Urban Elite, the alumni leg of UPLB Street Jazz which I am a part of, conducts activities from time to time just because. One time we held a team building activity in a private resort in Calauan called Samland, which by the way was a blast. Mostly we do activities like this just so we can spend time with each other. Most of us being corporate slaves by now, we sometimes feel the need to “escape”. That simply means we need to be with people who make us happy and can give us a good laugh, be with people who have the same passion, and be de-stressed and rejuvenated. 🙂
However, most of the time these activities would wipe our wallets clean, so very often I would suggest cheap but still fun getaways. Just like the La Mesa Ecopark, where one can do some nature-tripping activities – trek, climb, bike, swim, fish, etc. – at a very affordable rate. [Side comment: We did went to La Mesa Ecopark, but since it was such a hot hot day, we only had a quick tour around the park. Then spent the rest of the day loitering in a rented cottage just playing our favorite games, Pinoy Henyo and charades. Still FUN FUN FUN.]
Another cheap activity we did was food tripping in Binondo. Ever since I read about Binondo food tripping in some travel blogs I have constantly interjected it in our conversations with Elite, urging them that we try this experience. Not everyone was enthusiastic though, perhaps because we know less about Binondo. So what I did, I collected information from different blogs and came up with an itinerary that covers most of the “highly recommended” dishes and shops in Binondo. I also created a map of Binondo with plots of the food hubs.
One day, I was able to convince them to go. There were eleven of us available, Me, Zen, Tope, Cyril, Sabrina, Mariel, Roy, Ayie, Jude, VJ and his friend Nico – that’s already a huge crowd since it is always a challenge to find a common free time for us.
WE GOT LOST!
It took us some time to find the Binondo church, which was our take-off point.
So anyway, we started with TASTY DUMPLINGS. It was practically just beside the church. Here, we ordered their famous porkchop noodles, Chinese-style iced tea, and of course their specialty, dumplings!
The dumplings were heavenly. Because of it I was tempted to just eat in Tasty Dumplings and forget about the rest of the trip. 🙂 The porkchop noodles was also very good. But silly us, we did not realize we are supposed to put the porkchop into the noodle soup. But still we were very satisfied, especially Mariel who almost got herself full. On our first stop!
Our second stop was CAFE MEZZANINE. Here, we ordered kiampong, as recommended by the blogs I’ve read, and the dreaded Soup No. 5. Why dreaded? You don’t know what it is made of? You better not ask. *grin*
Caffe Mezzanine is a charity-based restaurant. The proceeds of its business operations go to the volunteer fire rescue team in Binondo. I learned about this fact from the manager who was kind enough to give us a friendly welcome, a brief background of the restaurant, and free CDs about fire safety. San ka pa!
By the way, the kiampong was so-so. It was too heavy a dish for food tripping. However, the Soup No. 5 was unexpectedly good. I promised not to fear eating it again next time. 🙂
Our next stop was DONG BEI DUMPLINGS. It is a small twelve-seater shop that is quite challenging to look for. Our map had seemed to fail us since we couldn’t find Dong Bei Dumplings on the street where it is supposed be. Good thing a very kind Tsinoy soul helped us. Perhaps he saw the desperation in our eyes, dehydrated under the cruel mid-day sun, thus he couldn’t help but ask us where we were heading. He guided us through an almost invisible alley, past a huge archway, and then a left turn to a dark tunnel, which led us to a rabbit hole, the store’s entrance. Just kidding! Dong Bei Dumplings was just in the next street, we made a left turn too late.
The store reminds me a lot of PAPUS SIOMAI in Elbi. It was small, tight, and the food was being prepared right at the next table. And just like Papus, the food was great. 🙂 We ordered a mix of fried and steamed dumplings. The fried ones were cooked pancake-style. Yum yum!
Locating the shops in Binondo is quite a challenge. And I can sense that some people around us were almost irritated by our touristy atmosphere. Picture-taking here and there, stopping very often to check the map, and asking people for directions. There’s this guy who I’m pretty sure has bumped me in purpose because I was in his way. *shrugs* I ignored him though. I was having too much fun from the experience to pick a fight. 🙂
Our next stop was the PRESIDENT TEA HOUSE. We decided this to be our “lunch stop” since Mariel was overly hungry at this point (I hope she’s not reading this. *grin*)
The complimentary tea was good. And then we ordered bird’s eye dumplings (which is NOT made from an actual bird eye), and a platter of mixed food. The latter consisted of century eggs, chicken meat slices, seafood, and other irresistibly delicious objects that are fatal to me.
Right beside the Presidential Tea House is SHIN TAI SHANG FOODS. Here, you can stopover for some sweets. They sell really really good mochi! Even better than the ones I bought in Hong Kong airport, which I assume are A-grade. They also have different-flavored mochi cakes which are highly recommended in the blogs I read. I didn’t like it much though.
After we left the shop, I promised myself to return here when I have more money. There were a lot of nice looking goodies that I did not purchase due to budget constraints.
Our next stop was MASUKI. It was a bit uneventful perhaps because we were starting to get full. So we just sat there, ordered, ate, and left. We had the giant siopao and some beef wanton noodles. I’d say they were great. Perhaps the second best set of food we ate that day. Yes, only ‘second’. The first would have to be the food from our last stop.
Can I interject at this point that I am now actually salivating. Like my glands are literally activated producing whatever –ase it produces — sorry, I forgot my enzymes.
Writing this entry triggers my tongue memory, if such thing exists. Especially as I will now be talking about the yummiest dishes we had that day. WAI YING FASTFOOD is in the same street as Masuki, and it served various well-prepared food – from Cho Fan to fried dumpling curry to century egg siomai. I love this shop so much I want to give it an award.
If I have to choose ONLY one of all the food stops we visited, I’d have to go for Wai Ying. It has enough variety and their cuisine is simply a stand out. I wish my allergies in seafood would go away, I want to experience an unrestricted Wai Ying devouring session.
And to make the Wai Ying experience even more memorable, Ayie brought (me) this. 🙂
She knows that I’m an ultimate sucker for Top Deck, and that I died when I learned it was phased out in the Philippines. So when she discovered that someone she knows sells Top Deck, imported from Australia, she immediately ordered a large slab for all of us. Sweet!
So anyway, that capped our great Binondo experience. I really had fun masticating all those yummies, and I wish I could go back very very soon. 🙂
By the way, I apologize for not indicating any price. I simply forgot the prices. But anyway, if my memory serves me right, we only spent around P300-400 each! That’s for the entire day of lamon.
Sulit na sulit na diba?