Searching for Ma Mon Luk’s legendary Chinese mami in Quiapo

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By Anna Valmero

MANILA CITY, METRO MANILA—The search for a hot bowl of mami in bustling Quiapo will only lead you to one road: the one going to Ma Mon Luk’s noodle house. It is among the oldest food stores in this part of this historic city named after its founder, a Chinese chef who is said to have introduced Filipinos to mami in 1918.

Three generations after Ma Mon Luk peddled chicken noodles to students in Manila, the restaurant still serves their signature dish and an assortment of other Chinese snacks such as siopao (in asado and bola-bola flavors) and pork siomai.

Situated near the Quiapo Church, the small noodle house is always packed with customers, ranging from regular patrons to first-time shoppers in the bargain shopping mecca.

According to legend, Ma Mon Luk went to the Philippines to earn his fortune and marry a girl from a wealthy family. From a hawker who sold mami noodles, his hard work soon paid off and he established his first restaurant in Quiapo.

But even after the restaurant, anecdotes tell that Ma Mon Luk still peddled mami using a pinga on his back so his shoulders stooped easily.

Ma Mon Luk used to call his noodles gupit because he would cut strips of chicken using a scissor to add flavor to the rice noodles and broth. The term mami prevailed, however, possibly because people coined it from “ma” in manok (chicken strips) and “mi” from the miki egg noodles.

Today, one can find the restaurant by walking to the side of Quiapo near Quezon Boulevard.

The restaurant is very simple and austere. Although the walls are old, it is well-maintained and the staff would readily assist you and take your order. Even when the place is full, the bowls of mami soup are served in less than five minutes together with an extra soup broth and calamansi.

What sets apart the place from other Chinese restaurants is not just its homey ambience but the food itself. A bowl of mami costs from P85 to P100 and a bun of siopai or two pieces of siomai is at P45 per order. True, other five-star hotels would serve the same food in a nice ambience but nothing comes close to the taste of authentic Chinese mami cooked at Ma Mon Luk.

The taste is flavorful and has more character than those served in fast food restaurants. For the siomai, you get real strips of pork inside the bun, which gets a new taste when combined with the special siopao sauce.

On our visit, the waiter offered to give me a new siopao after I told them that the one served to me tasted a bit old. True enough, the waiters and staff at the restaurant are both efficient and courteous to customers.

Students and Quiapo shoppers who grew up loving Ma Mon Luk’s mami would also bring their children to the place for a weekend lunch or snack. It’s like a food tradition handed down from generation to generation. Others who considered Ma Mon Luk’s mami as their comfort food travel to Quaipo just to taste the delicacy.

True-blue foodies often have a silent rule that to truly appreciate a local delicacy, you must go to the original creator of the dish (especially if they are still existing). If you are in the area, be sure to check out this place and partake of the decades-old tradition of eating mami in the Philippines.

Get more information about Ma Mon Luk Restaurant

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