Manila – Binondo – Noodle Off in Chinatown
Most Filipinos are of Malay, Indian or Chinese descent and needless to say the Chinese community have made a huge contribution to the development of the nation, despite centuries of oppression under Spanish rule.
Chinatown is a gloriously hectic sprawl of shops and restaurants, with Ongin St running through the middle of it all. Although I was on holiday after four weeks of working in China and eating only Chinese food, I felt a need for a noodle fix so I headed to Ongpin St, the main drag through Manila’s Chinatown.
My hunger got the better of me on the way though and I couldn’t pass the Salazar Bakery (779-785 Ongpin St, near the corner of S. Padilla St) without popping in for a preliminary Char Siu Bun, called an Asado Roll here. Pork buns tate best when they are hot. This one was good but it could have been better if it were fresh out of the oven (B).
So where does the best noodle soup in Chinatown? I decided to compare two famous old school places mentioned by Lonely Planet. There are other places to be sure but I reckoned on these being the best. Please let me know if I’m wrong.
Not really a factory production line, just one guy making noodles in the front and another packing them ready for sale once they’re dried. There’s a separate kitchen for preparing the soups. All the staff were friendly and happy to let me take photos.
Other than noodles and wontons, there doesn’t seem to be much else on the menu, which doesn’t mention that you can also get dumplings from the big bamboo steamers in the window. The Shumai looked good but I was here for one thing only.
There are two kinds of soup broth on offer, beef or chicken. I went for the beef hoping for a stronger flavour, but sadly this was lacking and I found the soup as a whole to be quite bland. The addition of their unusual chilli sauce helped but not much. The actual chunks of beef were ok and the noodles where fine, of medium thickness, quite similar to ramen.
So, unfortunately I couldn’t score them highly (C+). That’s not to say their other dishes aren’t better though, I was judging them on just one thing. I’ll get the wontons next time I go. My opinion wasn’t helped by the fact you can’t buy beer here. Soft drinks or hot tea do not go well with noodle soup as far as I’m concerned.
MXT Tea House (Intermediate B+), 965 Ongpin St
In the line of duty I walked a few more doors down on Onegin St to this equally venerable and run down shop. They are more of a restaurant than the previous place with an extensive menu offering all kinds of delicacies.
To create a level playing field I ordered the beef noodle soup again (I can eat a lot of this stuff) but here they give you a choice of two kinds of noodles. I had the vermicelli style noodles which are much thinner than ramen.
The broth here was the winner for me though. It has a much deeper flavour here and the chunks of actual beef were tastier too. You also get a bowl of roasted garlic flakes and they have the traditional chilli oil which, when you add both, takes it up yet another level. No doubt about it, Hap Chan is the winner (B+).