A lot has been written and blogged about Manila’s very own Chinatown, Binondo. One common topic about these stories is Binondo is the place to be if you want to go on a food trip. Well, yes, but not necessarily! It’s true that Binondo has them all, but one of the most loved Chinese restaurants by Filipinos can’t be found in Binondo.
Ma Mon Luk, one of Manila’s oldest restaurants that’s still around. It’s not your usual Chinese restaurant, because they offer only a short list of menu items. But what most of us here in Manila come down here for is their Mami (egg-noodle soup) with chicken or beef toppings and their Siopao (steamed buns) with either asado or bola-bola stuffing (pork stuffing). People who come here don’t have to look at that short menu anymore because they already know what to eat there and it’s just a matter of choosing whether the Mami and Siopao is special or just a regular one. The Special Mami would be that noodle soup in an oversize bowl with more toppings on it and is good for two persons. The soup stock is to-die-for! While the Special Siopao would be a as big as a full-grown man’s fist that is fully stuffed with pork, Chinese sausage, and salted egg. Definitely, comfort food for everyone who had been here.
Ma Mon Luk does not only offer good food but a taste of history, culture, and a bit of nostalgia. On the walls of the restaurant are framed newspaper and magazine clippings from way back when, from the time probably, when the owners started their business, clippings of feature articles wherein the history of Ma Mon Luk was written and other magazine clippings from past to present featuring the restaurant. Also, on its walls are photographs of celebrities, politicians, and the who’s who of Manila who came and ate there. All of these reminds me of my childhood. The first time I was here was with my dad when I was still a kid. He would tell me stories then that this was the place they would eat when he and my mom would go on a date. It’s the same place where my grandfather and grandmother would bring him and his siblings for lunch or late snacks. These were the same story line my mother would tell me about her family. It seemed right there, that it has become a family tradition. As for myself, I have brought my family here several times though I think my son is more interested on the burger joint across the street. It does not matter, as long as I’m the one paying, he will eat at Ma Mon Luk.
So, if anyone there gets the chance to visit Manila, don’t forget to drop by one of the oldest – and in my book, the coolest Chinese noodle house in the metro, Ma Mon Luk.