MJ Mercado

MJ Mercado

MJ Mercado

Chocolatier

Yes, that’s a noun, not a comparative adjective. He’s a chocolatier, not a chocolate maker. What’s the diff? In simple terms, a chocolatier is someone who makes chocolates, those dipped, nutty, or cream-filled confections that we all know and love. A chocolate maker on the other hand is someone that roasts cocoa beans and simply grinds them into chocolate. Who has the more fulfilling job? MJ will help you figure that out!

Who is MJ?

MJ is an IT professional that loves food. It led me to research more about chocolates, hence the reason why I’m doing this gourmet chocolate experience at home.

What made you become interested in food and chocolates?

I guess it was from my heritage on my father’s side. Our province is in Pampanga, and it is dubbed as the culinary capital of the Philippines. Since I was a child, we were raised up around food. It’s part of my love for food. For chocolates, I was challenged to find food related business that is related to science.

What do you like best about making food or making chocolates?

I love the technique behind it. I could apply my engineering background. It’s like working in a chemistry lab when formulating the recipes for chocolates and other gnash.

How many years did it take you to come up with your chocolate creations? What did you go through throughout the years?

I started researching about chocolates way back in 2011. Almost 6 years now since I’ve started using compound chocolates. For my creations, I did a lot of research online since my previous work was with IT so I have a lot of knowledge in researching the online trends. I also made it a point to attend food expos to follow whatever new trends or upcoming trends in food.

What made you become interested in food and chocolates?

I guess it was from my heritage on my father’s side. Our province is in Pampanga, and it is dubbed as the culinary capital of the Philippines. Since I was a child, we were raised up around food. It’s part of my love for food. For chocolates, I was challenged to find food related business that is related to science.

During your process of making chocolates, do you need to be in a certain mood to make the chocolates?

What I follow is that if my mind isn’t at peace, or not clear, or if I’m not in the mood to make chocolates, I stop and I meditate. When my mind is clear, I can start my work. When making mocha shots, it’s as if you’re in the zone; you’re doing your thing and as long as you’re in that zone, whatever happens around you is irrelevant. You could just continue working when you’re in the zone.

Do you consider chocolate making an art?

For me, it’s both an art and a science. Since I have a technical background, I used to study engineering in college, and when I went to the industry I worked as an IT professional. The techniques and the science behind the chocolate is what interests me most but also the arts of creating your own recipes. Most people are scared of making or using chocolates because it’s very temperamental; it doesn’t like moisture, it doesn’t like high heat. But for me, it’s a challenge. That’s what I love about chocolates.

Can you talk about experiences where people tried your chocolates or your food? What was their reaction and what did that make you feel?

Their usual reaction is, “Wow, that’s a new twist on a classic!” One of the bestsellers are the mocha shots. I call it mocha shots because it’s shaped like coffee beans and its first container was the shot glass, so my thought behind it was to create an edible souvenir that could be given on weddings and corporate events.

Could you share more about your advocacy of helping local farmers through your ingredients?

The chocolates that I’m using are either from the Philippines or from ASEAN countries. I’m using 56% couverture chocolate from Indonesia. The brand is Tulip. I love the texture and how it compliments the coffee beans that I am using from Sagada mountain province as well as Arabica coffee beans from Mount Matutum, South Cotabato. I make it a point that I use local chocolates as much as possible but if it’s not available, I try to look for countries that are ASEAN members so that I could support the ASEAN economy.

 

There’s no such thing as no solution.”

MJ Mercado

 

What’s the most memorable chocolate experience you have or will have?

Since I am in the business of creating chocolates for weddings, I will be making my own edible creations for my own wedding. I’ve created several souvenirs for that special event. Most of my bestsellers would be on our wedding, it will be laid out on a chocolate table. That’s the experience that I want to have for our guests. Even our wedding cake is a chocolate cake. It’s made with 65% dark chocolate so it’s a moist chocolate cake. Although it’s not a traditional cake, we love chocolate so we decided to use 65% Malagos chocolate for our wedding day.

What could traveller’s expect during your gourmet chocolate experience?

