Along Ongpin and Benavidez Streets, there was more than the usual hustle and bustle. There were more stalls at the sidewalk selling fruits and vegetables that were being sold as “lucky charms”.
I was surprised to see yams and onions and even stalks of palay among the heap of goods being sold at the sidewalk. Beyond the usual kyat kyat, and money trees, I also got curious with a furry brown plant being peddled in the streets. I could not help but ask the vendor what it was but unfortunately she also did not know what it was called! She merely said that it is also used as an herbal medicine.
Anyway, I proceeded with my tour by checking on the restaurants and shops to help me decide what to buy and where to eat.
I narrowed down my choices between Wai Ying Fastfood and Lan Zhou Lamien Restaurant. Both are located along the Benavidez Street – just parallel to Ongpin
and which is well known for its restaurants serving traditional and authentic Chinese cuisines. After deliberating for a few more minutes, I finally decided to go to Wai Ying.
Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by that distinct smell of Chinese spices that you do not normally encounter in other restaurants. The aroma can be quite intoxicating and can definitely add up to your excitement to taste and savor what Chinese cuisine can offer.
Since I just wanted to have a quick bite, I ordered Siopao Asado, Shark’s Fin dumplings and Black Gulaman for dessert. Unlike the usual fare offered in Chinese commercial fast food restaurants, the flavor and the smell are more pronounced and thus more palatable. Even the sauce for the Siopao has just the right sweetness. The Black Gulaman meanwhile has a tinge of an herbal tea with the right sugary taste. This is definitely better than that well-advertised Chinese fastfood restaurant on TV!
After my very hearty meal, I walked for a couple more steps towards Lan Zhou Lamien Restaurant to try their specialty noodles. I made sure that I would not miss the chance! They have a long list of dishes in their menu from where you can select your choice of toppings and flavor for your noodles – chicken, beef, pork or seafood. Their noodles are served either ramen-style and stir-fried, depending on your preference. Yangchow rice and dumplings are also served as side dishes. I decided to try two of their bestsellers and since I am already quite full, asked the waiter that I will have one of the two dishes for takeout.
I loved their Ba Bao Sha Guo Lamien noodles, a beef ramen served with 3 kinds of mushrooms mixed with seaweeds, vegetables and egg. It really tasted good and it had a very strong beefy flavor. The other order I had was Seafood Cha Hohon – stir-fried thick noodles. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of the dish when it was served. When I have consumed my ramen, I left and carried my takeout order that smelled so good that I wanted to hurry home and eat again!
My tour of Chinatown will never be complete without doing some shopping for Chinese products that are not usually available in other local stores. So I dropped by the Mandarin Grocery Store to check out what they have on their shelves that will be very interesting.
Most of them surprisingly are! If only I could buy at least one each. I eventually settled for a Nissin Cup Noodles (Spicy Seafood Flavor), Satay Flavored noodles, a bottle of Soya Milk and another bottle of Self Heal Plant Extract. One curious thing I discovered is that most of the labels have ENGLISH translations which I find really helpful! I guess, more non-Chinese speakers have now become regular customers of the store.
When I went out it was already dark and but the streets were still bright with those Chinese lanterns and the sidewalks are still teeming with a lot of activity. Perhaps a lot of people are still busy doing their last minute shopping in anticipation of the coming Lunar New Year.
But there is one more thing that I should not miss before heading home – Tikoy from Eng Bee Tin! Tikoy is a sweet sticky rice cake that has become closely associated with the celebration of the Chinese New Year. I chose to buy my rice cake from Eng Bee Tin because they have the best cakes and hopia in town. Their products are also guaranteed clean, safe and more importantly 美味 (mei wei)!
Related Link: “BINONDO: OLDEST CHINATOWN IN THE WORLD (Part 1 of 2)”