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Monday, February 7, 2011

THE SUN WAH EXPEDITION

No idea where I am, and honestly, a little bit scared.

       I've always wanted to go on those Popular Binondo "Food Walks", but I really hate walking. Maybe if it was a "Food Ride", I might have gone on it a long time ago. Chinese is among my favorite cuisines, so the thought of hopping from restaurant to restaurant trying out new dimsum and other oriental dishes would be close to the equivalent of taking a child to Toy's R Us. My boss would take clients to a famous restaurant in Binondo and, it was pretty terrific. He would order weird stuff, like turtle soup, or frog legs, but as long as I had sweet and sour pork, I was good to go.

     Love Birds Chaikka and Don decided to treat us to a family dinner at one of their favorite Authentic Chinese hole-in-the-wall spots, "Sun Wah". I had never heard of this place, but again, once you put the words "free" and "food" into one sentence, it's quite likely I'm there (umm.. unless of course, it's free courtesy of the establishment looking for a good review.. hehe.. defensive, much?). 

     I'm lucky to have a wife who knows me so well, knew that I would have one concern about going to Binondo. You see, I don't go to that part of town very often, but every time I do, I always seem to encounter one of my biggest fears - rats. 

    Yes, I am deathly afraid of rats. I would easily go up against any other creature you put against me - Snakes, Spiders.. maybe even a Basilisk or a  Hungarian Horntail. Just do NOT show me anything related to rats. I haven't even watched Stuart Little, or Ratatouille. You can imagine my scream of fright inside the cinema when that big ugly rodent in "Prince Caspian" jumped out. It's safe to say that I missed half the movie. Oh, and the last scene of the movie "Wanted"? The rats with the bombs? I stayed in the restroom until Rina texted me that the scene was over. You get the picture.

     So she brought it up to Don. Don replied, "Ok lang, walang daga. Pero may dalawang baboy lang sa baba." (It's ok, there are no rats. But there are two pigs downstairs.") We're kinda used to Don saying crazy things like this, so he doesn't surprise us anymore. You can only imagine our surprise to find out that he was telling the truth.

        There were two pigs sleeping in front of the entrance of the restaurant. I don't think Chinese Restaurants gets any more authentic than this.


Let sleeping pigs lie

      According to some Chinese superstition, Pigs are supposedly lucky for a business. So you would think they'd have a whole cabinet of Pig figurines or something like that, right? WRONG. Sun Wah went the extra mile and put two live pigs by the entrance of their restaurant. Considering they've been open since 1955, Its hard to argue with the results.  

WILD LIFE

    I was surprised to find out that the Pigs at the entrance weren't the only wild life that had taken up residence in Sun Wah. The place actually has a mini zoo in it as part of its attractions - which I found awfully strange. Although it's not unusual for Chinese restaurants to have Arowana fish swimming on display in huge aquariums (it's always a hit with the kids, check out my nephew, Gael, in my King Bee post), having a crocodile in a tank is another thing. 

    Let me explain:



Bird on a wire

    When you walk up to the second floor where the "Ball Room" of the restaurant is, you will immediately see their mini "Aviary". The Aviary consists of a few exotic birds, however there are no signs whatsoever to inform you about the breeds. The same will ring true for the other animals that were there. So it obviously served no educational purpose - It was just there to make the place look pretty. Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me, provided that the animals are well taken care of. But in the aviary, there was a bird with his leg caught in the wire when he was trying to fly up to the top of the cage. No one would have done anything about it, unless my father in law brought it to their attention. Credit due to Sun Wah for taking immediate action, and getting the bird untangled within minutes. I do hope that sort of thing doesn't happen often.

Umm.. You're welcome?

    They also had this Crocodile.. or was it an Alligator? I can never tell those two apart.. So I'm gonna go ahead and call it a crocodile.. They had this crocodile in a tank that was obviously too small for his size. I thought he was stuffed at first because he wasn't moving a muscle, but then you could slightly see him breathing. However, there was something about his eyes that made him look artificial.. or "Cartoony" even.


