Binondo Food Tips – World’s Oldest Chinatown
Manila has the oldest Chinatown in the world. It’s called Binondo and dates back to 1594! Binondo offers some very unique flavors that reflect its long and culturally diverse history. Most dishes are authentic Chinese foods from the southeastern region of Fujian. But after more than 400 years, some Spanish and Filipino flavors have crept in. It’s called Tsinoy cuisine, and it can only be found in Binondo.
Like any Chinatown, Binondo serves some of the best dishes in the city. Great food is everywhere you look. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a foreign place with so many options. Knowing where to begin in Binondo can be a challenge. We have a few tips and recommendations to help. Our list is not comprehensive or necessarily the “best” of Binondo, but they’re solid recommendations that will get you started.Manila has the oldest Chinatown in the world!Click To Tweet
Quik Snack (aka Amah’s Kitchen)
Quik Snack has an unpretentious name, but it’s our favorite Binondo restaurant. It offers “home-style” cooking, if you had a Chinese-Filipina granny that is.
We love it for its food. And we love it for its story. First the food.
“Kuchay-Ah” is a delicious little meat pie. This is our favorite dish in all of Binondo. The crust is light, warm, and flaky. The filling is a savory blend of pork, mushrooms, and magic. The crust also has the slightest hint of sweetness that complements the savory filling. It so delicious and just melts in your mouth.
Be careful not burn your tongue. Cutting them in half is good way to let the yummy filling cool off to an enjoyable temperature. The meat pies are very popular in the neighborhood, by the way. We saw many Binondo locals getting these to-go, by the dozens.
This noodle dish looks a little soggy, but the taste and texture are quite good. It’s a very Chinese dish, but it’s also a good introduction to the variety of Pancit (noodle) dishes that you’ll see all over the Philippines.
Amah Pilar’s Tofu
This is the restaurant’s signature dish. It’s named after Amah Pilar, the restaurant’s founder. She invented it decades ago, and it’s been a local hit ever since. We’re not tofu lovers, but this is the best tofu dish we’ve had. There’s a nice range and blend of flavors. The tofu is marinated and then fried. Before serving, it’s drizzled with a special soy sauce. Finally, it’s covered with fresh herbs and chili sauce. The result is a crispy tofu that’s sweet and spicy. We were surprised by how rich and tasty this dish was. Amah Pilar really knew how to cook. And her story is an inspirational kick in the pants.
The Story of Quik Snack
Amah Pilar dreamed of having a restaurant since she was young girl, but she was born in 1909. Opportunities for young women were scarce, and the world was about to be plunged into 2 world wars. She lived through these tough and turbulent times, but she never let go of her dream.
Amah Pilar finally opened her restaurant when she was 60 years old. At an age when many retire, she worked even harder. She cooked the food and managed the restaurant for 2 decades, making Quik Snack into a big success and a Manila landmark. After she retired from her restaurant, Amah Pilar spent the next 20 years devoted to her community. When she passed at the age of 103, she was one of the most beloved and respected members of Binondo. Amah Pilar is an inspiration and a shining example that it’s never too late chase a dream.
The history of Quik Snack is displayed on the wall. But the best way to hear it is from someone who lived it. Mang Rot is an original employee of Amah Pilar and Quik Snack. He’s actually the last of the original crew. If you stop by, be sure to ask for his stories about Amah Pilar.
637 Carvajal St
New Po-Heng Lumpia House
This Lumpia is a fresh, yet hearty wrap. The ingredients are carrots, cabbage, tofu, herbs, peanuts, pork, and shrimp. The ingredients are chopped, seasoned, and mixed in a “secret” dressing. Since the Lumpia are mostly veggies, they really pop with freshness. Added to that freshness is a nicely balanced mix of salty, sweet, savory, spicy, chewy, and crunchy. They’re fantastic. And at about $1USD each, they’re a steal.
Po-Heng Lumpia House is located down a Binondo side alley, but it’s not hard to find. There are signs at the street entrance and along the alley. It’s not a glamorous place, but it’s very clean. And the Lumpia is really scrumptious.
New Po-Heng Lumpia House
531 Quintin Paredes St,
Dong Bei Dumplings
This tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery serves some of the best dumplings we’ve had. They take painstaking effort, but the results are amazing and delicious.
Each dumpling is fresh and handmade as you watch. You can taste the care and artistry. After eating these delicate flavor bombs, you’ll have a hard time stomaching the frozen/reheated ones at a typical Chinese buffet. The best dumplings here are filled with pork, leeks, cabbage, and chives.
Dong Bei Dumplings
642 Yuchengo St.
This café is a cool way to eat some tasty food and give back to the community. It’s known as the “Fireman’s Coffee Shop” of Binondo. A portion of the revenues goes to the local firefighters.