They could expect a lot of technical terms since I have a technical background. Also, a lot of history. I’ll be discussing some history about chocolates and how it was brought to the Philippines from Mexico. We’ll also be making some sikwate or the traditional way of creating hot chocolate but we will also be creating contemporary confections like truffles and crinkles.

How about the interactive side? What could the travelers do?

They could participate in the experience by participating in the temperament process, by mixing the gnash as well as piping the fillings for the dulce de leche. If they want to really experience it, we could also have the travelers use the mortar and pestle to create the sikwate.

Can you run us through the menu for the experience?

The menu that I have in mind is creating hot chocolate using Malagos unsweetened chocolates but before that, we will be creatingsikwate using cacao nibs, also from Malagos. The reason behind using Malagos is that they are one of the best Filipino chocolates that are available in the market right now. I believe in their advocacy, because they support local growers of cacao. We will also be creating pramines like mocha shots and dulce de leche, which is caramel with Philippine sea salt or rock salt. We could create truffles. That should take around 4-5 hours or at least half a day.

Travel Mini Map: Binondo Edition

Travel Mini Map: Binondo Edition

Do not underestimate the size of the oldest Chinatown in the world! If you ever get the chance to view Binondo from a roof deck, you will surely be too mesmerized for words! Explore the beauty of this “little” city by visiting the restaurants and uncovering age-old heritage sites!

1. Delicious Restaurant

 

looloo.com

 

The name of this restaurant is an understatement to describe its food menu! Chami, Spicy Fried Spareribs, Calamares and Spring Chicken are what you should definitely order for a tasty merienda. This place is cheap too! Medium servings for The Pancit Bihon Special good for 2-3 persons usually go for about Php120. Be warned though that its location is not the most pleasant in Binondo.

 

Location: 580 F. Torres Street, corner Gonzalo Puyat Street

Telephone: (02) 733 0401

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 10:30am to 12:00mn

 

 

2. Kim Hiong Food Garden

 

tripadvisor.com.ph

Delight in the Teochew style cuisine dishes such as Hot and Sour Soup, Pork Spareribs with Taro, Kangkong with Chinese Bagoong! The Stir Fried Beef Noodles is their bestseller, and a win-win for only Php175 yet with generous serving portions. You will notice that the meals have a similarity to Cantonese and Fujian cooking.

 

Location: 946 Ongpin Street

Telephone: (02) 735 3633

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 10:30am to 4:30am

 

3. Mañosa

 

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If you’ve got no budget for good food, then you will like this resto! For only Php100, you can have a taste of the brown glutinous rice stuffed with pork and shiitake mushroom wrapped in bamboo leaves called Machang. Pair it with ketchup and hot sauce for that sweet yet salty taste. Another must-try in Mañosa is their maki, which is a thick savory broth with chunks of pork kasim.

 

Location: 926 Ongpin Street

Telephone: (02) 733 3179

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 9:00am to 10:00pm

 

 

4. La Zhou La Mien

 

insights.looloo.com

La Zhou La Mien is home to the La Mien noodles, also known as hand pulled noodles. Order a bowl of the classic Beef La Mien for only Php80 and attempt to finish it or share it with a friend — it’s a huge bowl. We assure you that no meal here is priced over Php1000, but you just have to withstand the ambiance which is not for people who are used to eating at the cleanest restos in the metro. The food makes up for the place!

 

Location: 818 Benavidez Street

Telephone: (02) 244 5365

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 8:00am to 9:00pm

 

 

5. Diao Eng Chay

 

foodspotting.com

People refer to Diao Eng Chay as the “Santis Deli” of the Chinese delicatessens. Although their best seller has got to be their hopia, DEC isn’t just exclusive for pastries! Dine here one day and don’t miss out the perfect take-out foods like dumplings, chicken pie, siomai, chicken pies and lumpia made out shrimp, carrots, and other surprise ingredients.

