Binondo Foodscapade: The Estero of Requirement and The Foodtopian Custard Hopia

Friday, July 12, 2013

PROLOGUE


As you've probably noticed by now, all my adventures seem to begin with an SMS. Well, this one's no different. You're probably tired of hearing/reading this but I couldn't write it any other way. So here we go.

It all started with a text. A text from my good friend French. Well, sort of. What really happened was we had a series of emails using our work inbox. Hahaha. Then there's this one time ('twas around the time I started blogging) that something about the two of us going on an adventure came up. I wanted a foodscapade. French wanted to go shopping. I recalled we had a pending Divisoria shopping trip, plus, at that time, we both wanted to go bargain-hunting so that's that. But I really really wanted to eat. You know, patay-gutom lang. So I suggested Binondo. I told French that I am not that into oriental cuisine but was open-minded, or rather, open-mouthed. She liked the idea so, just like that, we were all set. Madali naman kasi kaming kausap.

OK. It didn't start with an SMS. Don't nitpick.

IN A NUTSHELL

1.) A walk to remember. We agreed to meet up at NCBA that Saturday (July 6). I still needed to show up at school to "convene" with my adviser and update him where I was currently at with regards to my research. Anyway, the day before our adventure, French texted me: Don't look too expensive. I can't afford to lose you in Divisoria. To be honest, I found it hard to choose an outfit for our date because (a) I don't like wearing jeans, (b) I try to avoid wearing shorts at school, and (c) I prefer not to wear flats. However, I understood the sensibility of that text and was aware that one shouldn't wear something too flashy in that part of Manila. So the get-up was a battered pair of jeans + a shirt + a pair of espadrilles. When French and I met up (it was a little before lunch), however, her first words were: Sabi ko wag pang mayaman eh. Hahaha. 'Di naman eh. At any rate, we walked towards Anonas LRT Station. While we were struggling to balance our weights as we bounded off towards Recto (we opted for a standing ovation during our train ride), we decided that we'd walk our entire journey as soon as we got off from the LRT. I told French that I like hanging out with her because of this. (One of the reasons, just so we're clear.) I like walking. Why? Well that merits a separate entry.
So anyway, when we arrived at Recto station, French asked me if I knew where we were going. I told her no. I was going to improvise. It was an adventure, after all. But I did some Googling. Don't worry.
First of all, we went the wrong way. I probably got distracted because we were engaged in a conversation. We untrod our way back to the LRT station and crossed towards Chowking. (Sorry, am really not good with giving directions.) From there, we just relied on thoughtful strangers and gut-feels. You can never go wrong with gut-feels. 
After a series of wrong-turns and lucky hunches, we arrived at...


Chinatown! Woohoo!
Take Two!
So, after an unforgettable walk with matching unforgettable talks, we have arrived! Woohoo!
French the Explorer

2.) Hopia Galore! We just kept walking and found ourselves at a crossroads:

We chose to go to Ongpin and happened upon the Eng Bee Tin. One word: hopia.

Look at all those happy colors.

Taking a peek at the frozen section
This may have sounded like the store is big, but it really isn't. It was small and I think that's what makes it so special. Good things do come in small packages. :)

Lining up for the Cashier

I kept smiling while inside the store. Couldn't help it, I was in a very good mood. The frowning cashier (who eerily reminded me of Nanay Coring) was no match for my good vibes. Nanay Jane (as I came to call her) eventually smiled back. Spread the happy hormones!

Showing off my goodie bag
3.)  Estero del Requisito. We were tracing our steps back, trying to find a good place to have a decent meal. It was a little after noon and we were both hungry. "Gutom ka na?" I teased French. And all of a sudden, we heard the sound of crackling cooking oil. We looked to our left and saw a shady alley of turo-turo style food stalls. "Dito o," said French. Why not?
The stairs to our lunch meal
We descended the steps and found ourselves in awe of the uncommon set-up of the place. I've found out that you literally point to what you want and they will cook it for you. Turo-turo nga. Anyway, I wanted to have our meal in the open air but French insisted we sit inside the air-conditioned LGA Fastfood. I gave in; the weather was truly arid.
After a waitress sat us down, we asked for water. We were incredibly thirsty. 
Quenching
After we ensured that our throats were no longer croaking, the waitress handed us the menu and we began choosing our meal. 
Smile, for we are hungry
"Wag masyado marami kasi baka may makita pa tayong masarap," said French. I agreed, it was reasonable. We then placed our orders and at one point, the waitress sort of became snooty. We weren't aware that the servings were good for a duo so we asked for two orders of garlic rice. "Kung malakas kayo kumain, e'di mag-dalawang order kayo." Ha, Ate, if only you knew how big of an eater I was. 
Anyway, French wanted to make things clear once and for all, thus this reaction:
After we settled our orders, we decided to try the Custard Hopia we got from Eng Bee Tin. "Hindi naman nai-spoil ang appetite mo kapag kumakain ng matamis before a meal?" "Hindi naman. Weird ako eh," replied French. I know, right? Ako din eh. 
Each bite will make you smile
 
