Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Binondo Food Trip - Part 1

Ushering the Water Dragon New Year with a BANG!!!  My ever adventurous stomach led me to the streets of the ‘oldest’ China town in the world ---- Binondo!  I actually divided this trip into two.  Yes, I was that serious in being able to explore it when Chinese New Year (CNY) comes that I had a sort of ‘pre-trip’ trip (yes, it’s a preparation trip prior to the actual trip, I got confused there too for a while).  This adventure is also perhaps one of those I had an extensive amount of research.  I remember spending almost 3 hours straight scouring the web for information, especially a very useful map (I’ll have a separate mention on this later).  So how did I arrive in China town on that memorable 23rd of January, 2012?  Let me walk you through it (literally).


I have been hearing and reading a lot of good comments on how food-tripping in Binondo is one of the ‘must-experience’ for any food blogger out there.  Yes, that includes you my dear readers (and fellow bloggers) from the other parts of the world.  The famous Anthony Bourdain once walked these busy streets in search of the best entrée the place has to offer.  And enjoy he did. The final punch that nailed me to deciding that I would have to go there came when a brod-fraternity of mine wrote a status on his social media how much he enjoyed a recent food trip there.  And he was way younger than I am!   

So a plan came to me that I need to be there the soonest, and what best time to visit but on one of the Chinese culture’s most festive event.

Armed with almost a month’s worth of staggered researching, I thought that I needed to have two separate trips in order to ensure the success of my CNY trip target.  One will be the preparatory trip so I know which places to go and to somehow familiarize myself with the streets and alley ways (these are the spots for the best eat out joints).  The first trip was scheduled December 30, a holiday here in the Philippines (hey, I’m starting to like this whole writing for foreigners too)and it will be the perfect opportunity for me to finally complete my already ‘late’ Christmas gift shopping.

I have actually been to Binondo in the past (courtesy of official business trips from my previous work), but more often than not through a private vehicle and only stops at two places --- a Chinese resto (which I will elaborate later) and that store very famous for Chinese pastries and delicacies.  So exploring and feeling this China town in it in its full glory can’t really be considered as valid.

For this first trip, I was willing to ‘make mistakes’ as its main purpose is to immerse myself in the place and explore as much I could in order for me to get the details necessary to seamlessly plan my CNY trip --- which from here on shall be referred to as the ‘main trip’.

The start of this adventure led me to the Philippine Rabbit Bus station (photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabbitexplorer3/4052644554/) and boarded the ‘Avenida’ buses (don’t worry, they pass by and stop over at the Dau Terminal too, I just wanted to make sure I get to choose my seat so I went in for the main terminal).  Ticket price is at PhP180 for a very decent air-conditioned bus trip (this is an end-to-end point trip by the way so it is easier, AND that meant I can sleep through the whole trip, YEY!).  From there, you can walk or ride the pedicabs at PhP 50-60 going to straight to the streets of Binondo.

The clock’s hands were around 9 a.m.-ish (not really sure) when we got there (it’s less than 2-hours trip) and my breakfast routine is starting to kick-in as it grumbled its influence in every brain cells I have (or had, due to hunger).  But the greater challenge was finding THE place we wanted to eat.  Armed with my not so detailed Map and crossing my fingers that my map-reading skills were at their all-time best, my friend and I walked the streets of Binondo (take note, looking bored all the time to remove any suspicions that we were figuratively lost and literally not familiar with the place).

Below were the first maps I had (very crude but hey thanks to googlemaps for this).  The initial plan though was to have a ONE MAP that shall rule the world, err… the trip.  But I can’t find any at that time.


BINONDO (Or Ongpin) IS BUSY 1ST THING IN THE MORNING.  Yep, the streets were already bustling with lots of people.  As in from peddlers to residents, to shoppers.  The street is 2/3 full by my standards of a stampede-waiting-to-happened.

THERE ARE ‘TWO’ ARCS.  The one near to Sta. Cruz Church and the other was nearer Plaza Ruiz (this was the one with the Welcome to Binondo China Town, marker was); the former had the ‘Arc of Goodwill’ sign in it. Ehe it was the same Ongpin street though so no sweat.

NO ONE WOULD GO HUNGRY IN BINONDO.  Unless you don’t like Chinese cuisine, you won’t go hungry.  Although we were initially walking like broken compasses, there are many places to eat.

THE MAIN STREETS ARE SUPERB, BUT… I think this is very common on every ‘<insert-country>-town’ kind there is in the world.  The main streets have good offerings but it is the alleyways and smaller streets branching out from the main that hide hidden gems.  From the many blogs I read about China town, the commonly used phrase was ‘hole in a whole treasure trove’. So do you get the picture?


The itinerary for the day focused on two things:  (1) Getting lost (ehe), and discovering the streets and where to find what in Binondo; and (2) thrift-shopping at Divisoria (may have to have a separate article one of these days).  Of the four target areas to eat and try, we only managed to go to ONE.  For many reasons such as, we were tired from aimlessly walking, we were VERY HUNGRY and maybe the fact that THAT ONE resto we saw already fed us like kings.  I am referring to WAI YING RESTAURANT.  Yes, the ever famous one.