Lechon Kiwali with a side of Kiampong
Lechon Kiwali is a delicious pork dish that reflects the Spanish influence. Lechon Kiwali is pork that’s first boiled until tender, and then fried until crispy. Kiampong is a type of fried rice invented in Binondo, a Tsinoy classic. Kiampong is made from sticky rice, mushrooms, Chinese sausage, and adobe seasoning. Together Lechon Kiwali and Kiampong are a uniquely Binondo meal.
If you’re really adventurous, you can try the “Soup #5” at Café Mezzanine. This soup is made from the “man parts” of a bull.
650 Ongpin St.
Presidents Tea House
Custard Milk Pao
This “Pao” is basically a mini molten lava cake filled with vanilla custard. The special thing about this custard is that it’s made with salted duck eggs. These eggs are cured in brine for 2 weeks or more. The custard is mostly sweet, but the salted duck eggs add a delicate and distinctive bit of saltiness. These are a sweet treat with some unusual Asian flair. They go very nicely with a cup of tea.
This is a mango and tapioca “pudding” that is more liquid than most puddings. It’s closer to a soup. Sago is made with fresh mango puree. If you love mango, you’ll love Sago. It actually might be better as a drink, but eating it with a spoon allows you to slow down and savor it.
Presidents Tea House
809 Salazar St.
Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli
If you’re new to Hopia, they’re kind of a cross between a cookie and a pastry. The doughy texture may be odd to some, but Hopia are sweet and tasty. The pastry shell is soft and chewy. The most typical filling is sweet mung bean, but there are many flavors. The Chinese introduced Hopia, but the Filipinos have made these onto one of their most popular national snacks. Hopia are a definite must try in the Philippines.
You can find Hopia all over Binondo, but Eng Bee Tin has a huge variety of delicious flavors and super friendly staff.
Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli
628 Ongpin St.
We’re not crazy about Chinese style preserves, but if you’re in the world’s oldest Chinatown, why not give them a try? Be forewarned, the flavors are intense and often combined in unexpected ways. These bites are more for the novelty than for the enjoyment. Although, the strange faces made by your travel companions will be very enjoyable.
Tastes like biting into a ginger-flavored Taser gun.
Salty Dried Plums
These little devils are somehow saltier than a spoonful of salt.
Basically, a fish flavored jolly rancher.
This one is weird, not gross at all. It’s just very finely shredded pork.
This “chicha corn” snack is a crunchy delight almost everyone will find addictive. Good thing James sells by the Kilo.
531 Nueva St.
Enjoy Binondo and happy eating!
Have you been to Binondo? What Chinatowns have you visited? What dishes to you recommend?
nehaPosted at 06:40h, 19 December
the dumplings and the tofu seem to be the most yummy to me. I would love to try them out.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 06:46h, 19 December
Hello Neha. The dumplings and tofu were so yummy.
DoroPosted at 10:15h, 19 December
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Manila this year, but never actually made it to Binondo. Seems like I missed out on a lot of great food – even though I would only try half of these as a vegetarian. The tofu dish sounds like something that I owuld enjoy though 🙂
The Travel NinjasPosted at 10:18h, 19 December
Hello Doro. Binando is such a fun place to visit. The Amah’s tofu was tasty.
Adam DoolittlePosted at 10:30h, 19 December
It’s not even breakfast time for me as I read this and this read has me now starving. There are some really delicious looking foods here. The pork floss certainly has me intrigued, too.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 10:34h, 19 December
Hello Adam. Binondo is filled with delicious choices. The pork floss is actually very good. It’s similar to beef jerky in many ways. The meat is seasoned and dehydrated. The only difference is that it’s shredded. This different texture makes it great in soups. It just sucks up the broth and flavour so well.
Amber MyersPosted at 11:06h, 19 December
Ooo this food does look tasty! I love to eat so I’d be happy to try a lot of this out.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 11:11h, 19 December
Hello Amber. Cool. Try out Binondo. It has the best food in Manila.
Nomadic FootPosted at 13:31h, 19 December
i m quite choosy about food and normally have simple food but this place looks awesome to try out some new dishes. will definitely try some food here once in Manila.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 13:40h, 19 December
Hello Danish. Hope you enjoy Manila and the food in Binondo.
Briana MariePosted at 15:32h, 19 December
The beef guisado looks really good! I love to travel and taste new foods and just enjoy those new cultural experiences. Thanks for sharing!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 15:33h, 19 December
Hello Briana. Binondo is loaded with great food and cultural experiences.It’s cool to visit when in Manila.