 

Location: 845 Salazar Street

Telephone: (02) 244 8816

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 8:00am to 10:00pm

 

 

6. Quan Yin Chay Vegetarian Food Garden

 

foodspotting.com

 

Orginally just Quan Yin Chay, an iconic place that shouldn’t be missed by vegetarians and vegans alike. The cafeteria style gives a comforting vibe of your old school days, eating hot meals on plastic tables for lunch in the canteen, only this time, healthier. Owned by Taoists, the restaurant uses no garlic or onion. A la carte menu features many mock meat dishes that are already cooked, such as the Shabu-shabu noodles, Pai ye (flavored tofu), and fresh lumpia. Feeling hungry yet? Maybe even try bringing your carnivorous friends!

 

Location: 739 Ongpin Street

Telephone: (02) 243 3357

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 7:00am to 9:00pm

 

 

7. Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant

 

anotsopopularkid.com

Bento boxes in a Chinese restaurant, for only Php80? Yes, this exists in Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant! Round up the barkada because meals here are dirt cheap. Take the Sincerity Whole Fried Chicken, for example, which is Php300. Split it among your barkada! Caution yourselves with the unsatisfactory service and be prepared to wait a while for your food. To make up for that, Sincerity Cafe has one of the cleaner atmospheres among restaurants in Binondo. You should totally put this on your Binondo Food Crawl list. Sincerely.

 

Location: 497 Yuchengco Street

Telephone: (02) 241 9991

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 10:00am to 10:00pm

 

 

8. New Po Heng

 

primer.com.ph

Your Binondo food trip is not complete without visiting this stop! If you have Php60 to spare, go ahead and splurge on this restaurant’s specialty, the ultimate Chinese fresh lumpia, served burrito-style. It has everything you would look for in lumpia — veggies, lettuce, thai grass crisp, garlic, finished off with their sweet garlicky sauce. The peanut brittle inside the lumpia just makes this the BOMB! They even offer free delivery around Binondo!

 

Location: Uy Su Bin Building, 531 Quintin Paredes Street, Barangay 289

Telephone: (02) 241 8789

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 7:00am to 7:00pm

 

 

9. Ying Ying Tea House

 

insights.looloo.com

Go ahead and pig out with the cuisine from this Hong Kong style resto! Taste their popular Peking Duck and their huge Special Pao. It is overloaded with bola bola meat. To think it is only Php70! The place is usually always full since there is a limited number of seats, but it will be worth the wait.

 

Location: 234 Dasmariñas Street

Telephone: (02) 387 2797

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 7:00am to 2:00am

 

 

 

10. The Original SaLido Restaurant

 

ph.phonebooky.com

A very hungry tummy calls for a feast at The Orginal SaLido Restaurant! The place offers the typical Chinese comfort food you could think of, like Chicken Feet, Hakaw, Sharksfin Dumplings, and Pork Siomai. Here’s a tip: bring all your friends to help you try all their specialties!

 

Location: 2/F 839 Ongpin Street

Telephone: (02) 736 4569

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 6:00am to 9:00pm

 

11. Wai Ying Fastfood

 

tripadvisor.com.ph

Ready for the “most satisfying dimsum”? Or how about some teahouse specialties such as Roast Duck noodles, Siomai, Hakaw, Congee, and Curry Siomai? Since this is a fastfood chain, the food will reach you fast, the prices are crazily affordable, the seats may be full most of the time, but one thing is for sure — you will keep coming back!

Location: 810 Benavidez St

Telephone:  (02) 242 0310

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 7:00am to 9:00pm

12. Binondo Church

 

brideworthy.com

The Catholic religion still prevails against all odds, as seen in the Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish. Although the Chinese are known for being predominantly Buddhists, it is amazing how this Catholic Church is centered in the very heart of Chinatown. Upon arrival here, you will notice a park outside the church, where a statue in honor of Don Roman Ongpin, the Chinese businessman who contributed to the success of the Filipino uprising against Spain in 1896, stands.

 

Location: Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz

Telephone: (02) 242 4850

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 9:30am to 9:30pm

 

13. Chuan Kee Fast Food

 

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After a hungry day visiting the Binondo Church, stop by for some energy at Chuan Kee Fast Food, since it is right across! We highly recommend the lechon kawali, as it is a house favorite. The Kiampong, or the Chinese Paella, is only Php40 per order! Just be willing to dine with ventilation from the electric fans, since you won’t be having the comfort of aircondition.

