The World’s First China Town

By Mark Wiens 3 Comments
Chinatown, Manila

The world’s first China Town, located in Manila, the Philippines is a maze of hustle and bustle, tradition, food, vendors, and businesses by people in all walks of life.

Established in 1594 Chinatown is a cultural throwback with the mixture of Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish cultures blending together.

I began my visit with a stop at the Ho-Land bakery to pick up some freshly cooked Mongo Hopia.  Mongo Hopia is a sweet mung bean filling surrounded by a pastry that holds it together.

Ho-Land Bakery
Ho-Land Bakery in Manila

I then found the becoming famous Dong Bei Dumpling house a short distance from the known Ongpin street.  The pork and chives dumplings were simply outstanding and the beef noodles were equally stunning.

On a first bite, food critiques and amateurs alike can tell the ingredients are fresh, simple, and handmade into perfection.

Dong Bei Dumpling house
Dumplings from Dong Bei Dumpling house
Dong Bei Dumpling house
Great noodles from Dong Bei Dumpling house

Along with feasting on fetus (balut), and 1 day old chickens, there was one more dish I just had to partake of in the Philippines known as Soup Number 5 or Soup #5 or “Viagra Soup.”

Wikipilipinas gives a pretty accurate description of Soup Number 5,

“Beef penis and testicles are washed and cleaned, then scalded in boiling water. The genitalia are then cut into pieces and set aside.

Various other ingredients such as pork or chicken, ginger, and vegetables are combined in a stock pot with the beef penis and testicles, covered with enough water and simmered until tender. It is then seasoned with salt or pepper and served hot.”

mmmmm…doesn’t that sound great?

Soup Number 5
My Soup #5

I ordered a round of Soup Number 5 from a gleefully smiling waitress who I could tell was holding back her laughter.  I won’t pretend to tell you guys it was amazing, in fact it tasted mostly of grease.

It was so greasy in fact that the broth was thick with fat and I almost had to force feed myself.  I ate about half the dish and gave the rest away.  Soup Number 5 is an essential eat in Manila but one I probably won’t ever touch again.

Soup 5
No idea what this is, but not bad

Lastly I stumbled into Wai Ying Fast Food.  Wondrous smells were being unleashed from the doorways and I sensed a calling to order a bamboo steamer of siomai and one of siopao (not the most adventurous but comforting).

Freshly steaming, the dumplings were magnificent and comforting.

Chinatown Manila
Dim sum in Chinatown Manila

Apart from eating, shopping is also huge as “the turnover of business in Chinatown is [probably] a lot more than anywhere else in the Philippines,” says Paul So on Chinatown Manila: Oldest in the World. 

One can virtually shop for anything in Chinatown and if not visibly available it will be stuffed into some corner, hole, or cranny somewhere.

Still, I think the eating is the best part of the oldest Chinatown in the world.