allocated to the acquisition of these trucks and support for these firefighting squads.

This time, Mr. Ube takes the center stage. Located across St. Luke’s Medical Center along Eulogio Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Mr. Ube is nestled in between a pawn shop and the main office of Philippine music-oriented publication PULP Magazine. The joint is rather narrow at the entrance as Eng Bee Tin products are displayed, with the counter positioned facing the exit. Those wishing to dine in ought to walk further inside the establishment as the seats for diners are located there.

This branch is one of two common spots me and long-time friend Wil often agree to meet up at, given that he lives some distance away from it. I have also been to its kiosk the at Ayala Malls Cloverleaf food court, with Wil in tow.

My first visit to the kiosk was back in 2018, and this was followed by another visit the next year in 2019 – before the pandemic. In both instances, one dish stood out among the rest – Mr. Ube‘s Salted Egg Chicken Rice. This dish consists of chicken pieces deep fried and coated in salted egg sauce, with curry leaves cooked the same way mixed in for that additional texture.

While the dish is admittedly salty due to the salted duck egg powder used, it quickly became a favorite dish of mine. In fact, I even featured it in a triptych from 2018. But three years later, did the Salted Egg Chicken Rice remain the same?

I’ll end the first post of this two-part entry here. Keep your eyes here on The Monching’s Guide for the second post!


11 thoughts on “357 – On The Mr. Ube Experience (Part 1)

  1. You sparked my interest about Hopia. 🤩 I‘ve never heard from it, but I‘ll absolutely have to check if I can find it here. Especially the Jackfruit filled version makes me curious. 😋

    I‘m already looking for your next post about the salted egg chicken rice, too. I wonder if it changed over the years. 🤔

    • You’re in luck, as there’s an Indonesian version! 😁 I’ve read that it’s called bakpia over there, with one variation called bakpia pathok being close to the one here in Manila. Hope you can try it!

      For the salted egg chicken rice though, I won’t spoil too much and I’ll just let Part 2 do the talking. 😅

      • Oh, hehe, now I got it: we‘re talking about Pia cakes. 😁 They looked so different on your photos that I didn‘t recognize them.
        My husband eats them very often, but I‘m not that much a fan of them. Probably because I haven‘t found any with jackfruit-filling yet (I‘ll absolutely have to check for these as I‘m a huge jackfruit fan). Here in stores, there’s usually just the purple mung bean or pandan filled version. Both not really my favorite flavors, unfortunately. 😞

        Sure, I‘m really looking forward to part 2 and the salted egg chicken rice. I love salted eggs! 🤩👍

  2. I haven’t dined at any Mr. Ube’s, but this post made me miss Eng Bee Tin’s hopia! Did you know that they now have durian-flavored hopia? I bought it once out of curiosity, and it was so damn good! I miss going to Binondo—the chaos, the food. Hay.. 😭

    • Yes, I’ve tried it out too — though not really much a fan of it. Eng Bee Tin’s new products — Brownie Hopia, Pork Floss Hopia, and Pineapple Cake — are favorites of mine! 😄 Mabuti na lang at may kiosk na sila sa SM Fairview!

      Yeah, a visit to Binondo is a must, especially that Chinese New Year is next week! 🧧🧨🌕 Di bale, when you get back to the Philippines!

  3. That salted egg chicken rice sounds really good! We’re fortunate to be a part of a Filipino-American group over here that holds a big cookout twice a year– chicken adobo and hopia are two consistent favorites at that event, though of course there is so much good food!

    • It sure is, Sarah! But I’ll let Part 2 explain more — it’s due next Monday.

      Chicken adobo is always a winner in Filipino celebrations! For hopia, most would prefer to eat it as a snack. I personally enjoy it with black coffee. ☕

  4. Pingback: 358 – On The Mr. Ube Experience (Part 2) | The Monching's Guide

  5. Pingback: 360 – On A 2022 Q4 Update (Part 1) | The Monching's Guide

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