KylaPosted at 16:44h, 19 December
Oh my gosh you tried so many cool things! I can’t believe how old the market is! I would love to try that popcorn it looks so good!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 16:45h, 19 December
Hello Kyla. We were amazed that Binondo is the oldest chinatown in the world too. And the popcorn is totally addictive.
Noemi of Pinay Flying HighPosted at 16:48h, 19 December
I am seriously salivating as I read this post specially when I saw the salty dried plums, I remember eating those when I was a kid. I love salty food and it definitely satisfies the craving. The candied anchovies is a personal favorite too. Yum yum yum! I want to go back to the Philippines now! :-/
The Travel NinjasPosted at 16:55h, 19 December
Hello Noemi. Cool. Glad you liked the post. Hope you get a chance to eat some “home-cooking” soon.
AbigailPosted at 17:56h, 19 December
The food is definitely the best part about visiting Chinatown! I didn’t know thought that the one in Binondo is the oldest in the world. Thanks for the fun trivia!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 18:00h, 19 December
Hello Abigail. Binondo is so full of history…and food. We loved it.
LCPosted at 18:35h, 19 December
The majority of these foods look delicious, particularly the dumpings and the pao. It’s always fun to visit Chinatowns around the world. I didn’t know the oldest was in Manila!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 18:40h, 19 December
Hello LC. We love chinatown visits. It was fun to see the world’s oldest.
IsalyPosted at 18:44h, 19 December
I have been to the chinatowns in Chicago and New York but this one seems amazing!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 18:55h, 19 December
Hello Isaly. Binondo is amazing to visit. We enjoyed it.
Saidah WashingtonPosted at 19:42h, 19 December
If visit just to try the different foods. I love the uniques options available
The Travel NinjasPosted at 19:55h, 19 December
Hello Saidah. There’s so many options in Binondo. Even more than we presented. Something for every taste.
Ticker Eats The WorldPosted at 22:50h, 19 December
That’s one hunger inducing post right there. Loved how to added the little history of the Quik Snack as it’s always wonderful to know a little history and how people have been through hard times to do something they enjoy. Chinatown’s the world over are a hotbed for tasty food and this looks no different. Add to that, that it is the oldest, and there’s some history thrown in for good flavour too. Lovely post.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 22:55h, 19 December
Hello Ticker. The history of Quik Snack is wonderful. It’s stories like that, that make the Chinatowns of the world such interesting places with fascinating people and of course, delicious food.
OlaPosted at 23:01h, 19 December
The Kuchay-Ah sounds scrumptious. I love meat pies aka hand pies of every culture. Jamaican patties , Haitian pâtés, Cuban empanadas, American pizza puffs (LOL), Italian calzones- you name it!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 23:33h, 19 December
Hello Ola. We are crazy for meat pies too. I wonder who made the first ones? Or if its just human to invent delicious food that is convenient on the go too?
blair villanuevaPosted at 01:44h, 20 December
One of my favorite place in Manila for food and shopping too! You can treat your friend here without ripping your pockets. I love it here 🙂
The Travel NinjasPosted at 01:54h, 20 December
Hello Blair. Well said. In Binondo you’ll rip you stomach before you rip your pockets. Most everything is so cheap.
Debbie-jean LemontePosted at 03:26h, 20 December
All that food made me hungry. I think so far the BEEF GUISADO is my choice from the list. I have a thing for noodles that I just can’t pass up.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 03:33h, 20 December
Hello Debbie-Jean. Great, the beef guisado is yummy. We have a thing for noodles too.
Sandy N VyjayPosted at 03:35h, 20 December
Always fascinating to eat in Chinatown anywhere in the world. The food has such an authentic flavour. I would love some Veg noodles and fried rice. The Mango Sago looks tempting too.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 03:40h, 20 December
Hello Sandy and Vyjay. The food in Binondo has great flavour and authenticity. The Mango Sago was so refreshing.
Flo @ Yoga, Wine & TravelPosted at 04:45h, 20 December
My mouth is watering! I’d love to have some custard buns right about now. The dumplings and mango sago also look scrumptious – would love to eat my way through Binondo one day!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 04:55h, 20 December
Hello Flo. Binondo is great. Hope you get a chance to eat your way through.
Caroline @ The Travelling SlothPosted at 06:57h, 20 December
I never would have thought that Philippines would have the oldest Chinatown! That’s impressive and I’m so glad you wrote a bit of background information about it- I honestly didn’t know any of this about Philippines. I haven’t had lunch yet and oh boy, I’m starving!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 07:00h, 20 December
Hello Caroline. We were surprised when we found out that Binondo was the oldest in the world. At more than 400 years, this chinatown neighbourhood is older than our home country the USA. We love the Philippines. It’s a top destination in Asia. The beaches are too good to be true and Filipino people are truly amazing.
