Binondo is the world's oldest Chinatown.

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.

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Quik Snack (aka Amah’s Kitchen)

Menu in Quik Snack (aka Amah’s Kitchen) located in Binondo, Manila

Prices in Philippine Peso ($1USD=50 Pesos)

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

Kuchay-Ah in Binondo

Delicious Comfort 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.

Beef Guisado

Beef Guisado in Binod

Chinese-Filipino Style Beef and Noodles

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

Amah Pilar’s Tofu in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Sweet and Spicy Crispy 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.

Image of young Pilar and Amah Pilar

Young Pilar  and  Amah Pilar

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.

This is Mang Rot in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Meeting Mang Rot

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.

Quik Snack
637 Carvajal St
Binondo, Manila

New Po-Heng Lumpia House

Lumpia

Lumpia in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Chinese Fresh Spring Roll

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.

New Po-Heng Menu in Binondo, Manila Philippines

New Po-Heng Menu

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,
Binondo, Manila

Dong Bei Dumplings

The Delicate Delicious Dumplings of Dong Bei in Binondo, Manila Philippines

The Delicate Delicious Dumplings of Dong Bei

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.

 Fresh Handmade Dumplings in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Fresh Handmade Dumplings

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.

English Menu and Great Prices in Binondo, Manila Philippines

English Menu and Great Prices

Dong Bei Dumplings
642 Yuchengo St.
Binondo, Manila

Café Mezzanine

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 in Binondo, Manila Philippines

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.

Cafe Mezzanine in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Cafe Mezzanine
650 Ongpin St.
Binondo, Manila

Presidents Tea House

Custard Milk Pao

Pao in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Pao is a Steamed Bun filled with Custard.

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.

Mango Sago

Sago in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Sago is Mango puree with Tapioca.

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.

President Tea House in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Presidents Tea House
809 Salazar St.
Binondo, Manila

Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli


Hopia

Hopia in Binondo, Manila Philippines

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.

Friendly staff in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli
628 Ongpin St.
Binondo, Manila

James Grocery

James Grocery in Binondo, Manila Philippines

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.

Dried Ginger

Dried Ginger in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Tastes like biting into a ginger-flavored Taser gun.

Salty Dried Plums

Salty Dried Plums in Binondo, Manila Philippines

These little devils are somehow saltier than a spoonful of salt.

Candied Anchovies

Candied Anchovies in Binondo, Manila Philippines

Basically, a fish flavored jolly rancher.

Pork Floss

Pork Floss in Binondo, Manila Philippines

This one is weird, not gross at all. It’s just very finely shredded pork.

Filipino Popcorn

Filipino Popcorn in Binondo, Manila Philippines

This “chicha corn” snack is a crunchy delight almost everyone will find addictive. Good thing James sells by the Kilo.

James Grocery
531 Nueva St.
Binondo, Manila

Enjoy Binondo and happy eating!

Have you been to Binondo? What Chinatowns have you visited? What dishes to you recommend?

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