Location: 650 Ongpin Street corner Yuchengco Street

Telephone: (02) 288 8888

Operating Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 6:00am to 10:00pm

                              Sundays from 6:00am to 1:00pm

 

14. Ling Nam

 

thehungryexcavator.com

Since 1950, Ling Nam has been operating and going strong. Picky eaters will relish the Sweet and Sour Fish and the Garlic Spinach. Savor the flavors of the original recipes of Chicken Noodle Soup and Hakaw, the steamed shrimp dumpling. Fast fact: Ling Nam’s first branch is one of the only branches left in the Philippines, which is located in Binondo.

 

Location: 616 T. Alonzo Street

Telephone: (02) 733 5231

Operating Hours: Open Everyday from 10:00am to 10:00pm

 

 

 

Sources: Spot.ph, Our Awesome Planet, More Like Twins, Out of Town Blog, Zomato, Trip Advisor, Tara Lets, Munchpunch, Click The City, Looloo, Open Rice, The Closet Glutton, Happy Cow, A Not So Popular Kid, Tet Adventurer, Azrael Merry Land, Philippine Primer, Boy Plakwatsa, Kain Manila, Lette’s Haven, Foodie Station

 

Some icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

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Travel Mini Map: Singapore Edition

Travel Mini Map: Singapore Edition

They say that Singapore is small enough to gallivant in a day. Slow down and take this time to immerse yourself in the diverse culture of the country. Stopping by and really enjoying what Singapore has to offer will make you appreciate every part of it! We’ve gathered a list of places which are definitely worth discovering in the exquisite Lion City.

1. Mega Adventure Park

 

 

The perfect place for the bold explorer! Try out the Megajump, where you get to free-fall jump from 15 metres above! Fly over treetops at 60 Km per hour in the Megazip. Finally, satisfy your adventure by ending off with the Reverse Bungy, where you get to catapult 60 metres into the sky! The faint hearted will enjoy the more subtle type of adventure, such as a “once-in-a-lifetime” sensory dark experience and having lunch in the dark, in case you can’t stand going on daredevil mode.

 

Location: 10A Siloso Beach Walk

 

2. Tiong Bahru

 

 

Tiong Bahru is the chillest spot in the country. There are lots of cafes and restos in this street, and by lots we mean LOADS. If you’re looking for traditional Cantonese foods such as cereal prawns, beef hor fun, and champagne pork ribs, you should absolutely dine at Por Kee. For scrumptious Hainanese curry, look for the stall called Loos Hainanese Curry. Can you believe they cook the sauce for three days? It looks messy in the end but

 

 

unexpectedly delicious. Day and Night Pizza is the one stop pizza shop in the street. For Italian ice cream, visit Chapter 55. They have the most delectable dessert waffles! The department store, Takashimaya, has a floor of restaurants with popular food — not to mention it’s super cheap too! On this floor, be sure to check out Ma Maison for mouthwatering hamburger steak and Japanese-Western cuisine. The retro architecture inspired by the 1930s makes the place very charming.

 

 

Location: 9A Boon Tiong Road

 

3. National Gallery

 

nationalgallery.sg

 

What better way to discover Singapore rich heritage than to visit a museum? The National Gallery in Singapore is a new visual arts institution which oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The Gallery won multiple awards at the prestigious Singapore Tourism Awards for its role in adding to the vibrancy of Singapore’s tourism landscape.

 

Location: 1 Saint Andrew’s Road

 

4. Little India

 

 

If you’ve got three hours to spare, tour around Little India where you can learn about Singapore’s past and present through personal stories. For starters, you might want to check out superb malls such as the Mustafa Centre, Tekka Centre, and The Verge Shopping Mall. Take some time to smell the fragrance of Indian spices along Buffalo Road and Little India Arcade.

 

Location: 665 Buffalo & Serangoon Roads

 

5. Chinatown

 

 

Bustling with new and traditional shops and markets, it’s no wonder that Chinatown is a must-visit hot spot in Singapore. If there’s anywhere suitable for a Chinatown to exist in, it has to be in Singapore! This place is a storybook of Chinese heritage! Use this opportunity to meet strangers! Not quite sure where to start? Monster Day Tours gives you a free walking day tour where you will be guided along the wide road of this pleasant town. Maybe even have your fortune read along the way!

