Binondo food crawl: Must-visit food spots in Manila’s Chinatown

Published January 20, 2023, 4:00 PM

by John Legaspi

From classic Chinese eats to exotic ones, here are some dishes you shouldn’t miss trying when in Binondo

Being the oldest Chinatown in the world, Binondo has been the home of some of the best traditional and modern Chinese cuisines, making it a true food haven for any foodies craving tasty oriental dishes. Set within the Philippines’ capital, Manila, Binondo has its own unique vibe, with its ancient architecture, dragon-hugged light posts, and vibrant stores adding to its charm. If you’re thinking of going on a food adventure in Binondo’s Chinatown, below are some of the food spots and eats we visited and tried as we go along its red walkways.

Cafe Mezzanine 

A quick taste of classic Chinese cuisine is what diners will get from Cafe Mezzanine, also dubbed as “The Fireman’s Coffee Shop.” Above one of the most beloved restaurants in Binondo, Chuan Kee (more of this later), the cafe and its offerings are definitely suited for a crowd of any age. What you should order is its pork xiao long bao (P240/per order), a steamy plate of 10 tiny buns that are meaty, juicy, and just delicious. Something for the sweet tooths are the Lava paos (P130/per order), which are steamed buns filled with sweet custard that oozes out the moment you cut them in half, hence, its name.

650 Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila | 8241-9999

Lord Stow’s Bakery’s egg tarts

Lord Stow’s Bakery 

Home to one of the best egg tarts you can feast on in the city, Lord Stow’s Bakery is a perfect stop to grab hand-held treats you can eat while walking. Hailed from Macau, this humble bakery now has different branches all over Metro Manila. But munching on its goodies in Binondo sure is a different experience. The egg tarts (P56/solo, P220/box of four, P320/box of six, and P630/dozen) have the perfect amount of sweetness. Their crust is flakey, complementing the velvety texture of the filling. 

Imperial Sky Garden, 707 Ongpin Street, Binondo, Manila | 8247-3305

Wai Ying Fast Food

Serving authentic Cantonese dishes and more is Wai Ying Fast Food. Good thing we had a box of Lord Stow’s Bakery’s egg tarts because there is a long waitlist before getting in the restaurant. Its shop window gives a perfect view of what you should order. Roasted ducks, the scent from its broth pot, and rows of bamboo steamers will excite your tastebuds to try one of its noodle dishes. What we ordered was the roasted duck mami. Veggies and egg noodles swimming in hot broth with slices of duck topping them. It’s just comforting and definitely worth the wait. We also got a refreshing almond jelly drink, which seems like its version of the clear palamig seen in Divisoria, only that the jellies are white and not transparent. 

810 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila | 8242-0310 or 8243-0715

Estero Fast Food’s buttered chicken

Estero Fast Food

Just a few rounds of walking along Ongpin and you’ll find Estero Fast Food. Don’t be fooled by its name because its offerings are definitely something not to miss, especially, for the brave foodies. One of the specials is its frog leg dishes. But what we ordered was its best-seller buttered chicken. Just imagine, crispy fried chicken drenched in melted butter with loads of garlic. A platter of it will definitely make you order additional cups of rice. Maybe, will be brave next time to order its sizzling frog legs.

Ongpin North Bridge, Ongpin St, Binondo, Manila | 8984-3320

Shanghai Fried Siopao

Our next stop was at Shanghai Fried Siopao. Since 1985, the store has been producing steamed buns so good that people wait in line and order in bulk just to enjoy them. Its fried siopao (P35/solo) is everything that you want your siopao should be. It has a generous meat filling with loads of onions wrapped in soft, cloud-like buns. Truly, one of the best treats to have in your hands as you explore Binondo, even without a sauce.

828 Ongpin St. cor. Bahama St., Binondo, Manila | 8734-0886

Chuan Kee’s Cha-bihon

Chuan Kee 

Closing our food trip in Binondo is Chuan Kee. One of the oldest restaurants in Binondo, it has captured the hearts (and tummies) of diners with its assortment of food offerings, from Chinese soups and stir-fried dishes to Filipino favorites. One of the highlights of its menu is Soup No. 5, an immunity-boosting soup made of tonic wine, Chinese herbal medicine, and bull’s testes. But, just like frog legs, we’ll go on and try the stew during our next visit. What we had was the Cha-bihon, a noodle dish with generous toppings of vegetables, meatballs, and dumplings—a perfect plate to end the long walks and hours waiting in line to try the different eats Binindo has to offer. It is best to get some fried siopao first before heading to Chuan Kee because there is always a line of diners waiting to get in.

650 Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila | 8241-9999

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