Monday, February 19, 2007

Nibbling Around Chinese New Year

It was my first time to take a guided tour around Old Manila, and what a better way to spend it by taking a walking/eating tour around Binondo. How timely, it was Chinese New Year!
Ivan the Man showing us gecko wares around Chinatown

It's been featured at Lonely Planet, and several friends have already recommended taking Old Manila Walks - a delightful, quirky spin on a vibrant, often overlooked cultural hub of our sprawling metropolis.

When they said it's a walking tour, they really mean it - four hours of continuous walking; I did say it was an eating tour as well, and I was definitely filled to the brim by day's end (Will detail the dishes later).

You start at the Plaza (great, I already forgot the name) fronting Binondo Church, where our tour guide Ivan The Man quickly runs down the Chinese history in the Philippines. Interesting question: What is a Spanish basilica doing in the heart of the Chinese district? Closely look at the bell tower - is it similar to the bell tower in Paoay (featured in an earlier article), or does it more resemblance to the Thien Mu Pagoda picture I took in Hue?

Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam. Multi-tiered, with an octagonal base.

Binondo Church. Note the bell tower.

Ding! Epiphany moment!

What I particularly loved with the tour was that it was very comprehensive in many ways - it had dishes from the North, Uighur, Sichuan, Fujian, and obviously, Cantonese. There were dumplings, noodles, siopao, fish soup, and the ubiquitous lumpia. From the new holes-in-the-wall to the veritable institutions, there was definitely something for everyone. This is definitely for the foodie that's already tired of the regular lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork.

Remember the Fire of Hunan? This ain''t even close.

There were about 10 stops, and 8 of those were eat-ins. Sadly, none of those were for dessert - somebody really has to explain to me the concept of hot desserts. In the manner champorado is not dessert, bubur chacha, peanut soup, ginataan and related dishes are not desserts. Sorry, but I digress.

Anyway, I fully encourage you to take this tour, or at least visit the website, and see a delicious side of Manila. I'm already contemplating on having a date at the Chinese cemeteries.

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