 

Location: Southbridge Road

 

6. Orchard Road

 

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Orchard Road has many specimens of flowers and plants to behold. You will find them in nicely manicured gardens when going on a leisurely stroll here. Begin your morning with tai chi classes at the Ch’I Life Studio which is also suitable for the whole family. You can also get more involved with the environment with the orchid growing workshop that the place offers.

 

 

7. Night Safari

 

kkday.com

Being the world’s first nocturnal zoo, the Night Safari is quite a popular destination in Singapore. It only opens at night and has over 1000 nocturnal animals on display. Among them are the world’s largest goat, the markhors, the Malayan tapir, and the Gir lion. You might also relish performances presented by the zoo animals.

 

Location: 80 Mandai Lake Rd

 

8. Clarke Quay

 

 

Clarke Quay is literally a row of restaurants by the river. The number of restaurants will overwhelm you, so it’s best to travel here with a guide or a Singaporean. Try Tampopo’s black pig tonkatsu in Liang Court, a mall along Clarke Quay. There are also so many cute Japanese stores that cater to

 

 

the Japanese community living in Singapore, such as a Japanese bookstore, clinic, and grocery store. You will definitely look forward to happy hour with the locals!

 

Location: 3 River Valley Rd

 

Sources: Trip Advisor, Planet Ware, National Gallery Singapore, Wander Wisdom, Hotels.com, Toggle, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Pinky Vierra

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5 Hidden Food Spots You Never Knew Were in Binondo

5 Hidden Food Spots You Never Knew Were in Binondo

Ni Hao! (That’s Mandarin for Hello if you didn’t know)
Now, let’s get down to the big reveal…

But first, as someone who
POSSIBLY, LITERALLY KNOWS NOTHING about the oldest Chinatown in the World aka Binondo, have you ever found these thoughts familiar?
“Okay, I’m here… Now what??”
“So many restaurants to choose, so little time.”
“I have been walking this whole stretch for close to an hour, and I haven’t even decided on where to eat yet!!”
If you have, then you’re officially a clueless foodie… And I congratulate you on finding this article!! And I promise that when you finish reading, you’ll be strutting through Binondo like a local in NO TIME!

Top Hidden Food Spots in Binondo

1. Cafe Mezzanine

The inside of Cafe Mezzanine

Inside Cafe Mezzanine

 

Cafe Mezzanine is probably among the most eye-catching cafeteria that you’ll see in the main street of Ongpin close to the Binondo Church landmark . People often mistaken it for a very common takeaway food place, but most fail to recognize that many locals are a big fan of its authentic recipes that has outlived most of us reading this article today, yet its taste have evolved to cater to the millennial’s thirst for meaty soups and soupy dishes.

What to see:

Aside from being a cafeteria, you’ll see one of the most congested corners of the heritage town with a student-filled Catholic school and a supermarket that’s always filled up with local residents in front of it. Much architectures surrounding it are also original with some recovering up from the previous fire disasters.

What to order:

Xiao Long Bao (Php 180) and Lava Pao (Php 90)

Address: Ongpin Street, Binondo, Manila

2. Quik Snack

Quik Snack sign displayed outside

Quik Snack sign as seen from Carvajal Street

Ku Chay Ah (Chinese Chive Pastry)

Home to classic recipes of a local mom and grandma, Quik Snack never fails to bring out the classic flavors to the taste buds of the millennials. Its dishes sounds so traditional, yet tastes very modern with a nostalgic throwback of familiar aroma of the past. Don’t miss this one out as this fastfood-disguised restaurant is going to blow your appetite.

What to see:

Quik Snack is located in a corner street in Chinatown called Carvajal. This street is a classic narrow street impassable by cars and easy to be mistaken as a random alley, but there lies so much secret recipes that will only be possible with this street around. Carvajal is also a sight filled with fruits and raw ingredients with diversity of origins coming from Southeast Asia and China.

