In the heart of Binondo, Divisoria’s 168 mall has a very singular reputation—it is known as being one of the best place to get cheap bargains, even better than Quiapo or Tutuban. Rows and rows of stalls sell almost everything anyone needs, from cutlery to party favors, to cheap knock-offs and both men’s and womenswear. The mall is a more condensed version of the bargain streets and markets that surround it, floors of goods all on display, busy virtually every day of the week.
While new wings have been added, and glitzy new renovations have removed the grit and grime that the mall was once famous for, the old food court in the Sta. Elena wing still stands. A microcosm of Binondo food and culture, the many Chinese outlets within stay true to the cuisine the area has become known for: cheap, fast, questionable maybe, but also unquestionably delicious.
Mitzi’s Cantonese Kitchen
Mitzi’s probably has the most comprehensive menu, offering everything from the normal turo-turo to made-to-order Chinese dishes, to a few Filipino staples.
Mitzi’s Cantonese is the locals’ favorite, with some people claiming that their lechon macau is the best in Manila. With blistered skin, and the right ratio between melting fat and juicy meat, it rivals the roasts of any Chinese establishment in the city.
Even the white chicken is superb, with a generous amount of ginger and scallion mince, and the servings and prices are all a steal. Get two roasts with vegetables and kiampong or Chinese fried rice at PHP 215.
Sum Fruito or Fruito King is the most appealing of the lot, with a bright, well-lit signboard, a tidy display of dishes in the storefront, and a clean kitchen. They are most known for their jumbo siopao, which takes up a large space on the countertop, and come in at PHP 80.
While their cooked food ranges from chicken feet to giant lobster balls to machang, make sure to get their beef hofan or noodle soups a la minute. The hofan has giant, slippery noodles, and their braised beef noodle soup is made in front of you, with simmering shrimp wonton to round the whole thing off.
Wai Ying is a Binondo institution, with 3 branches across the area, and more around Manila. For the price, their roasts are of more than decent quality, with the duck gamey and plump. But it’s the dimsum that makes Wai Ying one of the most popular places in town, and coming here with ordering any of their offerings is a big mistake.
There are excellent beef balls, hakaw, and a bordering-on-the-right-side-of-funky century egg siomai, but I personally recommend their cheong fun, made using thin, wide strips of rice noodle, draped over whatever filling you choose. The shrimp is unbeatable, but for an unadulterated experience, have them plain, and covered in sweet soy.
Kim Liong Tin Cuisine
One of the cheapest stalls in the food court, Kim Liong Tin still offers an unbeatable deal of 2 viands with fried rice at PHP 80—and the servings are still hefty. Their prices, which are outrageous these days and make you feel like you’re still in the 90’s, is the reason why this unassuming stall has the most impossible queues at lunch time.
People love any of their noodle dishes here, which is Kim Liong Tin’s specialty, including their miki bihon and sotanghon guisado. Quality may be questionable, but if you’re really on a budget, you can even get a full meal here under PHP 50.
Tai Kai Kuat Eatery
One of the smaller stalls in the list, it’s easy to dismiss this eatery, with its tiny space and faded signage that barely show its name. Try their soups, of which hot and sour, and sapsoy (which is actually just chopsuey) are the more decent ones. Make sure to order a la minute, because the food in their shop window look tired and days-old.
This article was originally published in 2014.