We had a staring contest. He won, 2 out of 3.

          I really pitied the poor guy. I'm slightly claustrophobic, so I sometimes feel uneasy in enclosed, tight places. So I didn't even want to imagine what it would feel like to be stuck in that same position and be unable to move - all for the sake of human entertainment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hard core animal activist - If the crocodile had better living conditions, you wouldn't hear a peep out of me. According to the waiter, the crocodile can sometimes shift positions and faces the other way - but I'm not buying it. Given the size of the tank to the croc, I don't see how that's possible. I was trying to think of a plan to set him free, but all scenarios seemed to end with my hands (among other essential body parts) getting bitten off, so I decided to call off attempt of a rescue.

OTHER ANIMALS


A little "Jaws" in the making

          Just like many other Chinese restaurants, Sun Wah has an aquarium.. but it's not filled with fish or eels. It's filled with Baby Sharks.Cuz you know, fishes and Eels are so 2010.

I sure didn't want to wake the sucker up

      They also had a  few, very huge Albino snakes, around the area that were as thick as my arm. Maybe Even thicker (Umm.. especially if I'm not flexing). 

THE PLACE

Let's get it on!

      Judging by its traditional decors and outdated architecture, you can tell Sun Wah is a very old place. However, what is apparent is the rich history that has happened within these walls. When the waiter, who has been with the restaurant for over 30 years, hands over to you the menu, he's not giving you a list their speciality dishes, he's proudly giving you a scrapbook of his restaurants achievements - and I mean that literally. The menu is really thick, but mainly because it's filled with newspaper and magazine clippings about everything Sun Wah. I must admit having to read from a menu thats almost the size of half a phone book is a bit taxing (Not to mention the tiny font size) By the end, I just decided to let them do the ordering for me, for as long as they have Sweet & Sour and Lumpia Shanghai, I'm good to go.

    I then realized that Sun Wah wasn't exactly all that "Authentic" given that it had Filipino and strangely enough, Spanish items in its menu.

THE FOOD

Not usually a soup guy but I made an exception for this


     They started off with a "Chicken Sate Soup", which was rather delicious, although I couldn't find so much chicken in it. the meat in the soup seemed more like breaded fish fillet than chicken, but it was good nonetheless. the soup had a delicate sweetness to it that blended well with the vast array of ingredients in it. It was also very light, so it was a great start to the meal. (Didn't taste so good when it wasn't so hot anymore though)

*yawn*

      Rina nd Chaikka also ordered this Cauliflower with Oyster sauce dish that they thought was.. ZZZzzzZZZZZZzzzzzzz........ Oh sorry.. anyway.. It didn't interest me..

You gotta have Yang Chow

      Their Yang Chow Fried Rice is very good. It had a nice softness to it that I look for in fried rice, but without getting all clumped up together. The rice was sprinkled with chunks of Asado meat and chinese sausage, and shrimp (that went straight to Rina's plate from mine).


Lumpia Shanghai Rolls? Or Lumpia Shanhai LOGS?

     Their lumpia was rather intriguing. They didn't use ground up meat like other Lumpia Shanghais of other restaurants. Instead, they use chunky piece of pork (with fat intact) and roll it into a wrapper. It makes it a lot meatier than your standard issue lumpia. Serving wise, I could say it was pretty generous

meaty + fatty = yummy. 
If math were that simple, I never would have had to go to summer school

  I didn't like the sweet and sour sauce that came with it though. Which tipped me off that I wouldn't be liking the Sweet & Sour Pork that Rina had ordered for me.

Don't adjust your screens. This pic really is a bit blurry. 
(Rina was hungry and in a hurry)

     Once again, Rina got her default "Beef with Oyster Sauce", only this time, she got alot more than what she bargained for. There was a medley of other vegetables in it, as well, but it didn't look like any oyster sauce I had ever seen before. The sauce on this was so thick, it looked more like slime than it did, oyster sauce. However, it was actually a very tasty dish.