What to order:

Kuchay Ah (Php 45) and Lumpa – Fresh (Php 75)

Address: 637 Carvajal Street, Binondo, Manila

3. Dongbei Dumplings

This is how Dong Bei makes their Kutchay Dumplings

How they make Kutchay Dumplings

Humpty Dumpty! Dongbei dumplings are worth falling for. Locals won’t argue about the fame of this restaurant for being the topnotch dumpling shop on top of mind for its juice and meaty dumplings. As you dine in this small dumpling shop, you’ll be cramped in its dumpling crafting space where you see raw ingredients transformed into frozen dumplings from scratch with traditional culinary arts.

Make sure not to eat too fast as you might burn yourself with these steamed and fried dumplings. Also, you’ve got enough choices for ingredients from vegetarian to pork and to chicken. Don’t have second thoughts on this one as they will surely satisfy your cravings!

Watch out, they usually have three or four tables, and the queue can get really long even outside Chinese New year celebration!

What to see:

Located at the far back of Yuchengco street, this Dumpling shop is the main attention grabber of the quiet corner. Along this area, you’ll see old residential apartments with quiet roads where many Chinese-Filipinos are living in. A few meters away, you’ll also see the magnificent structure of the Binondo Church!

What to order:

Kuchay with Pork Dumplings (Php 150)

Address: 642 Yuchengco, Binondo, Manila

4. Ying Ying Teahouse

Variety of seasoned poultry as seen inside Ying Ying

What can go more classic than an old-looking house that’s housing a dimsum shop deep inside featuring the oldest dimsums of Chinatown! Ying Ying Teahouse is a pretty unique restaurant on its own with much of its recipes very different from the Chinese dishes that we’re used to. They are considered as an alternative restaurant for using their own localized recipes for Chinese foods.

The locals love their oversized Siomais, half-pound Asados and a couple of other dishes only found here such as variations of Frog dishes and Chinese-inspired curries. While many may find their customer service a bit harsh, the locals find it a norm with dishes served in a flash amidst the busy two-floored dimsum house.

What to see:

Located close to the classic Escolta, this teahouse is situated in the intersection of two classic commercial streets – Yuchengco and Dasmarinas. Along the area, you’ll discover many abandoned commercial buildings with old signages. Don’t miss the stroll around Escolta with its old architectures with century-old architectures.   

What to order:

Siomai (Php 75) and Asado (Php 130+)

Address: Dasmarinas Street, Binondo, Manila

5. Lan Zhou La Mien

Process of making hand-made La Mien. This scene is considered as the "landmark" of the restaurant by the locals, and can be chanced upon from outside the restaurant itself.

Chef preparing the hand-made noodles

One of Lan Zhou La Mien's specialties is its Beef Wanton La Mien.

Beef Wanton La Mien

Noodle madness right here with the entire menu filled with delicious hand-pulled noodles. Pegged as a classic 1900s noodle shop restaurant, Lan Zhou La Mien never fails to amaze all its hungry guests with its flavorful soup bases, secret ingredients and freshly made noodles. They have variations of noodles including soup noodles, dried fried noodles, noodles with sauce on top and flavors from vegetable to seafood!

What’s more is that they have a killer recipe in store surprising most noodle lovers – their very own dumplings! Yes, those savory dumplings are one of a kind, a perfect pair for the noodles.  

What to see:

The restaurant can be discovered along the mainstreet of Ongpin closer to the side of Sta. Cruz church. What you’ll see around are shops selling lucky charms and jewelries, many of which have been there for the past decades with a few tracing even the American and Japanese era.  

What to order:

Beef Wanton Noodles (Php 190) and Friend Dumplings (Php 130)

Address: Ongpin Street, Binondo, Manila

 

Phew! Now that you’ve made our tummies happy AND burned the calories from all that walking, we really hope you enjoyed our list! Do you know any other secret food places that aren’t on this list? If you do, tell us about it and leave a comment below.
Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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5 Reasons Why You’d WANT to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Binondo

5 Reasons Why You’d WANT to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Binondo

Are you lazing at home, tired and bored of celebrating Chinese New Year munching on the overpriced tikoy you bought in Makati?
Of course you are, that’s why you’re reading this! And I know that you’re dying to turn up your Chinese New Year festivities!

