Reading, Writing, Walking
Friday, November 23, 2007
Food Trip in Binondo (by Cathy Hizo)
Food Trip in Binondo
By Cathy Hizo

What comes to mind at the mention of Chinese food? My mind would instantly conjure up images of siopao (with red dot at the center), hopia, and the ubiquitous dimsum.

Last 10 November our Travel Writing Class joined an afternoon of palatable tour dubbed “Food Trip in Binondo.” As promised by the organizer, the Ayala Foundation Inc. the tour was big on the walking part much that it was big on satisfying our palate. As we traverse through alleys strewn with traditional Chinese stores our tour guide, Ivan Dy, a Binondo-bred Tsinoy shared snippets of the history of Chinatown as we hop from one place to another.

I have known Chinese to be tea drinker thus, it came as a surprise that Binondo is home to one of the traditional chocolate factories, Tabliya (Kristine, I’m not sure if this is the name of the chocolate factory that we visited) run by fourth generation Tsinoy family. Ivan shared that in the early days if the guest was very important "tsokolate eh," would be served referring to pure chocolate thick and rich but for ordinary guest “tsokolate ah,” would be served which means “aguado” or watered-down chocolate.

The factory refused to be shaped by commercialism everything from the molding of the chocolate (so don’t be surprised of its irregular shape) down to its packaging is done by hands. The taste is really good especially for champorado and hot chocolate no wonder people flock in to buy boxes of their chocolate. Though, I was a bit annoyed the chocolate is so thick that it took forever to drip from its tiny container down to my mouth but I must say, it tastes good that I’m giving Tabliya a rating of 4 spoons 5 being the highest.

Next stop is Café Mezzanine at Nueva and Ongpin streets, a few steps away from Binondo church. Mounted on the walls of the coffee shop are firemen hats in different shapes, sizes and colors but what makes this café distinct is how its proceeds benefitted the volunteer firefighters. We were first served with kiampong, rice topped with peanut and slices of port meat. For reason of comfort I don’t normally eat rice using chopsticks but the kiampong is so yummy and sticky enough to make me enjoy using one in fact, I gobbled two bowls. We were served brewed cold coffee, I really like how it tastes hoping our tour guide would offer us another round – he didn’t. My rating for Café Mezzanine, 4 spoons.

We had a dimsum fix at Dong Bei Dumpling the owners according to Ivan are a couple from China, barely new in the Philippines in fact they couldn’t even speak Pilipino. Customers coming in would instantly notice the staff wrapping in raw dumplings ready to be steamed. We were served two different variety of dumplings with shape like that of an empanada.

My rating? Though, I don’t eat pork meat just like our Travel Writing Coach I chose to sample it anyway. Admittedly, I liked how it tastes that I am giving it a rating of 4 spoons.

Our group left Binondo with fresh insights not to mentioned with a well-satisfied stomach.

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