WAI YING was the resto I mentioned in the introduction of this blog post.  I have already visited this place while I was still part of TIPCO and it took me to finish the entire meal before having that realization (déjà vu confirmation, anyone?) that I was here before.

The restaurant is rather simplistic at the front and is relatively narrow.  The right side is the area for the duck display, the holding area for the steaming dimsums, the coffee brewing and the cashier. The left side, on the other hand, is a single row of about six or seven (let me check on this on my next visit) of four to five seater tables.  They have second floor though ---- I think, ehe.  The resto is already packed when we came in and were just lucky that a patron is already on his way out.  During the entire meal, they even had people standing waiting for a table to be freed-up so it must really be this good.

The menu is also very simple and easy to read.  Thanks to the Filipino-Chinese friendship forged by history, the entries were familiar enough to confuse me on which to order (I wanted many, but my stomach wouldn’t able to handle them all).  I was able to take pictures of the actual menu (see below) that are discernable for you dear readers who will be visiting soon (plus you can budget your trip, yey!).

So what did we (VERY hungry travelers) ordered?  I had Roasted Duck Rice while a friend had Curry Beef Brisket Rice at PhP 130 and 120 respectively.  For our side dishes, we had Hakaw (70), Century Egg Siomai (70),  Shark’s Fin Dumpling (65) and Kutchai Dumpling (60).  For the drinks, I had water, my friend had Lemon Coke (50) and for dessert, Coffee Jelly each (60).



Arc of Goodwill near Sta.Cruz church
Welcome arc --- Main Street Ongpin
One of the many firetrucks that line Ongpin
Binondo Church

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Game of Thrones Season 2

Season 2 of Game Of Thrones premieres April 2012.
Latest teaser below...


Foodie 'gadgets'...Ehe

I discovered this site courtesy of pattylaurel's blogsite and was immediately enamored with the line-up of products it had.  There was even a special group of products for 'foodies' out there. See some of the items below and you might find something that will capture your need(want) at the moment.  Calling my sponsors, you might have that something 'extra' and order the orange Takeout Menus log or the blue Coupons Receitable ---- prizes around 20-10 USD so you'll have to really check before you buy.  I'm not picky.... :)



Weekend Promo!

Come on, don't resist the temptation.... It's a Thai treat that's familiar to the Filipino taste!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

BIG DEALS and Great Discounts

The Office Ninja Blog has a new 'friend'.  I say friend because this new partner I can consider as one that resonates the same advocacy that this blog has.  It is providing opportunities for 'YOUNG PROFESSIONALS' to enjoy, have fun and offer ways for them to spend their hard-earned money THE RIGHT WAY (or at least the most 'sulit' / economical / efficient way possible).

I had always  envied my friends from Manila for having the privilege to bask-in on the seemingly endless 'deals' available online of discounted food, gadgets, events, massages, flights, etc.  offered by the many deal sites on the web. Yes, to those not yet in the know, this is the latest yuppie craze there is on that side of the country.  That's why when I saw that there is this group from Pampanga with the same 'portfolio', I immediately added them on my social network list and it did not take long before I received a message from them asking if I can feature them.  I immediately confirmed as I thought readers like you would be very much interested in what they may be offering.  So after exchanges of messages and seeing their website as well as their business proposals, here goes my feature of them!  I am talking about 'BIG DEALS'

(Note:  The details of the succeeding content were gathered from their business proposal portfolio, which are thereby part of their licensed intellectual property).

 DEALS 101 (A Primer)

Big Deals is actually a type of online marketing & promotions strategy with a two-pronged target.  For business owners, it is an opportunity to get their brands, services or products across various populations or groups.  On the other hand, the consumers (the 2nd target) are also expected to benefit as discounts and information sharing of business's products and services are advertised and made known to them straight via their social media accounts, emails or bookmarked blog sites.  Win-win scenario, right?  The term commonly used on these transactions is what you call 'promo deals'.  These strategies provide the business owners the opportunity to create bigger waves of marketing and promotions of their services, increasing the chances of income.  We consumers, on the other side, may expect the chance to avail things at discounted prices that we would otherwise not readily take in considering their original price tags.

The 'Big Deals' project is the brain-child of Greecos Software Solutions, Inc. a registered company in Angeles City Pampanga.  The team is comprised of young group of entrepreneurs from various fields (engineers, software developers & marketing professionals --- wonder if they need a part-time psych grad??)

Since I promised to help them promote their site, here are the links directing you to their website as well as other portals to get the necessary details whether you are a business owner or a consumer like me.

Official website: http://www.bigdeals.com.ph/
Consumer Registration: discover great discounts here!
Business Owners: Register your business here

I have tested the online registration.  It was very easy and response is quick.  I even got my own referral link (http://www.bigdeals.com.ph/index.php/auth/register/?referrer=4157).

Their website is organized to show various categories to suit the different needs of people.  The site has the following categories: FOOD-DINING, HEALTH-WELLNESS and TRAVEL-EVENTS.  You can also visit their Facebook account via this link.

