Immerse yourself in the rich culture and flavors of Chinatown within the comfort of the newest mall right in the heart of Binondo in Old Manila. Instead of a full day, all you need is four hours...
Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma are at it again. After the successful "An Awesome Secret Foodies Tour" at McKinley Hill's Tuscany (see more on my previous post here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2013/11/an-awesome-secret-foodies-tour-at.html), Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma are back with yet another foodie tour, this time in old Chinatown. The rich history, culture and flavors of old Chinatown come to life with the "Awesome Food and Culture Secrets of Lucky Chinatown Tour", a four-hour tour in the newest mall concept of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, Lucky Chinatown in old Binondo.
Megaworld Lifestyle Malls' new Lucky Chinatown offers five levels of world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. Part of a large-scale renewal project in Binondo, Lucky Chinatown injects new life in one of the world's oldest Chinatowns. And now you can experience the rich and diverse culture and flavors of Chinatown, all in one place.
To complete your Chinatown experience, the new and modern Lucky Chinatown mall complex includes an open-air area, the Chinatown Walk, reviving the bustling and vibrant street vibe of old Binondo with its food hawkers.
RJ Ledesma welcomes guests on the media tour, with our first stop at the Botanical Herbal Hall at Lucky Chinatown Annex A to sample herbal Chinese tea from Hongkong Botanical Herbal Healthy Tea. Well-known for its medicinal benefits, it was also a welcome and refreshing start to our Chinatown experience.
A mix of fine tea, herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruits, each blend is formulated to relieve certain ailments. And in the mid-morning summer heat, each chilled cup of herbal tea is just what you need. I was expecting the different brews to have that strong "medicinal" and funky flavor, but each variant had a mild and refreshing taste, with a subtle sweetness.
Hongkong Botanical Herbal Healthy Tea offered four variants of tea, including the Lo'5 or Momordica Grosvenor's Five Flowers Tea, with Oriental Wormwood, Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle and Kapok often prescribed for coughs; the Pear'C or Snow Pear Chrysanthemum Tea for improved eyesight; the Maybloom Tea, ideal for lowering lipids; and Plum Tea, which aids in digestion. These same blends have been enjoyed in China for over 4,000 years, and I go for another cup of Maybloom Tea in anticipation of the feast, just for good measure.
A stop at the Miao de Temple, and a brief overview on Buddhist religious practices by the temple's OIC, Sweet Go, adds another unique facet to my Chinatown experience. Do no harm, do all good, and purify our mind, the very essence of Buddha's teachings, reverberate inside you as you enter the temple, and somehow the loud, raucous and audible clutter from the busy Chinatown Walk is temporarily muffled. In the middle of all the bustling activity is a sanctuary, and almost immediately, one can sense an overwhelming feeling of calmness and inner peace. The elaborate statues add to that calming feeling, as I receive a lit stick of incense.
The incense sticks are said to symbolize self-discipline and deep concentration, as the burning incense fills the temple with its purifying fragrance adding to your sensory experience. A short prayer, and a wish (make that a lot of wishes), I then place my incense as an offering, and slowly bow. With a positive vibe, I then proceed with the group to the next stop...
It's always good to have a little help in the Year of the Wood Horse, and a visit to the Phoenix Dragon at Lucky Chinatown Annex A is always a good idea. The Phoenix Dragon offers a wide variety of ornaments to enjoy positive feng shui, and a chat with the owner, Samson Chua, is always entertaining.
Back at Lucky Chinatown's Chinatown Walk, one is greeted by a medley of flavorful sights and aromas from the different foodhawkers and stalls. At Fu Dao Dumpling, a large cauldron filled with a steaming fiery red broth and a tray of fresh dumplings draws me closer.
Fu Dao Dumpling's Sate Seafood Noodles, a steaming bowl bursting with flavors, with plump shrimps, fresh clams, tasty noodles, hand-made dumplings, and fresh Taiwan Pechay in a spicy sate soup base, is the first course in the tour. And what a way to start your Chinatown feast. The rich broth and its bold, spicy flavors blend perfectly with the soft and savory dumplings and fresh seafood. Despite the heat of the mid-day sun, you just can't stop going for spoonful after spoonful of this spicy number. Seriously good.
Then, it was Mr. Fast Foo's turn to impress. We start with Mr. Fast Foo's fresh Lumpia, an all-vegetable and tofu dish with crispy seaweed, sugared peanuts, cilantro, and garlic wrapped in a fresh spring roll. Fresh, clean flavors, with only vegetables providing all the flavors, and a variety of textures in every bite.