Me and my dad in law take our Chinese food VERY seriously

        Rina wasn't able to take a close up picture of the Sweet & Sour Pork, but in case you're interested it's in the left side, between the soup and the Lumpia Shanghai. The breaded pork strips were fried very well, but the sauce just had a bit too much MSG for me (Or at least i think it was the MSG). There was a bit too much "tangy-ness" to it that made it taste very.. forgive me for a lack of a better term but, "artificial". 

Chop Suey with fried egg. Genius.

             Rina wanted her dad to eat more veggies so she  ordered some "Chop Suey" (mainly because she didn't realize that the beef would be overloaded with the stuff already).  This Chop Suey, however, had a slight twist to it. They placed a fried egg on top, giving the vegetables a creamier consistency. Although the sauce was their strangely thick type like the beef dish, the egg yolk managed to help thin it out a bit. I can safely say, its one of the few veggie dishes i'd be looking forward to eat again.


Crispy Chicken Strips are always good. But Chinese? I don't know about that.


         Chaikka ordered the Crispy fried chicken, which I found to be a rather simple but enjoyable dish. battered chicken, and fried until golden brown. Though it may look it, the coating does not overwhelm the flavor of the chicken, which was seasoned beautifully. Since the sauce that it came with was similar to the sweet and sour sauce of the lumpia and pork, I ate it bare, and it could totally stand alone (I'm talking about the chicken strips, perv).


There's always room for Pancit

       We tried Sun Wah's Pancit Canton Tagalog based on the recommendation of the waiter. It was a decent pancit dish, but I've had way better. I felt it lacked a little bit of salt, although it loaded with beef and chicken strips, and unfortunately, liver.

Family Times are the Best Times

      I was thinking that this was probably going to be my first rat-free trip to Binondo, but apparently I was wrong. I was thinking to myself, "I wonder what those big snakes eat?", and then it hit me - Something that Rina was trying to keep from me this whole evening. Right behind the counter, by the cashier, was a tank of small mice.

       And just like that, I was done with dinner. 

      Sun Wah was a nice experience with the family, but truth be told, the presence of the animals bothered me. Based on my research, Sun Wah has a strong following, especially since it's been in existence for quite some time. Their food speaks for itself, so the need for a "gimmick" such as the mini zoo is totally unecessary. Or at the very least they should do something about the conditions of the animals, particularly the crocodile.

    Maybe I should start working on that rescue plan.. who's with me? hehe

6 comments:

  1. oh my, those animals bother me, too! the crazies (yes, i honestly think they're crazy, kulang sa karne) from PETA will go ballistic.

    don't worry about the rescue plan. if they read this post of yours, the activists will be there in a matter of hours!

    that lumpia looks good though!

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  2. Haha Good Point z!

    Yeah the Lumpia was pretty good :)

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  3. Well, as a non-meat eater, I must say I would not follow any of your recommendations, Richie, as we seem to have completely opposite tastes, but I love the way you tell the story! Eating out is almost as much about the experience as the food. Still think you should challenge yourself with a vegetarian restaurant. Could be hilarious.
    As for this post, yes, I am going nuts seeing those poor animals in tiny enclosures! I think it's a crocodile, as you can see both the top and bottom teeth with the mouth closed. With alligators, you can only see the top teeth. Plus, no alligators in the Philippines, although it could be imported from China.

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    1. I could never tell em' apart, much to the chagrin of Mr. Garaygay hehehe..

      I gotta commend your will power, Stefan! I don't know how I'd be able to last a day without meat.. But I promise you, when I do find an interesting vegetarian restaurant, I will definitely give it a try!

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  4. Definitely one strange place. Haha. And I think the cook was playing with too much potato starch thus the slime sauce. Hey, I'm not a fan of liver in pancit either! Hahaha! It's hilarious how you could freak out over mice. As for me, it's roaches. But I do hate mice and rats. Haha. I still can't believe you haven't seen Ratatouille. Well, if you imagine those rats cooking and dishing out awesome food in real life, I think I would even struggle. Hahaha.

    Babe for Food - your BFF in Cebu dining! :)
    babeforfood.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Even just thinking about it gives me chills down my spine! hehe

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