Manila Chinatown’s best mami & siopao at Masuki, the original ‘Ma Mon Luk’
If you’re wondering whatever happened to the famous Ma Mon Luk, it would be interesting to know that there’s still one existing in Banawe, Quezon City. And of course the original one is still alive and kicking, it’s just known by another name ‘Masuki.”
How Ma Mon Luk came to be Masuki is a rather long story (labor problems among them) but old-timers in the city can attest that Masuki’s same spot on 931 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila was exactly where Chinatown’s first mami house was established, in 1930. For history’s sake, Ma Mon Luk (bless his soul) was a Cantonese teacher who went to Manila in the 1920s and since worked in the kitchen (& built his fortune) by concocting the best-tasting mami ( noodle soup) & siopao (pork bun) this side of town. In fact legend says that it was from him that the Filipino word mami was coined, since mi means “noodles” and mami is “noodles of Mr. Ma.”
It was good that I was super-hungry when I arrived at Masuki. A friendly waiter by the name of Mon (no relation to Mr. Mon Luk, heh) promptly gave me the menu. Whew. The guy was efficient and it helps that he’s worked in the place for 20 years already. He recommended that I get their bestselling Original Mami Chicken Asado (P80), after which I added regular asado siopao or “saipao” (P35) and a couple of siomai (P16 apiece). Somehow, eating mami in the Ma Mon Luk of yore wans’t complete without pairing it with the siopao, and vice versa.
When the food arrived, it was more than enough to soothe my hunger pangs. The noodles came in a heaping bowl; no wonder they call it “hilamos,” as in you can probably wash your face in it! The mami was topped by slices of roast pork (asado) and white chicken meat. Chopped green onions and the asado sauce in separate containers completed the ensemble. I taste the soup…heavenly!
The siopao was another thing. It was my absolute favorite! The roast pork filling was perfectly seasoned and cooked. Whoever spread the dirty rumor (or is it urban legend?) that the siopao served in Chinese restos are made from cat’s meat (!!) obviously didn’t taste the one at Masuki, haha. The dough has the right texture, the meat tasted like, well, pork and it was definitely yummy:)
Masuki’s menu is rather sparse which is reasonable enough since people just order the various kinds of noodles and siopao anyway. Diners can also put in additional orders of the roast pork, white chicken , beef brisket and wonton, but surely, they don’t serve any rice!
In terms of ambiance, Masuki looks clean and no-frills. It has retained the formica tables and ceiling fans of old, punctuated by media write-ups and framed pics of VIPs/celebrities who have visited the teahouse. For all the satiation I got, I can’t believe that my meal at Masuki cost me only P147… and I had some stuff to take home besides!
Masuki Mami Restaurant
931 Benavidez St., Binondo, Manila
Tel. No. 244-07-45, 243-2674