An email exchange with their HR and Sales & Marketing Manager outlined the following past and present partners they have and with this initial line-up, they sure are going a long way in the future: Century Hotel (Balibago Angeles City), Wishing Well (Diamond Balibago, Angeles City), Prism Hotel (Friendship, Balibago Angeles City), Velvet Spa, ShangHai Restaurant and  Do-It Printing Service (all located in Angeles City Pampanga.).  They also have a few clients from Manila, Top Mama Enterprises. RBV Cosmetic Surgery, Studio 1, Onyx Photobooth, Reyes Haircutters, CGM Balloons and Party Needs, Happy Shirts and a lot more.

Here are some of the partners and deals I saw from their website.  Click on the captions and be directed straight to their website.  Deals have complete information showing you the deadline as well the discount price.

click here
click here
click here
click here

Happy CNY 2012!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Korean Kravings

So I finally gave in to the temptation of eating anything Korean.... Yes, when 2012 opened, I haven't gotten any kimchi on my mouth nor any ramyun or kimbap... but I just can't continue with it.

this was my dusk shot of the place
So with just one cycle after the first work-week of January, and after a grueling gym session (my instructor said I need to pay back all the holiday calories and missed gym sessions), my foot led me to our city's very own Korean town, specifically to Hyun Jeong.  Described as one of Angeles City's first ever Korean themed restaurant and boy, I was not disappointed and would definitely add this to my 'regular' places to be from now on.  That is if one is craving for an authentic, decently priced and yummy treat from working your ass (pardon the word) out to earn a living.

Ok, I was not completely honest there.  Nope, I did not do the 'zombie-like' walk from the gym to Hyun Jeong.  I actually researched about it for a week and the web and fellow bloggers gave me decent information enough for me to finalize the plans of hunting for this place.
a better night shot from balibago.org

The address is #190 Friendship Highway, Angeles City.  They do have telephone number (045 893 0579) but I do not know if it is working. Opens from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm and can sit, according to Balibago.org up to 100 people.  There are five (5) staff waiting to serve you.

Now for those new to Friendship Hi-way's Korean town.  Go look for other famous places such as Jun-Jun's and AC1 Gym (ehe that's me promoting my gym) and Hyun Jeong is at the same line as these.

Aptly describe as a pioneer, yes, the place looks and feels dated from outside-in.  But do not be discouraged by these because the place is clean (which is what's important I think) and we saw senior Korean people eating (a good sign for foodies as it indicates, and confirms authenticity of the menu options).

The dining place is lined with sturdy wooden tables and chairs and there is a portion with about chest-level partitions for more intimate groups (privacy, anyone?).  There is no lingering smell considering that there was another group already eating when we came in to eat.  I chose the table with partition as I am a bit intimidated with the other guests (very Korean looking and speaking). Ehe, plus I was bringing with me a 'cheat-sheet' of what to order (go laugh now).

Their menu is one of a kind and it's rather classic on the outside but relatively modern in terms of the content.  It is one heavy menu folder also, ehe.

The offerings are organized very well so as to guide the readers/eaters perfectly on what options are available.  There are a lot of dishes mostly starting at 200 to 250.  Hold your horses for a while as these orders can already be split into 3-4 I think.  Don't worry about appetizers as being a Korean Restaurant, you won't be disappointed to the quality and quantity of side dishes that they offer.  Plus, they are very much refillable, Yey! Although for this particular visit, we did not even had the chance to refill because there was so much! Speaking of side dishes, these were served to us (I hear bells ringing now...)

dried fish, sweet and spicy

Bean sprouts, spicy and earthy

Sauteed veggies, savory rich
Potatoes and veggies, mildly spicy
Potato salad with egg --- cool and refreshing
Kimchi ol time fave

For the main event, we got Dolsot Bibimbap which is basically bibimbap (mixed rice and veggies) in hot pot, Ohjimguh Dulbap which is a spicy sauteed squid with rice and Gochujang Samgyuosal (with lettuce and the works).  Yup, the meals we got a pretty minimal since we were still testing the waters.  AND WE WERE WRONG.  With just three meals, they were uber more than enough to fill us in.

Gochujang Samgyuosal
Ohjimguh Dulbap
There were also the usual set-up, water, soup (made of miso from the taste), cold towels for your hands and that yummy gingery-cinnamon tasting last drink they offered us but was not able to ask for the name (so please, discreetly tell me that it isn't a hand wash-thing that Koreans do, my friend and I have been arguing about it since).
Metal chopsticks, cold towels, ever reliable water, ehe
Partner to the Samgyuosal... the paste was superb!
Miso-like soup

Refreshing after-meal drink

Over-all, it was a worthy try.  Glad researching hasn't failed me yet.  Note to self, eating in an authentic Korean set-up requires time.  I think with all the side dishes and the large servings meant long eating time.  I highly recommend this for large group of friends who will have to catch up with many stories, for family gatherings and after work unwinding.

Enjoying every chopstick bite of it...

My friend and I fooling around with food --- Bon apetite!