Off to Dong Bei
One LRT ride, one MRT ride, and 30 minutes walk later I finally arrive at what seems to be a very small eatery that can only accept 10 customers a time. My hotel room was probably larger than this restaurant. The signs were faded which might mean they have been running operations for several years. I did not see any bright flashy signs which is usual for Chinese restaurants wanting to get the word across. I also did not see any fixed branding. Everything was, simply put, quaint.
At that time there was already a line building up and it was already way past lunch time! Thankfully it was the -Ber months and the sun wasn’t particularly glaring that time. Even without an umbrella I could stay outside and observe through a clear glass as the busy cooks skillfully handled the dumpling dough as if years of practice has automated their hands.
The Dumplings of Dong Bei/North East
I got to ask the cooks working there about a little history and I found out that they were actually from the Visayas and came to Manila to look for a job. In a day they make around 8000 dumplings a day. If my math is right, each of them makes around 200 dumplings an hour 0___0 All the dumplings are handmade from scratch and there is no machinery involved in the creation.
What I like even more is the price. True to being hole-in-the-wall and consistently good (I had around four more visits after), Dong Bei boasts deliciously authentic Boiled Dumpings at a price of 150php (roughly 3$) for 12 pcs of freshly cooked dumplings! If you buy them frozen they’re at 200php for 27 pcs! TWENTY-SEVEN PIECES OF DUMPLINGS for only 200php / 4usd
During my food trip visit, they even ran out of the frozen dumplings and it wasn’t even 3pm yet! Gosh! It’s not like this place just newly opened, this has been going on for several years and they still run out!
Finally after almost 2 hours we get our table and have our seat. A single bite into the freshly cooked dumpling–PERFECT. I know I will keep coming back for more. Four visits later and it never got old. Heck, I long for the day I come back again to have my Dong Bei-fix.
Preserving the Tradition through Simplicity
Back in Cebu I have seen hole-in-the-wall brands become big and suddenly lose their magic. I see them eaten up the system only to have something that seems far off from the classical story that they use to tell. I see that Dong Bei has managed to keep their story consistently original and preserved by disallowing greed and unnecessary ambition to take over.
Their goal is to create authentic dumplings following an ancient North-eastern recipe from China. Though the words did not come from the owners themselves, I believe that each dumpling’s perfection comes from the thousands of hours that the cooks put into the mastery of the skill of rolling the dumpling skin, a balanced proportioning of the filling and perfect timing of the cooking.
When in Manila, it’s worth the extra mile to come to this humble eatery called Dong Bei Dumplings.