Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Awesome Food and Culture: Secrets of Lucky Chinatown

I think it's awesome that despite being a bit too busy to be active with the blog right now, we seem to be getting continuous invites for some cool events! Keep 'em coming and we'll make time. Haha. Speaking of awesome, Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet and the Mercato Group's RJ Ledesma have crafted a fun, immersive tour of Binondo's Lucky Chinatown, called Awesome Food and Culture: Secrets of Lucky Chinatown. Sound awesome?

This is our second time here. The first time was when we watched my brother Jeric's mall show, but we didn't spend much time then, so I was looking forward to taking in all the sights and tastes this time. Just like last time, we were running late because Binondo area traffic boggles my mind and is too complex for a southern boy like me. Haha. Let's take this stop by stop, shall we?

Introduction to Tea at the Botanical Herbal Hall
Lucky Chinatown Annex A
Five Flowers Tea, Snow Pear Chrysanthemum Tea, Maybloom Tea, Plum Tea

We were running late, so this picture is from the last stop, but I'm holding up tea from the first stop! I'm not much of a tea person, aside from the occasional tea latte, or milk tea (haha), but I would have loved to hear all about the different types of tea they had. Damn my poor sense of direction and safe driving skills!

Incense Lighting at Miao De Temple
Lucky Chinatown Annex A
Light incense at the temple and learn more about Buddhist religious practices.

This is the part where we got to catch up after getting lost not just in Chinatown, but in Lucky Chinatown itself.

No pictures of Alvie and I um.. incensing because we did it at the same time. We were taught how to properly do it, holding the incense stick, and repeating a sort of chant that I forgot five seconds after it last left my lips. After doing so, you're supposed to think out loud with your intention. It was an interesting new experience.

Fu Dao Dumpling
Lucky Chinatown Walk
Sate Seafood Noodles with Shrimp, Noodles, Dumpling, Taiwan Pechay in a Sate Soup Base

Before wolfing down the food, we got a small introduction to each establishment in the Lucky Chinatown Walk. It was great because it helps you appreciate the food even more, as well as all the effort and preparation that goes into it.

Delicious dumpling making. We got to take home some of these to share with our families.

Look at that delicious vat of spicy-looking soup with everything in it. Move over, 7-11 Hot Pot. This is the real deal!

A good selection of different variants of the soup here, and all quite reasonably priced for the portion. It would be tough to pick for me, but as long as there's no shrimp, I'm good. I'm not allergic, just lazy.

The spicy-looking sauce was true to its look. It was so good that I couldn't stop eating the spicy sauce on the hot summer day that it was. Really good stuff.

Cha Cha Food House
Lucky Chinatown Walk
Wanton Noodles, Pumpkin Cake

Now, this seemingly boring dish was not true to its look. The wanton was flavorful and the soup went perfectly with it. Don't judge a broth by its color.

I didn't realise until my first bite that the pumpkin cake was really just an improved version of tikoy, with a hint of pumpkin. And it was quite good. I wanted to eat two but I lost the plate. Haha.

Mr. Fast Foo
Lucky Chinatown Walk
Cua Pao
Braised Pork Belly, Kiam chay, sugared peanuts and cilantro (wansoy)
Maki Mi
Pork Tenderloin with noodles and sticky sauce
All veggie and tofu lumpia topped with crispy seaweed, sugared peanuts, cilantro (wansoy) and garlic

For healthy and delicious lumpia, keep an eye out for this stall.

The owner tells us a bit about the store. Alvie and our friends from The Food Alphabet thought it might be connected to a restaurant named Ha Yuan since the food tasted so similar. I was not able to ask her. Haha.

Delicious lumpia in the making.

This is the final product, a fairly addictive treat that's light on the stomach and on your conscience. I love this stuff.

I do not have much cua pao experience that isn't from Hen Lin, so I might not be the subject matter expert, but I enjoyed this pulled pork cua pao.

Maki Mi is a familiar soup that isn't one of my favourites, but their version was as good as any I've tried. Tender and tasty meat with noodles in sweet, sticky soup.

In the area was also some Chinese-style Texas Chicken, cooked in a special frier.

We got to try the golden-brown chicken and it was quite good. Better than Savory's chicken, in my opinion. It was soft and quite flavorful.

Not a part of the tour at all, but I got distracted by this. I miss isaw! Nice to know that it is just in the area. Talk about options!

While trying to cool off from the heat, I took a picture with Edel of The Kitchen Goddess and her daughter, Kristin, at our table. Edel was also our companion at our OpenRice Hong Kong trip last November. Always nice seeing her around.

Reflexion's Studio
Lucky Chinatown Annex A
Take home a free photo of your tour group and learn more about Chinese traditional practices.

This part of the tour was educational and more importantly for me at the time, quite restful since we got to sit in the shade. Haha. They talked about traditional Chinese wedding and engagement practices, among other things. A very nice studio who graciously provided us with pics of our entire tour group. Scroll all the way down to see ours!

