Do you remember a place by how it smells? I do. San Francisco is brewed coffee and cinnamon, a dive vacation is Beach Hut's SPF 15, and family lunch is the unforgiving Filipino dish Adobo.
When we were small, Dad used to take me to his office. When stepping out of the building, there's this distinct mouth-watery smell of good food and flavor which made me pull his hand for merienda several times. He used to work in Quintin Paredes St., or in China Town.
So when we came across Ivan Man Dy's Big Binondo Food Wok, I knew that this will be another hand-pulling merienda jaunt not only for the nose and tummy, but for the eyes as well. I brought the old-timer and trusty Canon EOS 620 with me, packed with it a Kodak T-Max 400 Black and White Film to capture street action, old style.
The alleys of China Town, even at day, remains dark, mostly shaded, with only little light coming in, but is where some of the best street food can be found. The windows found in each alley exchange eastern aroma from different kitchens with milestone specialties like Chinese lumpia, congee, fresh dumplings, and fried siopao!
When exiting each alley, watch out for pedicabs playing Daytona with jeeps, while delivery boys crisscross their way carrying tonnage and assortment of loads from giant TVs to fruit crates like they were on rails.
Our first stop was at Dong Bei Dumplings. I say these dumplings are made in heaven, boiled 5 minutes, then served in it's glorious white fragile form! Not to mention the authentic Chinese cook (who moves away for a photo wearing his spanking white sando) who prepares these dumplings in a dark, smoke-filled room. Who cares what happens in there, all I care is Dong Bei Dumplings are darn good!
A hole in the wall gem and fantastically cheap, php 100 for 14 pieces! It's can even be a vegetarian's dumpling or for the healthy bud in you, cooked with chives, celery, cabbage, bell pepper, then little pork (what's life w/o pok, or pork?)
Meow-pao...a popular urban legend born in Manila! They say that the best siopao is made of cat meat. As in cat-woman-michelle-pfeifer-cat-meat! But believe it or not, the most delicious from of siopao is not a cat of course! Not even little traces of it! The siopao we found in China Town is fried to it's tenderness...just right to add a glitter of oil in the dough to let the flavor come out. Here you can see Ivan holding the siopao attesting to its goodness. Go ahead take it home! But good luck to finding it because there's no name yet for the store that's located in Benavidez St., across Manila China Town Hotel. Php 15/piece! Affordably good!
Finally, a great way to end the Big Binondo Food Wok, is to feast on the authentic Chinese lumpia worthy of a podium. Visit the popular restaurant in Quintin Paredes Street, New Po-Heng Lumpia House, and go through another dark alley (let the smell lead the way) ending in a naturally lit courtyard, and grab that Chinese lumpia! For only php 50 a piece, time to forget your next meal because it's very filling!
Let's end this write-up with an egg, a lucky round object to welcome the new year, according to the Chinese. Make sure you have one of those in your dinner table when the clock hits 12 on new year's eve.
Make sure also we remember places in our country which play an important piece in our history's puzzle, like China Town! Let's stay Pinoy and study more our history.
Get a small bite of China Town and drool for some more! Call Ivan Man Dy and check out his Big Binondo Food Wok.
Do you smell it now?
That's "thank you" in Mandarin Chinese :-)