Have you heard of friends getting their pockets refilled on Chinese New Year? Surely you did as Chinese New Year is a favorite celebration of the young (more allowance from the Ampao) and the old alike.

Every year, you see those colorful photos of Chinese New Year in Binondo at your news feed. You scroll through photos of the majestic and jaw-dropping surroundings of Ongpin Street, the mouth-watering palette of Chinese food, and the experience of the people being one with the yearly occasion. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking and deep inside, you want to find reasons to ditch your bed and join the celebration… You just don’t know WHERE and HOW to start!

Well, you’re in luck! This year, let me share to you 5 reasons why you should come down and celebrate it at Binondo. (The celebration is not all about money, money lah!) Read on ‘cause we’ve put in some challenges you can always do whenever you’re in Binondo.

1. Spoil Your Bellies

You’ve got that right. Your tastebuds and sense of taste deserves the best flavors of Chinatown. Here, experience a huge diversity of delicious Chinese-Filipino specialties from the lumpia and the dimsum down to the competitive noodle shops and pork chops! It’s a mashup of our grandparent’s nostalgic favorites and the millennial’s savory bites, all in one place!

Challenge: Come with an empty stomach, like, don’t eat until you arrive, really. You’ll never have enough of the Binondo food (crazy, I know right!).

**Since you’re already here, why don’t you check out our Binondo Food Crawl? We’re gonna make your tummies full with the best Binondo food we’ve ever tasted!**

HURRY! Slots are LIMITED, so you’d better grab yours right N.O.W.

2. Lose Your Bellies  

Just kidding, you won’t lah. Shhh, some people just read the headlines. You just gained weight from all those foods, didn’t you?

Nah, Chinese New Year is a food cheat day for everyone! Don’t overthink about the calories and the workout hours you’ll have to put in to burn ‘em, besides, you will be squashed in the crowd once in awhile and you won’t get tired with the long walk back-and-forth to this festivity.

3. Enjoy the Oldest Heritage

Welcome to the oldest Chinatown in the world. You’ve got that right again. It’s the 500 years of history that make this magic of experience a possibility. Having gone through various rulers and trading with the rest of the world – the town has so much to offer that can allow a Filipino enter the days of our ancestors to discover how life was in the old Manila.

Challenge: Find out where the oldest restaurant, oldest moviehouse and oldest elevators are located!

4. Street Shopping Like a Local

Nowadays, people shop (or window shop) inside the malls a lot just because of the lack of options and choices. Did you know that the main street of Ongpin is filled with street shops from foods to lucky charms? Yup, you will shop in a street filled with shops next to each other at a price far cheaper than malls and at an experience far better.

Challenge: Haggle in Hokkien. Tell the aunties and uncles, “Ya Kuy”, means too expensive. You never know, a good discount might be your next meal!

5. Snap with No Limits

We live in a generation of experience – we see and we want to experience it, but in our own way. This Chinese New Year, this photogenic and snap-genic (coining this one for the celebration alone) is worth paying a visit for. More than just snaps, all your social media will be filled with people going crazy for your experiences in Binondo!

Challenge: Don’t miss out the Dragon Dance, take a selfie with the hard-to-chase dragon! Gyarados in Pokemon Go? No, this one is for real!

Feel like a Chinoy now? We hope you enjoy your Chinese New Year! And as always, leave us a comment if you’ve got more stuff to share with us, and if you’re curious for more!

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5 Must Visit Restaurants in Baguio

5 Must Visit Restaurants in Baguio

Ahh, Baguio! It’s always great to visit this amazing place for a relaxing weekend away from the stress and worries from working all week. There’s just something about feeling the cool climate of Baguio that makes life feel free and easy. Aside from the low temperature, people also love Baguio for the countless local restaurants and cafes that offers amazing food. There’s so many good places to visit that it’s worth visiting the city just for a local food trip. The best cafes and restaurants are the ones that give you a glimpse of the local culture in Baguio. Imagine enjoying good food in a place that’s celebrating the rich culture of the Cordilleras. It’s the real Baguio experience! Here are some recommended places to eat on your next trip to Baguio:

Arca’s Yard

Arca’s Yard is located in a soft corner along Ambuklao Road, about 15-20 minute ride away from the city proper. The place can be easily spotted on the way because there’s an abundance of Bougainvillea flowers blooming outside. It’s a very homey place as it used to be one of the houses of the family of Ninja Sabado, the manager of the cafe.

