Binondo food trip for less than Php 250


The challenge: Go on a food trip with only Php 250 to spend

Where to do it: Binondo, the land famous as the world’s oldest Chinatown. Also known as a place with many available hole-in-the-walls.
Time span for the challenge: Maximum of two hours due to weather condition.
What to bring: Umbrella and lots of energy for walking
Total money: Php 500 (2 pax)


First stop: Chuan Kee



There’s no questioning that if CNN featured a restaurant, you would easily find yourself eating there. So upon walking in the streets of Binondo, we found ourselves a restaurant situated in the corner of Ongpin and Yuchengco with a CNN banner outside its window. Right then and there, we ordered a couple of meals to satisfy our hunger on that cold, rainy afternoon.


Little did we know, Cafe Mezzanine, the one CNN promotes, is actually located on the second floor just above the Chuan Kee restaurant. Too much excitement killed it. haha! After realizing we dined at the wrong place, we found consolation by saying we’ll just try a light meal there after our Chuan Kee experience.

Chuan Kee, according to the lady server, serves Chinese fast food at a cheaper price (only a 5 peso difference) than Cafe Mezzanine but their owner is one and the same. Residing beside it is one of the many Eng Bee Tin outlets.

For our first order, we tried the usual: Beef Wanton Mami and Siomai.

Beef Wanton Mami Php 115
Siomai Php 45 (4 pcs)

Money left: Php 385


The beef wanton mami tastes like a homemade food, it didn’t have too much spice and flavor in it –just right. The beef was tender and the siomai that came with it tasted regular, it’s different from the separate siomai order which contains shrimp, much more meaty, not dry, and has softness in every bite. Try to squeeze in some calamansi in your soy sauce dip to taste a bit of tartness.

I wasn’t able to take a picture of the siomai because my hormones go wild whenever I see one. I am a siomai lover; I think I could join and win some siomai-eating contest some day.

Second stop: Cafe Mezzanine


Dubbed as the Fireman’s coffee shop, Cafe Mezzanine is a brainchild of a former Chinese fireman volunteer. True to word of mouth, the cafe boasts with firefighter gears like hats and hose. It is said that part of the proceeds of the cafe’s revenue will go to Binondo’s fire department. Not bad, right?

For our light meal at Cafe Mezzanine, we tried authentic Chinese food such as Kiampong and Machang; both turned out to be *drum roll please* rice-based.

Special Kiampong Php 50
Pork Machang Php 85
Mezza Blend Coffee Php 70

Money left: Php 180



Kiampong is a Chinese-Filipino dish made of sticky rice. It resembles the adobo rice and paella, and tastes a bit like it, too. Served on top of Kiampong is caramelized onions, sautéed garlic, and adobo peanuts.

Machang, on the other hand, is reminiscent of Filipino’s version of suman. It consists of steamed sticky rice cooked with shiitake mushrooms, sausages, and pork meat. It has a sweet dip on the side which you could pour over and it makes the dish taste absolutely better!

Third stop: Eng Bee Tin Hopia


I think in our less than two hour Binondo trip that day, we practically covered only three to four streets. And in those streets, I can recall about 4-5 outlets of Eng Bee Tin. It’s like Binondo’s version of sari-sari store, but only with hopia which are offered in variety of flavors.

Flavors range from the usual mongo and baboy, to the famous milk tea flavor such as kundol (wintermelon), up to the halo-halo toppings like buko pandan, ube, and cheese.

Php 38/ pack of four
Bought 4 packs x Php 38 = Php 152

Money left: Php 28


Total expenses:

Beef Wanton Mami Php 115
Siomai (4 pcs) Php 45
Special Kiampong Php 50
Pork Machang Php 85
Mezza Blend Coffee Php 70
4 packs of Hopia x Php 38 = Php 152


Total: Php 472

Mission accomplished plus a few extra coins to spare!


Travel tips:

1. Wear simple clothes. You will be going on a food trip on the streets so better maintain a low-key fashion statement. Don’t forget to blend in the crowd.

2. Be observant about your surroundings. There are many quirk things you could spot in Binondo, others are worth a snapshot while others are worth taking mental note of.

3. Bring an umbrella, it won’t hurt to be prepared for the weather.

4. Take care of your belongings. Always.

5. Bring water if you plan on covering majority of Binondo in your tour/challenge.

6. Have fun!

TRIVIA: Chuan Kee is the location of the music video Pangarap Lang Kita by Parokya Ni Edgar and the TV series, My Binondo Girl, starring Kim Chiu.

c2Pictured above is JM De Guzman in the music video.

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