SSP Goes BIG Binondo Food Wok

Reported By Marites Canlas-Pastorfide
On May 31 2011, Scandinavian Society in Philippines organized SSP Goes BIG Binondo Food Wok. Coffee was brewing at 7:30 a.m. while I was waiting at Starbucks San Antonio Arcade – McKinley. The earliest wanderer of this food wok was Eva Mendoza-Johansen followed by the beautiful couple Casper & Soomie Sorensen. Then the trio arrived- Anne Grete, Ingeborg and Eli so we then hit the road-to our main meeting place… Binondo Church.

Jane Kathrine Poulsen first arrived in the Baroque style Binondo Church. Casper appreciated we had name tags so people can easily recognize each other and their Scandinavian names. Then the Eberle family arrived (Kai, Kurt and Brigitte) and Karin and Ulrik Restorp then Lilian Ekstroem so the enthralled SSP BIG Binondo Food Wok group is already complete!
Ivan, the street walker and explorer extraordinaire of Old Manila Walks covered the 400 years of History of Manila in four hours of indulgence and entertainment.

The walking tour started at the Binondo Church also known as ‘Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz’ was built in 1596. Founded by Spanish Dominicans in the 16th Century, has been named after Lorenzo  Ruiz, the first Filipino Saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, who was born and raised in Binondo. He has mixed Chinese and Filipino decent (chinito).  

One of its significant early architects was Domingo de la Cruz González. Although repeatedly damaged from earthquakes, typhoons and war the often rebuilt Binondo church still reflects its historic Spanish and European Baroque style and retains many elements of its original character. The octagonal bell tower, however, is the only significant remaining part of the original structure.

Part of Manila’s rich history is Intramuros [(Latin) intra: within & muros: walls]. The popular name given to the walled city to fortify the noble and ever loyal city of Spanish Manila. A city within a city with surrounding walls up to 22-foot high, was built in 1571 to protect the seat of the Spanish colonial government and its people from hostile native revolts and pirates.
These days Intramuros is a tourist attraction and a reminder of the country’s colonial past.

Manila’s indigenous inhabitants were the Tagalog. They had been actively trading with the Chinese long before the Spaniards arrived. To the end of the 19th century, Intramuros remained a civic, religious and educational center, however, trade and commerce had moved to Binondo.  You are “in” if you trade inside “Intramuros” and you are “out” or belong to “Extramuros” if you deal outside of it.

In front of Binondo church was “Plaza Calderon dela Barca”, one of the most impressive open spaces of old Manila.” It was lined with trees and beautifully landscaped with fountains at either ends.
Binondo remains the authentic Chinese enclave of Manila and Ongpin Street, running centrally through it, is the showcase for all things Chinese and traditional. Winding along for ten jam-packed city blocks, Ongpin is glitz and glitter, traditional and exotic and an assault on the eardrums.
The history of Ongpin Street dates back in the 1890’s. It is named after Don Roman Ongpin, a Chinese businessman who gained fame for his financial support of the “katipunero” rebels during the successful uprising of 1896 against Spain.

Next stop is a store for Alhambra or “Tsinelas” (Slipper)–we learned about “Foot binding” which was first practiced among the elite in Southern Tan dynasty in Nanjing (937–75 AD/CE). And only in the wealthiest parts of China, which suggests that binding the feet of well-born girls represented their freedom from manual labor and at the same time, the ability of their husbands to afford wives who did not need to work.

Our first culinary trip started at a Chinese Deli at Ongpin Street, we tried the Chinese meal of fried rice with nuts cooked in a special Chinese broth which is best if you put the authentic fish ball soup on it. Different regions in China have their own unique crops they grew and way of cooking.  
Next chow treat is at Don Bei Dumpling Store – best boiled dumpling I ever tasted-freshly cooked!  The dumpling wrappers have just the right translucent thickness when cooked, the fillings delicious-normally with port, vegetables, shrimp or “hakao”. Best with Chinese vinegar sauce-whether the clear one or the “dirty” looking one due to its spice accompaniment. How to use and types of Chopsticks was an interesting topic discussed.
Moving on, we wandered along Ongpin Street where you will find the traditional Chinatown shops and restaurants. And along the main road, we passed by a street-side Santo Cristo de Longos Shrine-One of Binondo legend revolves around the venerated image of the Santo Cristo de Longos.

The story goes that in the 16th century a deaf-mute Chinese was drawing water from a well in the barrio of Longos. When he pulled out the pail, he found a blackened corpus, an image of the crucified Christ. He began shouting about his discovery as he miraculously gains his speech. Here people come to burn joss sticks, make offerings, and recite a prayer to the Sto. Cristo de Longos.

Then we gorged some Chinese snacks located at a side street food store like the famous– “Siopao”- these steamed buns are superb especially when it is hot and accompanied by its brown sweet sauce.

We also trailed through the charming street market of Carvajal Alley.  Originally, the main product of this street was umbrella and now, it has more food like seafood, fruits, vegetables and it is popular for ingredients for Chinese dishes.

At the end of the street, you will find close by is the Holland Hopia store and other Chinese delicacies. Hopia is a snack/dessert pastry and it comes with several flavors like- mongo, ube (yum), pork, langka (Jackfruit), pandan, pineapple and many more.

Last chow stop is at a restaurant whose specialty is making the Fresh Lumpia…Hokkien-style. Fresh spring rolls in English, consist of minced vegetables extenders, spices and crushed peanuts in a double wrapping of lettuce leaf and a yellowish egg crepe. It is great with freshly crushed native garlic, sweet sauce and for adventurous tongue-chili sauce and never with Catsup please!
The tour ended at Ongpin Street with everybody gaining wealth of information about Manila, Binondo, new friends and Chinese food, culture, architecture and definitely a full stomach!  

If you are interested to do the “Big Binondo Food Wok”, please contact Marites at [email protected] or call 813 5431. Thank you.

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