And it's almost impossible not to go for seconds...so just go with the flow.
Mr. Fast Foo's Maki Mi, pork tenderloin with noodles in a thick, dark, sticky and sweet sauce. This was my first time to try something like this, with savory pork, noodles, and vegetables swimming in sauce instead of the usual broth. The savory pork contrasts with the sweetness of the sauce for balanced flavors. And just as Chinatown has so many surprises, this one is a deliciously pleasant dish.
Mr. Fast Foo then completes its repertoire of dishes with its signature Cua Pao, with tender braised pork belly, kiam chay, sugared peanuts and cilantro in a steamed bun, served in bite-sized pieces. The sweet and savory pork and minty cilantro deliver contrasting yet balanced flavors. Familiar and comforting, another treat not to be missed. Fresh ingredients and balanced flavors in a variety of dishes. And there's more...
Next up, Cha Cha Food House and its signature Wanton Noodles, with tender and savory pork dumplings in a light broth. A simple and refreshing dish, with rich and comforting flavors. The fresh cilantro adds that flavorful punch to complete the dish.
Cha Cha Food House then serves its popular Pumpkin Cake, a sweet, sticky, glutinous dessert that's simply pan-fried in low heat. The small pieces can be deceptive, as each bite-sized piece can be quite filling. And the sweet treat completes the first part of our Lucky Chinatown feast.
But not quite...one of the hawkers offered our group his signature fried chicken. Deep-fried in specially constructed pressure cookers, each whole chicken from Mr. Texan is tender and juicy with a light and crisp layer. A delicious bonus to an already sumptuous feast, and another pleasant surprise in my Chinatown experience. A quick stop at Reflexion's Studio in Lucky Chinatown Annex A provides a break before the next tasty bite, with a brief orientation on traditional Chinese wedding practices and a group photo.
We are then escorted inside the mall, for yet another treat, refreshing shaved snow ice treats from Rainbow Snow. Blocks of hard, cylindrical blocks of ice cream are finely shaved for a light and fluffy consistency. We sampled Rainbow Snow's Chocolate and Mixed Berry flavors, but you can also purchase regular servings at Rainbow Snow served with fresh fruits.
After a refreshing shaved snow ice dessert, it was time for some relaxing therapy at the Wellness Sanctuary. How about a calming Fish Spa session? Or a healing Acupuncture treatment? Each tour includes a 15 minute session of Acupuncture, Fish Spa or Tui Na treatment, a welcome break midway through the tour.
The tour culminates with a sampling of Tao Yuan's lauriat with Singaporean and Hongkong-style dishes, starting with the Hainan Chicken with Chicken Rice, delicately flavored white chicken with ginger sauce.
The feast at Tao Yuan continues with Mango Lapu-Lapu, fried and crispy grouper topped with sweet, ripe mango and tart green mango strips for contrasting yet balanced sweet and sour flavors. The combination of ripe and green mangoes with fish makes this dish unique, just one of the many delicious secrets of Lucky Chinatown.
Tao Yuan's Pancit Canton, birthday noodles with fresh seafood and vegetables topped with quail eggs complete the impressive line-up of dishes. But leave room for dessert...
Tao Yuan's Mango Sago, a sweet mango custard topped with tapioca pearls and sliced sweet mangoes, caps our feast at Lucky Chinatown. Flavorful dishes, the bustling vibe of the Chinatown Walk, a serene and peaceful pause at the temple, and fifteen minutes of relaxing therapy, all within four hours. And without even leaving the mall. The unique tour compresses the Chinatown experience in a leisurely and unhurried pace, allowing one to immerse in the rich culture and culinary heritage of old Chinatown.
"Being a heritage project, Lucky Chinatown is committed to showcasing the best in Filipino-Chinese culture. So we are very excited to partner with food experts like Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma to bring people the Awesome Food and Culture Secrets of Lucky Chinatown Tour this summer. It's a great introduction to different aspects of Chinese culture and the variety of Chinese cuisine, all in one place," said Kevin L. Tan, First Vice-President and Commercial Division Head at Megaworld Corporation.
Take a closer, and flavorful, look at Chinatown with the Awesome Food and Culture Secrets of Lucky Chinatown Tour, scheduled for May, 10, 24, and 31, 2014. Each food and culture tour will run for four hours, from 11:00am to 3:00pm, with ticket prices at only P 888 per person. The best of Chinatown, all in one place. Now that's a cool deal.
For more information on Awesome Food and Culture Secrets of Lucky Chinatown, please call the Lucky Chinatown Concierge at 576-8139 or visit www.megaworldlifestylemalls.com.
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