Yummy!
 We each had a bite of the Custard Hopia and we both found it delicious. It tasted like egg pie and leche flan. I thought, "Magugustuhan 'to ng Loves ko."  I then told French that I'd like to have a second trip to Eng Bee Tin to purchase more of it. She said sure. We bought just a single pack; we just wanted to try it. We also assumed that it needs to be refrigerated immediately. But it doesn't, apparently. More on this later.
In any event, our food arrived just in time. Here's what we had for our late lunch:

The controversial Garlic Rice
French commented that this was too oily. I didn't notice, to be honest. I liked how the garlic bits didn't get in the way. I hate it when the pieces are too big that you have to pick them out.
Beef with Broccoli

Again, I remembered Dennis because of this dish. He often has this for dinner and mentioned once that he had had enough of it. Naumay na. (Mommy works in a food catering service, by the way, thus the sosyal viands for dinner.) Anyhow, the beef was very tender and the broccoli was not overcooked. I didn't like how runny the sauce was, though. I don't know, it just seemed wrong. But it was good.
Lemon Chicken
Now, this. This was my favorite. The chicken was oh-so tender and was cooked to perfection. And I loved the surprising kick of tang from the lemon. The sauce that came with it was great too but it is enough all in itself. Sarap!

After our meal, French remarked that the place was similar to the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter. It presented itself to us just when we wanted some place to tame our growling stomachs. She dubbed it "The Eskinita of Requirement". I mentioned that I overheard the folks there referring to the place as "Estero", thus the shift to "The Estero of Requirement." Awesome, eh?
Two of the chefs at the Estero and their array of ingredients
4.) Nostalgia by Haw Flakes. After we had our meal, we walked back to Eng Bee Tin to grab more of the Custard Hopia.
Where you can find the best hopia
I should mention that I like how the place played Chinese instrumental music. Once I heard it, I was sure I was in Chinatown. 

While I waited for my hopias to be bagged, I asked Nanay Jane if it was OK not to refrigerate the Custard Hopia for a couple of hours. "OK lang naman. Basta pag uwi mo lagay mo agad sa ref para di lumambot," she politely answered. I swear she looked like Nanay Coring.
Pasalubong for my Dennis
After I paid for my second batch of hopias, we took more pictures:
The dork with the parking meter

Lovely French
After the photo op, we decided to proceed to Divisoria for our bargain-hunting. We passed by this establishment:
I urged French to look inside. And we did. It was a good decision as I've found me some Haw Flakes! I remembered eating these when I was a kid! Oh, how I love the taste of nostalgia.
Katawan ni Kristo!
4.) We wrap things up with Siomai, Shawarma and Soy. We walked towards 168 Mall, traversed the different parts of Divi, and bought some stuffs. Didn't take pictures. Mapanganib. After we almost ran out of cash, we walked back to Recto Station and decided to grab some snacks before we ride back to Santolan. We didn't get to try other foodscapes in Chinatown so we got hungry again.
Beef Siomai for me...

Shawarma for French...

Taho for the both of us!

Taho makes you happy
THE BOTTOMLINE

Had so much fun with French. I'm glad to have been able to share this adventure with her. Can't wait to go back to Binondo. Can't wait to go to Divisoria again. There's so much more to explore and do and eat!

Cheers to the next adventure!

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4 comments

  1. Haw flakes. Yung tig 1.50 petot na kulay orange pink na ewan. When i was in college paborito ko jan yung siomai na gulay at calamares na may formalin (sana tama spelling ko) one day old at yung pinaka sikat na dumpling na may kung ano anong palaman sa loob (kalimutan ko tawag) naglalaway ako. Asteg!

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    1. Hindi naman talaga ganun kasarap ang Haw Flakes. But it really reminds me of my childhood that's why I love it. I got to try the Kutchay dumplings but we weren't able to find the "famous dumplings". Nalimutan ko kasi pangalan. Haha. Will post my second trip to Binondo very soon. Thanks for the comment! :)

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  2. Yea, I told you not to look expensive. I appreciate the effort to make the outfit to not look expensive, but hey, you have a beautiful porcelain skin. I guess dun pa lang mahihirapan ka na talaga. hohoho.

    Second, I like hanging out with you too because I enjoy every conversations we have whenever we walk. I think its some sort of brain mechanism for us.

    Third, I like that we got lost. Hohoho! The essence of every adventure. At least now I'll never get lost in that avenue.

    Hahahaha. I cant really get over the Estero del Requisito! I mean, did we just imagine it to make it come to life? Hahaha. I'm happy we found this place.
    ~
    Why do I look good in your camera? wahihhi.
    ~
    I enjoyed this day as much as you did! Till next adventure!

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    1. Thank you so much for posting this comment here, French Fries! :) I had a great time. This won't be our last adventure. Cheers!

      And oh, you look good in my camera because you look good in real life. :)

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