Phoenix Dragon
Lucky Chinatown Annex A
Get a forecast on health, career, business and love for the Year of the Wood Horse from Chinese fortune-telling experts.

My only picture with RJ on this tour. Haha.

Phoenix Dragon isn't just a combination of the names of two bad-ass mythical creatures, it's a very nice feng shui store where we got to learn a bit more about the Chinese zodiac and other Feng Shui concepts in general.

I found it interesting to catch a glimpse of a cool statue of the Monkey King of Chinese folklore. Do you know him? I know him from two videogames and one film.

That's the last of the Lucky Chinatown Walk for this tour. It seems like a great place to snack on all kinds of food. This will also be the location for Mercato's next project, which will feature mostly non-Chinese (for a change) Mercato food on Saturdays and Sundays starting May 24. Drop by whenever you're in the area! You can read more about it here: http://www.ourawesomeplanet.com/awesome/2014/05/mei-wei-lu-night-food-lifestyle-market-at-luckychinatown.html

Rainbow Snow
4th Floor Lucky Chinatown
Get refreshing flavored shaved ice treats perfect for the summer!
Chocolate Snow, Mixed Berry Snow

Remember Charmy's Snow Ice from about 10 years ago in Glorietta? This is very much like that, and I love cold desserts like this.

This is the machine they use to turn the pink cylinders of ice into pink fluffy hills of sweet dessert! I wish I had me one of those.

Unlike regular ice cream which cools you down but is heavy on cream, this sweet treat is both light and refreshing. It also means you'll want to have more of it. Haha.

We came back at the end of the tour for more dessert. The Mango Snow Ice was really good too. With the weather we're having, I don't think you can have too much of this.

Wellness Sanctuary
3rd Floor Lucky Chinatown
Learn more about traditional Chinese medicine and avail of a free 15 min. acupuncture, tui na or fish spa session.

Here, we got an introduction to the different services they offer, while Alvie and I contemplated on which one we wanted to try.

What a cool-looking fish tank. I really wanted to take this, dump my feet in, and feel like I'm turning into Electro (my feet, at least), but I never had acupuncture before, so that made the decision for me!

All them needles.

This was just ear acupuncture, not the whole body thing where you look like a porcupine. It was... interesting. There was just a little pain, nowhere near an actual ear piercing, and we left the needles in there for 15 minutes. For a normal session, it would take 30.

Alvie's was a bit more painful than mine, since it hurt a bit after the session, too. The general benefit of this type of acupuncture is that it helps you have better sleep. I was advised not to take any caffeine for the rest of the day to gain the best effect, but I really needed a coffee that night going home. I figured my safety on the road was more important than a good night's sleep. I think it did have an effect on me though, I was feeling more relaxed afterwards. Too relaxed, because I slept for a few minutes later that day through The Amazing Spider-Man 2!!! How could I have done that??

Tao Yuan
2nd Floor Lucky Chinatown
Enjoy a sampling of a delicious Chinese lauriat with Singaporean and Hong Kong Style dishes.
Welcome Drink
Melon Shake
Main Courses
Hainan Chicken with Chicken Rice
- White Chicken with Ginger Sauce
Mango Lapu-Lapu
- Fried Lapu-Lapu with ripe mango and green mango sauce
Pancit Canton
- Delicious birthday noodles
Mango Sago

I am glad this was the last stop, cause I've wanted to try this restaurant that Alvie insists is pronounced tao-yen and not how I say it: tao-yu-an.

This is the first time I've seen Hainanese chicken with such a presentation. It was quite delicious.As discussed to us, this is the more traditional way of having Hainanese chicken.

The Pancit Canton was good. I am never a fan of Pancit Canton, only truly liking the instant version (haha) but this one was very flavorful, and as you can see, had an abundance of fine ingredients.

I don't think I've ever had Lapu-Lapu this way. It was both sweet and sour and the mango had a tangy taste. This was my favourite of the Tao Yuan food. The melon shake to start with was really good, and the Mango Sago was a pleasant end to the meal, to which we followed with Mango Snow Ice from Rainbow Snow. It's great how they are all conveniently located near each other.

While my one Binondo food trip from long past remains a fond memory, with the summer weather we're having, this is more the food trip I'd want to engage in for now. Getting to breathe in the Chinese culture makes my one-eighth Chinese self proud!

Mr. Fast Foo
Rainbow Snow

Hosted by Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma, the food and culture tour costs P888 (lucky number!) and will run from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on May 10, 24, 31, and on June 7. Tickets can be bought at the Lucky Chinatown Concierge and the Eastwood Mall Concierge.

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.

Reina Regente St. corner dela Reina St.,
Binondo, Manila
(0999) 745-9557
Operating Hours: 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
Facebook: Lucky Chinatown Mall
Twitter: @LuckyChinatown
Website: https://megaworldlifestylemalls.com/main/luckychinatownmall

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