posted by: Gypsygal Prime
Note to self: I should really spend more time in the gym.
I was thinking about this, out of guilt, or maybe out of vanity, as I munched on a spring roll (which, I have to remind all you foodies there, really goes well with a dollop of that sweet brown syrup and some hot sauce).
That was perhaps my fifth or sixth mini-meal in the four-hour Binondo Food Wok tour with Ivan Man Dy. Yup I spent one Saturday afternoon participating in this very popular food tour led by self-described street walker -and Anthony Bourdain’s guide to Manila.
I admit that I joined this tour out of curiosity. I’ve long been a denizen of Manila and have frequently dined and shopped with family and colleagues here as the famed Chinatown district is near my house and my office.
And that’s the problem with familiarity – you take things for granted. I never thought that something as ordinary as Binondo can be, well, a tourist spot.
Nor I did expect that one Binondo Food Wok Tour group can actually be big enough to accommodate as much as 40 people!! And while there are some foreigners in the group, the majority are Pinoys. There’s not even a clear demographic. Clearly food – or a culinary tour for that matter- attracts just about any one .
But back to the spring roll (better known as lumpiang gulay here). I couldn’t believe that just behind one of the bank buildings that line Quintin Paredes Street is a small eatery that serves what is perhaps one of the best spring rolls that I had./ But it wasn’t just lumpia. I ate several pieces of hopia (love the ube flavor, but so is the pineapple one), fried siopao, tikoy, a small bowl of fishball soup, kiampong and freshly-made boiled (not steamed) dumplings. In some cases, we sit down for a meal, but most of the times, we eat , standing up, in front of stalls as Ivan talks about Binondo and Filipino Chinese cuisine.
Binondo is known for two things, says Ivan. Food and shopping. He will later expound on Binondo’s link to perhaps one of the world’s largest flea market – Divisoria, and how Binondo, which is first and foremost a commercial district, has streets which are just dedicated to certain type of businesses. So you go to Evangelista st. for electronic parts, Tomas Pinpin st. for furniture, and Ongpin st. for jewelry.
Binondo, after all, used to be the country’s premier business district. This district was created in the 16th century by the Spanish colonial government to serve as a permanent settlement for Chinese immigrants. Most of them were artisans and traders, and put in their roots in Binondo by putting both their home and shops here.
So it may no longer be the central business district, and shoppers have moved to air-conditioned malls. But foodies and shoppers alike can still find something to enjoy in Binondo’s streets, chockablock with stores and shops selling everything from fresh produce, noodles and herbal medicine to jewelry, paper lantern and dvds.
The four hour tour is in fact not even enough to explore Binondo. But how can anyone really explore everything here? There’s always something to discover and rediscover. Which is why it’s just fitting that the tour ended with a freebie – Ivan gave all of us in the group tour a free copy of a Binondo Food Wok Map so we can explore this food haven all year round!
Gypsygal Prime’s Recommendations:
1. Culinary Tour Group: Foodies and travelers should sign up for one of Ivan Man Dy’s Binondo Food Wok.
Telephone no.: (632) 7113823
Mobile no.: (63) 0917-3291622
E-mail: [email protected] person: Ivan or Cherry
2. Map: But if you want to explore on your own, I highly recommend you buy the Binondo Food Wok map, published by Old Manila Walk. The map costs P100.00/piece and is available in the ff. outlets:
1. Bahay Tsinoy Museum (Intramuros)
2. La Monja Loca Store (Intramuros)
3. Silahis Arts and Crafts (Intramuros)
4. New Victory Trading (Ongpin Street, Binondo)
5. Libros Filipinos Bookshop (Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati)
6. The Ayala Museum ( Makati)
7. Popular Bookstore (Quezon City)
Please click here for more details about the map: