Sunday, February 25, 2007


What is now famously known as mami started as a hot bowl of bami (i.e. from its main ingredient of ba or pork strips and mi or noodles) that was a popular street food of old Manila. The evolution to mami is attributed to a Cantonese immigrant who substituted the pork with chicken strips. Its price range of 5 to 30 centavos per bowl was affordable to most Manilenos who quickly fell in love with it. They called the new dish mami or Ma’s noodle in honor of its originator --- Ma Mon Luk of the famous mami house chain. Today, the only remaining Ma Mon Luk restaurant is that along Quezon Avenue. A small bowl of the original recipe cost P90.00 that goes well with their special siopao asado with chicken meat and salted egg which is P50.00 per bun.

After a visit iglesia to Binondo’s Basilica Minor of San Lorenzi Ruiz and the Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Sta. Cruz, I decided to finally try the famous Ma Mon Luk mami. It was lunch time and the place is full. Ordering took around 20 minutes but the wait is worth it. The hot soup is just right, not too garlicky like the usual mami and topped with tangy chopped onion leaves and tasty chicken strips. The noodles are pasta-like which is just the right texture and a welcome change from the usual oily and rubbery mami egg noodles. It goes well with the equally renowned siopao which inspired the urban legend of it having cat and mouse meat filling to discredit its fame. I recommend washing it down with an ice cold glass of sarsi.

The Filipinos’ love story and addiction to the mami reached such proportions that when the lowly Payless Instant Mami was introduced, it became an instant hit and is now the unofficial national dish of the masa. There are now different brands but to the common tao, they are all Payless and the same. It has evolved countless variations like our favorite CLSU days ulam of 1 pack of Payless with the noodles broken into pieces, a pitcher of water for sabaw, salt or patis to taste, and 10 fronds of malunggay leaves. I swear this is enough to feed 8 hungry people. The weirdest version I have seen is that of Sto. Nino III’s Attorney Tantan: 1 pack of instant mami mixed with Jack ‘n’ Jill Chippy (original flavor) and 2 pieces of balut!

PHOTOS (from top to bottom):

1) The famous Ma Mon Luk mami and siopao.

2) BINONDO’S BASILICA OF SAN LORENZO RUIZ. The Dominicans established their Binondo mission for the conversion of Manila’s Chinese population in 1587. Nine years later and two years before the mission became an independent parish in 1598, the Dominicans started building a church that was completed by 1614. A new structure was built when the church was transferred to its present site sometime in the 18th century. The church was damaged during the British invasion of 1762. Repairs and improvements were conducted in 1778 until 1781. It was handed over to the secular clergy in 1768 then back to the Dominicans in 1822. The church suffered damages during the 1863 earthquake. It was again handed to the secular clergy in 1898. The church and the convent was restored and improved from 1946 until 1971.

3) STA. CRUZ’S CHURCH OF NUESTRA SENORA DEL PILAR. The Jesuits who administered the church until 1768 built the first structure of wood and stone sometime in the 17th century. It was the site of the British’s return of the city of Manila to Governor-General Simon de Anda in 1764. Fr. Agustin de Mendoza initiated the church’s reconstruction in 1868 after it was destroyed during the earthquake of 1863.

4) Payless Instant Mami (Lean’s Mini Mart, Science City of Munoz).

5) My favorite instant mami recipe: firm chicken flavored Nissin’s Ramen noodles, not too soupy, and 1 beaten egg stirred in after the cooking and before serving it.


ami dasig salazar said...

Naalala ko tuloy yung Vietnamese noodles na una kong natikman sa isang Vietnamese restaurant sa Quezon City. May branch na sa SM nito, Phoa Hoa yata ang pangalan. Tapos nung nakarating ako ng Puerto Princesa, Palawan, kumain uli kami doon. Sarap, ibang klase. May kung anong dahon o spice yatang isinasama.

Yung inaanak mo din, Lucky Me Pancit Canton naman ang paborito. Minsan, isang araw, ibinalita nya sa akin na:

"Mamie, si Naruto pala, noodles lang ang kinakain kaya malakas sya. Di pala sya kumakain ng kanin."

Syempre sabi ko:

"E si Naruto yun kaya pwede. Ikaw, kailangan mong mag-kanin"

Yun yung mga panahong ayaw nyang magkakain at instant pancit canton lang ang gusto.

noodler said...

hi! i was surfing for reference on "ma mon luk" and i stumbled on your blog. is the ma on luk branch you wrote about the masuki branch? read somewhere that this branch is the very first one ma mon luk put up in 1930 and which is curently being run by one of his relatives, a grand nephew i think, most authentic/ original taste too they say, hasn't changed from the old man's time. i've tried the quezon avenue/ banawe branch and the quiapo branch. solb! beef mami and siopao just hit the spot =) every visit makes me feel nostalgic, which is weird 'cos i wasn't even around during ma mon luk's heyday, or rather wasn't born yet hehe..