Aisha SylvesterPosted at 07:31h, 20 December
All the yum! These pics have got my mouth watering! Everything features looks delicious but I’m especially craving the dong bei dumplings right now!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 07:33h, 20 December
Hello Aisha. Good to hear. The dumplings were super yummy.
AnosaPosted at 11:56h, 20 December
I always seem to shy away from Tofu but this one looks absolutely and the dumplings too.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 12:00h, 20 December
Hello Anosa. Amah’s tofu is so good. We’re not tofu lovers either, but we gobbled this up.
KatiePosted at 13:37h, 20 December
Wow what a selection of food here! The KUCHAY-AH looks a bit like the English pie- very tasty and I will deffo have to try that tofu! I love dumplings so would be all over those!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 13:39h, 20 December
Hello Katie. The Kuchay-Ay were our favourites. And the dumplings were the best we’ve had. Let us know what you think if you try them.
Vicky @ A Backpack Full of AdventuresPosted at 17:15h, 20 December
Oh wow, what a selection! Those custard cakes look delicious, and so does the mango and tapioka pudding – I’d love to try those!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 17:20h, 20 December
Hello Vicky. The custard cakes mango pudding were yummy and a great combination. Hope you enjoy them too.
Rashmi and ChalukyaPosted at 23:28h, 20 December
We are yet to visit Manila. James Grocery sounds intriguing and fascinating we would love to try those and check out other travelers faces.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 23:40h, 20 December
Hello Rashmi and Chalukya. James grocery has lots of interesting things. We know we made some funny faces trying the food there.
Amrita BasuPosted at 07:30h, 21 December
Never visited Manila. But your description of the China town makes me want to make it the next travel destination.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 07:33h, 21 December
Hello Amrita. Thank you. Hope you get to visit one day.
Mar PagesPosted at 01:01h, 22 December
That story of Amah Pilar was so touching. Amazing how we take such things a opening a restaurant for granted. Thanks for the great tips in the world’s oldest Chinatown! Very useful foodie tips when visiting Manila.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 01:09h, 22 December
Hello Mar. Thank you. We loved Amah Pilar’s story too.
SheenaPosted at 20:38h, 23 December
I make it a point to visit Chinatown in every city I visit – there’s usually one somewhere! What a comprehensive post on the restaurants & food of Binondo, I love it! You have me craving Chinese food so bad though, I think it’s what I miss after travelling in Central America the past year!
The Travel NinjasPosted at 20:40h, 23 December
Hello Sheena. Funny we know just what you mean. We’ve been living in Asia for a year and miss the great Latin food in Miami.
SudiptoPosted at 22:40h, 23 December
This list is so exotic. I totally fell in love with the dumpling, custard baos and the Kuchay Ah. The combination of pork and mushrooms is something that I truly admire. Do tell me the prices of the same.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 22:44h, 23 December
Hey Supipto. Thanks. The dumplings are 150 peso ($3 USD) for 14 dumplings, very cheap for such a delicious treat.
OindrilaPosted at 10:02h, 24 December
? Everything is looking so delicious specially dumplings that my mouth is watering. Are the food spicy? ?
The Travel NinjasPosted at 10:10h, 24 December
Hello Oindrila. Thank you. The food wasn’t that spicy to us, but we looooove spicy food. The tofu was a little spicy. If you like spice there’s always chili sauce on the table too.
HouxPosted at 18:49h, 24 December
These eateries and the food look yummy. We don’t have a Chinatown here in Kissimmee. We don’t even have good Chinese food nearby.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 18:55h, 24 December
Hi Houx. Hey we’ve been to Kissimmee. That’s too bad that they don’t have good chinese food. They do have lots of gators. 🙂
Jill ConyersPosted at 12:56h, 26 December
What a wonderful experience. I love traveling to new places and trying different foods.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 13:00h, 26 December
Hello Jill. Binondo sure is a great place for a food adventure.
MariaPosted at 05:58h, 28 December
Love this food posts! For me, part of the fun of traveling somewhere is to taste the local food, and local markets are a great place to do it. Also interesting to see that some of the Iberian food culture stayed in Filipinas. Guisado is a Portuguese word for stew and, in some parts of the country, is done not with potatoes but with noodles.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 06:00h, 28 December
Hello Maria. Thanks for the good insight into the Iberian influence. The rich history and cultural diversity of the Philippnes is one of its best features.
AmiPosted at 00:54h, 02 January
Among the various veg options the Tofu and popcorn seems yummy. The latter of course, seems like a snack that I would enjoy with a nice book and some drinks.
The Travel NinjasPosted at 00:56h, 02 January
Hello Ami. The popcorn is very yummy and addictive and perfect to munch on while enjoying a good book.