Away for the Weekend: Exploring the streets of Binondo

The sweltering heat, the halo-halo stalls and the dry, monsoon winds – summer season is officially here! I actually have mixed feelings about summer. I love the fact that it’s not wet but i also hate it because you sweat a lot. However, what I think is truly charming about summer is the fact that it warrants you the opportunity to go on limitless adventures.

This year, I began my summer adventure with a trip to Binondo, the old business district of Manila. I have long wanted to go to Binondo to take a photo of the church and, of course, sample authentic Chinese cooking.

I excitedly took out my camera as we went down in front of Binondo Church. However, my excitement was quickly replaced with disappointment because my SLR was acting up. The LCD kept on displaying an error message. I attempted to remedy the problem – I turned it off, then on again, I took out the battery, I removed the lens, cleaned the contact points then put the lens back again – to no avail. After a few attempts, I was finally able to take one photo of Binondo Church. After that, I couldn’t take shots again so I just gave up.

Binondo Church
Binondo Church

From Binondo Church, we decided to walk all the way to Sta. Cruz Church and pass through Ongpin St. As we began traversing Ongpin St., we were immediately tempted to try the first restaurant we saw – Tasty Dumplings. As mentioned earlier, I have long wanted to try Chinese food in Binondo because of all the delicious stories I hear about these.

We ordered steamed meat dumplings and one big bowl of mushroom ball noodles. The noodles were served but we were disappointed to find out that it was soup-based. We thought that we ordered pancit. Apparently, you had to explicitly say to the waiter that you are ordering pancit, else, they’ll immediately assume that it’s noodle soup (or mami style). We took a sip of the soup and it was good – tasty and meaty.

Mushroom ball soup
Mushroom ball soup
Steamed dumplings
Steamed dumplings

Then came the six-piece steamed dumplings. These looked absolutely like gyoza. I prepared the dipping sauce – soy sauce, chili-garlic (the restaurant uses green chili) and…no calamansi? I asked for calamansi but the waiter informed me that what they had was only vinegar. Vinegar-soy-chili sauce for dumplings? That didn’t sound too appetizing so we just settled for soy sauce-chili combination.

I couldn’t wait for my first bite so I dipped my first dumpling in the sauce and put it in my mouth. It didn’t taste anything like the Chinese dumplings I was expecting. It tasted like gyoza. Again, utterly disappointing. The wrapper was thick and was starchy…too starchy. As for the noodles, we were met with more disappointment as the noodles were also very starchy. The mushroom balls, on the other hand, tasted more like squid balls. After a few more bites and some experimentation with the sauce, we decided to just have the remaining food wrapped and gave it to a lady beggar outside the store.

Feeling frustrated, we went to Eng Bee Tin to buy hopia. I bought two combinations: one of ube and pastillas and another of ube and cheese.We ate the hopia monggo as we walked along Ongpin St.

A few moments later, we arrived at Sta. Cruz Church. We were hesitant to take photos of the Church because of some “suspicious-looking” people outside the church so we decided not to.

From Sta. Cruz Church, we took a jeep to Intramuros. We immediately headed to the Manila Cathedral and took photos. I tried my camera again and, luckily, I was able to capture a few pictures of Manila Cathedral.

Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral

Of course, our outing will not be complete without a visit to Luneta. A few walks around Luneta and a stroll around the spruced up relief map of the Philippines, then we decided to head back to La Loma for dinner. We originally planned to eat at Eat Fresh but, unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there.

So off we went to Chic Boy where we had grilled liempo, chicken inasal, grilled eggplants and green mango salad.

It was already very late when we finished dinner so we said our goodbyes soon after.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Then again you really never found the heart of binondo, if you did, you'll find a store where the food is great, next would be the shop that is cooking fried siopao that really really good and doesn't need a sauce, hope next time you'd find both of them and not be disappointed πŸ™‚

  2. Exactly. It was our first time; we never got around much. We vowed to go back and explore Binondo more. Hope you can tell me where it is located. Or what the name of the store is.

  3. Mai Cochico says:

    Binondo will always be a familiar place to me. I’m sorry for your experience with that restaurant, in my opinion, you should have eaten in Eng Bee Tin instead! Their food is awesome and really satisfying!

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Yup, I’ve heard about them. I should try it there the next time I go to Binondo.

  4. pinkpepperparadise says:

    I have never been in Manila, but planning to travel there one day. The mushroom ball soup looks great! I never tryed it and now I can’t wait to taste it but need to find a good restaurant!

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Yes, please include Philippines in your places-to-visit-soon list. πŸ™‚

  5. I have it when you have disappointing food when you visit somewhere new. Hope the rest of your visit was enjoyable though, it definitely looks like an interesting place.

    Rosie |

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Yes, it was generally good.

  6. Joanna says:

    it’s great when you go exploring neighborhoods of your own city. Sorry to hear you are having problems with your camera, you should get it cleaned up, sometimes dust may be the problem. Those dumplings look great, they are one of my favorite asian foods.

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Sadly, the camera had to retire. Bought a new one already. I love dumplings, too!

  7. Nothing better than steamed dumplings! I’m lucky that my mum is Chinese so I get to enjoy them at home all the time. I’m sure they’re much more authentic in Asia though πŸ™‚

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      I’m sure the dumplings made by your mom are just as good. πŸ™‚

  8. Ana De Jesus says:

    It sucks that the dumplings was a disappointment but I hope you find your perfect dumpling soon. I love dumplings.

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      I was just expecting too much maybe. Oh well, I can try other restaurants the next time I go there.

  9. Jessica Ayun says:

    Manila has still really lots of real food to offer. Just look for the right place to buy. A big chinese influence indeed. The Mushroom ball soup is perfect for the rainy season. πŸ™‚

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      I couldn’t agree more. πŸ™‚

  10. lizellecruz says:

    It is indeed really nice to explore Manila every now and then. Manila Cathedral still remains as one of the most beautiful churches I have seen in Manila πŸ™‚

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Oh, yeah. I love Manila Cathedral.

  11. karlapitzen says:

    Sounds like you had some frustrations with your camera and the food. The Manila Cathedral photo turned out beautifully though.

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      One of the few good photos that day. Glad I was able to get a good shot of it.

  12. Wow, I had never heard of this place though I have heard og Manila many times before. Looks like you had a great time exploring this place. I particularly liked the photograph of the church.

  13. maryamkabir says:

    I hate having bad experiences when I travel especially when it comes to restaurants πŸ™‚ But it seems like you had a good time anyway ! I never heard of that place by the way

  14. I would love to visit Manila. I heard the food is great there.So sorry you did not have good experience with the food.

  15. Kage says:

    There are always these hidden gems placed in the heart of travelled cities. I’ve never heard of Binondo but it looks very pretty, hope to check it out on my future trips.

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Do check it out.

  16. Anamika Ojha says:

    I’ve never been to Manila but would love to go someday in my life! Those Mushroom ball soup and Steamed dumplings look delicious!

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Yup, visit Manila soon!

  17. Vlad Vaida says:

    Ahhh Binondo seems so great! Heard some great stuff about Luneta. Glad you enjoyed your stay!

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      It was a great place, the heart of old Manila.

  18. DavidTofie says:

    Never heard of this cool loking place, It’s awesome to explore new unknow places. This looks promising πŸ™‚

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Yup, visit it if you have the chance.

  19. Anwar says:

    I have not ever been in Manila, I’m sure you had great time there, Yeah cameras don’t really want to work when you’re trying to capture really good images, Thank you for sharing this

    1. Ivan Jose says:

      Thank you for dropping by as well!

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