Chinatown is a culture more than a place and is one that continues to breed the most prolific communities in the world. From San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Melbourne, to London, Lima Peru and Manila Philippines, the Chinese influence and way of life has become a prominent cultural landmark in various parts of the world. In Manila, the oldest Chinatown is in fact located at a district called Binondo, dating all the way back to 1594.
The oldest Chinatown in the world was founded during the country’s Spanish occupation when Chinese settlers were forced to convert to Catholicism. Forced conversion to Catholicism was a must for Chinese immigrants but resulted in a loss of 20,000 Chinese lives due to religious persecution, according to Pilot Guides. What makes Chinatown in the Philippines one for the books to check out when traveling to Manila, is the variety of food and immersive dining culture amongst local Chinese-Filipino residents and families.
Binondo has one of the most diverse cuisines from traditional Chinese food to fusion Spanish and Japanese food. There a lot that can be explored and tasted, below are three must go to places around Chinatown Binondo for a gastronomic Chinese streetfood experience like no other in Manila.
3 Chinatown Restaurants to Check Out in Binondo
Dong Bei Dumplings
Location: 642 Yuchengco Street, Binondo, Manila
Opening days/hours: Daily from 9 AM to 8 PM
Telephone: (02) 241 8912
It’s no surprise that you will find dumplings all over Chinatown, but the best place to get some really affordable yet flavorful dumplings are at Dong Bei Dumplings. It’s a place best for groups, with a standard dish of 14 pieces of dumplings worth just Php 200. Aside from their dumplings, Dong Bei is also known best for their rapid fire preparation skills, specifically their fried pancakes which is a must try as well when in Binondo. Not only is Dong Bei Dumplings a one stop shop for classic yet flavorful Chinese delights, it’s also budget friendly for tourists and travelers visiting Chinatown.
Shanghai Fried Siopao
Location: Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila
Opening days/hours: Daily from 8 AM to 10 PM
Another simple yet staple Filipino-Chinese dish to try is “siopao.” It’s a steamed bun filled with pork “asado” that is sweet and sour making every bite a juicy sensation. The best place to try some authentic “Chinoy” siopaos is at a stall and hole in the wall at Ongpin called Shanghai Fried Siopao. Siopao at Shanghai Fried Siopao is one for the books for its unique texture and explosive flavors for just Php 20 apiece. What makes it a daily staple for locals alike? The fried base with a crispy finish in every bite. One for the books, many tourists say.
Ho-land Hopia & Bakery
Location: 551 Yuchengco St, Binondo, Manila
Opening days/hours: MTWFSat from 7:30 AM to 8 PM; Thursdays from 9 AM to 8 PM; Sundays at 7:30 AM to 5 PM
Telephone: (02) 242 9595
If you are a sweet tooth and into rice desserts, as typical Asians are, then Binondo’s Ho-land Hopia & Bakery is another quick stop to make. Ho-land Hopia & Bakery is not a sit and dine kind of place but more of a grab and go pit stop. They produce one of the fines “miriendas” (afternoon snacks) in Manila with a bunch of Filipino favorites like “tikoy”, “machang”, and of course, “hopia.” These are best enjoyed with tea or coffee and are a great “pasalubong” (treat) to bring home to friends and family.
Just Follow the Scents!
Binondo, Manila is a huge rich in history of our Chinese Filipino neighbors. The Chinese communities in the Philippines have long established themselves in Manila and have brought in a huge influence beyond just their food. The Filipino Chinese community is well and vibrant; one that will continue sharing the best of their cuisine and culture through every dumpling and noodle bowl, all you have to do is follow the smell!