After a few days of rain, a bright and sunny Manila welcomed me as I step off the plane. It was the start of my 4-day vacation in Manila, a much-needed one after a month of being toxic at work to attend my cousin's wedding. I was actually having second thoughts about this trip but having scored promo tickets a month prior to this travel was a sign for me to push this one to happen. Well, I'm happy I did.
Months prior to my travel, I was actually clueless what to do in Manila during that trip. It was only until Dominic, the travel blogger aka Dong Ho, introduced the idea of a Binondo food trip in one of our conversations. I can barely remember how it all began, whether it was because of my desire to taste a xiao long bao and fried siopao or just his friendly gesture of bringing me to Binondo for a food trip, I honestly could no longer tell. All I knew was that I was game for one.
Dom and I met each other at Bay 7 of NAIA 3 from where we then drove off to the busy streets of Binondo. He asked me if I wanted to get coffee first but since I already had my caffeine fix before the flight, I told him to go directly to the first pitstop of the foodtrip.
It was already 9 in the morning and after parking his car in a mall, we headed to our first destination, the New Po-Heng Lumpia House. Being the direction-impaired that I am, I was just following Dom's footsteps until we reached a secluded hallway of a building where this dining establishment is located. It's one of those simple-looking restaurants - nothing fancy but with a killer specialty, their fresh lumpia.
This freshly-rolled lumpia was so far the best I've tried in my entire life even though it might first command you to lose your poise in every bite. It's fat, and packed with a tasteful mixture of shredded vegetable, tofu, seaweed and lots of ground peanuts. I preferred to eat it as it is, no sauce nor additional garlic toppings, since I'm not a big fan of garlic anyway. It was delicious enough that I can finish the entire piece but since we were on a foodtrip, I still had to make room for the other food we were about to enjoy.
It was also a privilege to bump into Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks. He was in his element - guiding tourists for a cultural and gastronomic exploration of Binondo. He even offered to include us in his tour but we were too shy to accept his invitation since we also had our itineraries ready.
Aside from fresh lumpia, New Po-Heng also offers dishes like this soup below, but the quality of the fresh lumpia really stood out from the rest of their offerings.
Our 2nd pitstop was at Dong Bei Dumplings for no other than, of course, their dumplings. We were actually too early that they were still on process of preparing dumplings for the day so we just waited inside their restaurant while observing their workers doing their thing. It was just a very small restaurant, somewhat similar to a makeshift kitchen with a few tables. I was already wondering how Ivan's tour group could fit in since it was also part of their walk tour.
We ordered 14 pieces of fried dumplings stuffed with pork and chives. I opted for the fried one as I thought that the steamed dumpling would be too soggy for the palate. It was surprisingly delicious - I can savor the meat and the spices however I find the vegetables a bit overpowering, but still delicious. Nonetheless, we were able to finish everything within an hour while pairing them up with a can of cold Wong Lo Kat Chinese Herbal Tea.
Of course, a walk tour around Binondo entails getting lost and exploring the temples and churches around the area. We decided to drop by the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo and checked out the Chinese temples nearby.
A Binondo foodtrip wouldn't be complete without grabbing their famous Shanghai Fried Siopao. It has the size which just fits in the palm of my hand but the crispiness of its bottom part makes it different from the usual siopao we're enjoying. It was just a small stall so we decided to look for an air-conditioned place where we could devour the fried siopao and get myself another dose of caffeine.
We kept on walking until we reached the Lucky Rainbow Seafood Restaurant. Their menu was packed with loads of Chinese dishes to choose from but I was only able to save room in my tummy for an order of Xiao Long Bao. I was sensing that my tummy was already about to explode after all those gastronomic delights but nooo, I could not leave Binondo without Xiao Long Bao. The restaurant's version of Xiao Long Bao reached my expectations as the meat core was flavorful and the soup inside tasted really really good. Two thumbs up and I went out of the restaurant as one full, happy kid!
If there's one thing that I would like to experience over and over again every time I set foot in Manila, it will be this Binondo Foodtrip. Thank you very much to Dominic for allocating time and resources which allowed me to experience this. Next time, it's going to be my treat.
Oh by the way, I forgot about the #Hopia. Maybe, hopefully, next time.