Here are 6 of Manila’s Oldest EatsApril 13, 2020
People are easily drawn to all things shiny and “new.” I, for one, am guilty of this. There is no better bait, and nothing more dangerous, than adding the N word to everything.
Like lemmings, we flock together and jump at the chance to try out every trendy restaurant that claims to bring something different to the table. But “new” does not always equate to “good”. Sometimes, we crave something a little closer to home. Food trends come and go, but the flavors of authenticity and nostalgia have a special place in our hearts and truly never get old. As proof of that, here’s a list of some of Manila’s oldest dishes that have stood the test of time.
1. New Toho Food Center’s Pancit Canton (1888)
Claiming to be the oldest restaurant in Manila, it’s ironic to see the word “new” in the restaurant’s name. Formerly known as “Toho Antigua Panciteria,” it seems as though nothing—not even a fire—could have stopped this 127 year old establishment. Its rebirth as the “New Toho Food Center,” however, does not change the fact that it still serves its renowned Pancit Canton. Old-timers attest that generations of passing the recipe has not changed the original, savory taste of the delicious rice noodles.
2. Ambos Mundos’ Paella Manileña (1888)
Sharing the claim for the oldest restaurant in Old Manila is Ambos Mundos. With menu items from Spanish and Filipino heritage, it owns up to its name, which translates to “both worlds.” Opened by Spanish immigrants in 1888, it’s no surprise that their paella is what made them a Binondo mainstay. The Paella Manileña, in particular—with its seafood explosiveness, topped with a whole crab—is the recipe that is said to have lasted them generations.
3. Ma Mon Luk’s Chicken Mami (1920)
The Manila food scene wouldn’t have been complete without Ma Mon Luk’s Chicken Mami. Since the original owner’s (Ma Mon Luk) food-peddling days, his hand-cut homemade chicken noodle soup has always been a hit. University students filled the seats of Ma Mon Luk’s first restaurant in Binondo, while he cut the noodles and meat himself to serve to his customers.
4. The Aristocrat Restaurant’s Adobo Flying Saucer (1936)
Aling Asiang, founder of The Aristocrat, basically set-up the very first food truck in the Philippines. Through the windows of a salvaged old Ford van, she sold her cheap but hefty chicken adobo sandwiches playfully called “flying saucers”. This was before she had earned enough money to put up a permanent fixture in 1936 at Dewey Boulevard. Today, her original adobo is still found in menus in any of The Aristocrat chain of restaurants.
5. Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant Co.’s Miki Bihon (1940)
Since 1940, Ongpin Mañosa has been serving their famous thick, stir-fried egg noodles on Ongpin Street. Although known for their specialty, Maki—with its soft pork tenderloin and noodles in a thick, brown broth—their Miki Bihon or chami remains to be their oldest crowd-pleaser.
6. Little Quiapo’s Halo-Halo (1949)
Despite the restaurant’s name, it has never had an actual branch in Quiapo. Rather, it is a play on the business of the restaurant, and the known hustle and bustle that goes on in Quiapo, Manila. It all began with an ice cream vendor, selling his homemade ice cream to hospitals. This eventually led to a restaurant in España, famed for its Special Halo-Halo—a Filipino’s favorite frozen treat on a hot summer’s day.