Eat Your Way Through Manila With These Delicious Finds

Why not rediscover Old Manila this summer?

IMAGE Marti Bartolome

Whether you’re a first-timer in the country or a local on the lookout for something new, there are a lot of delicious discoveries to be made in Old Manila.

"Unlike other walking tours that focus on history or food culture, non-profit organization Smokey Tours wants to give visitors a peek at everyday life on “the other side of Manila.” Vibrant, unpretentious, and an experience for all the senses, this is the downtown Manila that piques the curiosity of foreign and local visitors alike. The market tour, in particular, takes participants to four main areas: Carriedo, Quiapo, the Muslim community along Globo de Oro Street, and Ongpin in Binondo. Interestingly, each street has its own distinct character, yet they flow seamlessly into each other. Aside from being rich in history and pulsing to the beat of organized chaos, the four areas share one more thing in common: a thriving street food scene. Here, the best eats from each street." —Anna Felipe

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Quiapo

The main draw to the Quiapo district is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and the alleys leading to it. Here, a dizzying array of stalls peddles a merry mix of wares for faithful and alternative rituals. Think rosaries sold side by side with anting-anting; candles and flowers for altar offerings juxtaposed with rows of fortunetellers.

Quiapo is also a popular source of herbal medicines that promise to cure everything, from headaches to high blood pressure. If you’re into teas—and not necessarily alternative healing—pick up a bag of pito-pito. Fresh leaves of alagaw, banaba, bayabas, pandan, and mango are mixed with half a teaspoon each of anise and cilantro to make a fragrant all-natural tea mix. Right across the church, more rows of street vendors offer an impressive selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at rock bottom prices. Produce is sold tingi—usually per piece or in small bunches—and you can always haggle!

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Yum! Freshly made suman at Carriedo!
Photo by Marti Bartolome

Carriedo

In this busy street market, heart-thumping music blares through speakers from makeshift stalls that hawk everything from clothes and slippers to toys and DVDs. Navigate maze-like Carriedo to its Plaza Miranda end to find the stalls that sell a variety of sticky rice snacks. While the suman is good on its own, it’s best paired with a pinch of kalamay, complete with a toasted coconut topping—a mash-up that works so well together.

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Golden-brown grilled tuna on display on Globo de Oro Street
Photo by Marti Bartolome

Globo de Oro Street

Home to Manila’s Muslim community, Globo de Oro Street and the streets around the Golden Mosque offer some of the most intriguing treats, lined with eateries that serve Halal food, carts filled with durian, and stalls that sell native spices. Pick up a jar of palapa, a condiment used in Maranao cooking. Its wet variety is made with green onions, ginger, and chilies and is enjoyed as a dipping sauce for sun-dried fish, while the dry kind is stir-fried with coconut and chili, and is used as topping for fried rice. Don’t miss out on the local version of the pancake, either. It’s made with cassava, rice flour, and coconut milk.

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Kundol-and-bacon hopia from Kim Chong Tin Hopia Factory along C. Palanca Street
Photo by Marti Bartolome

C. Palanca Street

Make sure to stop by Kim Chong Tin Hopia Factory to score a bag of freshly made hopia. Their version is proudly made with no preservatives, allowing the texture of the flaky pastry and the flavors of the filling to take the spotlight. While monggo and pandan do not disappoint, go for the kundol-and-bacon variant. Finely mashed winter melon is mixed with bits of Chinese ham to create a creamy, sweet-salty filling that definitely hits the spot!

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Ongpin

Manila’s Chinatown is the best place to discover Filipino-Chinese cuisine. A must-try? The hototay from Phat Panda. A simple soup of meat broth with a combo of vegetables, seafood, and meat (in this case, snow peas, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, white fish, squid, shrimp, chicken, and pork liver) is topped with a fresh raw egg. Mix everything together to get a soup that’s light and refreshing even on a hot summer day. For dessert, head to Binondo’s own fast-food joint, Hapee’s Sizzling. Here, you can customize your halo-halo with the addition of fresh fruits from the street stalls. Topped with a slice of leche flan and a scoop of ube jam, it’s the sweetest ending to your day of rediscovering Manila.

This feature was published in the May 2015 issue of Yummy magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Yummy.ph editors.

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