MANILA – If you’re heading to Binondo for a food trip, go beyond the usual siopao, siomai and pancit and try some lesser known dishes.
Here are six unique eats in our very own Chinatown as sampled by ABS-CBNnews.com during a food tour organized by Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks for the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCOM), which used to be headquartered in Binondo.
Satay guisado at Quick Snack. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Quick Snack, a hole in the wall restaurant along Carvajal Street, is a favorite among locals for its home-cooked specialties. One of the unique creations of its owner, Ahma Pilar, is a noodle dish that combines the flavors of China and Indonesia.
Satay guisado consists of egg noodles stir-fried in peanut sauce with slivers of beef and secret spices and topped with crunchy kangkong. According to Dy, this dish cannot be found anywhere else in Binondo.
While it may be a bit too spicy for some, the satay guisado is a must-try dish for its big flavors.
Kuchay ah at Quick Snack. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Another dish at Quick Snack that stands out is a Chinese dish called kuchay ah, which looks a lot like an empanada.
Dy said kuchay (or ku-tsai, as pronounced by the Chinese), is another word for chives, which is the main stuffing of the pastry. Kuchay ah also contains ground pork.
Tasty and quite filling, kuchay ah is best eaten warm during breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
‘Old school’ lumpia
Lumpia filling at New Po Heng Lumpia House. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Lumpia, a dish of Chinese origin, is quite familiar to Filipinos. But according to Dy, many have yet to try it in its traditional form.
New Po Heng Lumpia House, located along Quintin Paredes Street, is one of the few restaurants in Manila that serve authentic lumpia, said Dy. Unlike most commercial establishments, theirs is neither swimming in sauce nor fried and filled with ground meat.
The fresh roll is filled with the usual vegetables and a secret sweet sauce, and is best topped with bits of bihon and ground peanuts, minced garlic with vinegar, and a few drops of hot sauce for that added kick.
Boiled dumplings with chives at Dong Bei. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
If you are a fan of Chinese dumplings, head to Dong Bei along Yuchengco Street to try something a bit different.
Instead of the usual steamed siomai, Dong Bei specializes in boiled dumplings, which originated in the northern provinces of China, according to Dy. These dumplings can be filled with chives, meat or shrimp.
“It’s something that most Chinoys (Chinese-Filipinos) are not even familiar with,” he said.
Always fresh and crafted by hand, Dong Bei’s dumplings are delicious and affordable. Enjoy it with the restaurant’s sauce, which is a mix of soy sauce and vinegar.
Chicken sinjang at Dong Bei Dumpling. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
While you’re at Dong Bei, make sure to order another unique dish that shows the Indian influences on Chinese cuisine.
According to Dy, chicken sinjang is well-loved in the northern part of China. The dish consists of stir-fried chicken and vegetables that are seasoned with secret spices and topped with sesame seeds, although it also comes in a beef variant.
The taste of cumin, one of the main ingredients in curry powder, figures prominently in chicken sinjang. As Dy would say, it tastes more like an Indian dish than a Chinese specialty.
Custard hopia at Eng Bee Tin. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
For dessert (and pasalubong), go to the main branch of Eng Bee Tin along Ongpin Street and check out the store’s different hopia flavors.
A must-try here is the chilled custard variant, which is more like a cross between a hopia and an egg tart. According to Eng Bee Tin, it is the first of its kind in the country.
The soft pastry goes well with the sweet, custard filling, and is ideal for those who are not into the flaky crust of the traditional hopia.