Photo by Roamulofied WordPress

Photo by Roamulofied WordPress

What to see:
Aside from being a restaurant, Arca’s Yard also stands as a small museum showcasing cultural artifacts. They also have a library that contains interesting books on travel and local traditions. On the balcony, you can also find a nice view of the clouds and pine trees.

What to order:
Pesto Carbonara Pasta (Php 220) and Arca’s Sweet Potato ala mode (Php 95)

Photo by Roamulofied WordPress

Photo by Roamulofied WordPress

Address:
#777 Tip-Top City Limit, Ambuklao Road, Baguio City

 

Choco-late de Batirol

In a small, cozy area at Camp John Hay’s Igorot Park rests a small garden-cafe that serves home-cooked food and their house specialty, Choco-late de Batirol. Their advocacy is to preserve Filipino culture through their food and environment.

Photo by MommyFleur

Photo by MommyFleur

What to see:
The whole place is surrounded by plants and trees, so nature lovers would definitely enjoy the place. They also used recycled materials for their furnishings such as tables, chairs, and roofing materials.

What to order:
Suman sa Lihia (Php 64) and Choco-late de Batirol (Php 80)

Photo by MommyFleur

Photo by MommyFleur

Address:
Igorot Garden, Scout Hill, Camp John Hay, Baguio City

 

Cafe by the Ruins

Cafe by the Ruins has long been a restaurant institution in Baguio, known for its distinct Cordilleran mood and environment. They offer fresh baked bread and local dishes such as Baguio Bagnet and Longganisang Hubad. The cafe also expanded and built another branch in Baguio called Cafe by the Ruins Dua.

Cafe by the Ruins

What to see:
Diners always love the authentic Baguio restaurant vibe inside Cafe by the Ruins. They also promote local artists by putting up exhibits of their works.

What to order:
Filipino Lon-Si-Log (Php 245) and Ernie’s Kamote Bread with Kesong Puti and Basil (Php 120)

Photo by Lakad Pilipinas

Address:
#23 Chuntug Street, Baguio City

 

Cafe Yagam

Indulge in authentic Cordilleran cuisine in the isolated nook of Cafe Yagam. Similar to Arca’s yard, this place also has a house-turned-into-cafe story. The place is located along Gibraltar road, en route to Mines View, a highly popular tourist destination in Baguio City.

Photo by Lakad Pilipinas

Photo by Lakad Pilipinas

What to see:
If you visit Yagam on a cool evening, you will be welcomed by the crackling sounds of open bonfire in the front yard. It gives the cafe an instant laidback mood. On top of that, there are also books and magazines lying around inside the cafe for guests’ leisure. On special weekends, they also have music performers and open mic.

What to order:
Pinikpikan with Etag (Php 200) and Pinuneg (Php 200)

Cafe Yagam

Address:
25 J. Felipe St., Gibraltar Baguio City

 

Oh My Gulay

You wouldn’t believe this oasis is located in the heart of the busy road of Session. On the fifth floor of La Azotea building, you will find yourself in this serene sanctuary that will take you to a Baguio arts and culture retreat. Giving it away from their name, Oh My Gulay only serves vegetarian dishes.

Photo by Lakad Pilipinas

Photo by Lakad Pilipinas

What to see:
The first things you’ll see upon entering OMG are the Cordilleran cultural displays along the stairs and a small koi pond, standing as the centerpiece of the whole place. The cafe also features visual-art exhibits from local artists and other theatrical performances. They also utilized the altitude of the place by putting up seats with overlooking view of the city.

What to order:
OMG Salad (Php 120) and Pasta Mestizo (Php 130)

Oh My Gulay

Make sure you try these restaurants on your next visit to the breathtaking city of pines. Tell us about your favorite Baguio resto!

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