Manila Chinatown’s best mami & siopao at Masuki, the original ‘Ma Mon Luk’

Masuki Crowd

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.”

Mami-Siopao

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

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21 thoughts on “Manila Chinatown’s best mami & siopao at Masuki, the original ‘Ma Mon Luk’

  1. Mamonluk had the best siopao in my days in manila . thank you for the info and may try it next time i go home to the phils.
    i enjoy your site.
    from a recent blogger

  2. I remember my classmate in college is the daughter of the owner of Ma Mon Luk. We were both taking food technology. I have lost touch with her. I might visit that resto one of these days.

  3. hi aj, the mami is awesome noh? i usually eat the noodles with super lots of sauce, love their sauce!

    they have a branch in greenhills, coming from edsa, it’s before madison square…the building where mocha blends is. taste the same and better location.

    now i want my chicken mami and siomai!

  4. Yes Iska, I read it somewhere that’s how the word “mami” came to be, haha..:wink:

    It seems most people in the city have memories of Ma Mon Luk Vicky and Noemi. I think that the grandchildren have set up a similar noodle shop in California. MML in the Philippines closed because of labor problems…

    Shar, I didn’t know they have a branch in Greenhills. About the sauce, they don’t call it the “magic sauce” for nothing:grin:

  5. i totally remember Ma Mon Luk!! the instant i saw your title, memories of eating mami and siopao there as a little girl came back! too bad there’s nothing quite like it here (though there are noodle shops in chinatown, it’s not quite the same). sarap!

  6. I love Ma-Mon-Luk also but got disappointed with their QC branch, before Araneta Ave., Medyo di malinis tingnan ang lugar. But the food is very delicious, at ang laki ng siopao. :smile:

  7. alilay says:

    my dad used to bring the siopao to us as pasalubong, he’d buy 2 big brown bags of it in quiapo and we just re-heat it at home by steaming, no microwave then yet. yeah they said that the owners of asian noodles here in l.a. are also the owners of mamon luk in the phils. they were featured in the local station, here its not just mami they also have lunch and dinner menus and desserts.their l.a. location is in chinatown near the dragon entrance and the city hall. and another one at glendale

  8. Hi Kat. Seems this post brought in a bad case of homesickness. We always miss what we don’t have, or can’t see. Btw, I visited New York Chinatown and thought it was good. Very Chinatown talaga ang dating:wink:

    Hi Lani, the one in Banawe is the only MML standing, so the guys at Masuki say.:smile:

    Alilay! Thanks for dropping by:razz: Yeah, siopao is really meant to be steamed, not microwaved, ugh. Thanks for the info. It’s true that the owners of Asian Noodles in Calif are the grandsons of Mr. Ma Mon Luk. Do tell us if the food tastes the same. Regards:smile:

  9. jay says:

    Hi Ajay,

    Saw a post in MTC about Ma Mon Luk and I suddenly had flashbacks of my dad and me watching movies in Cubao then having merienda at the Ma Mon Luk branch. :smile:

    Didn’t think they still existed. Now I can’t wait to bring my kids and give them a taste of real mami!

  10. since i read those some articles of ma mon luk i really interested . Like he makes siopao and mami . anyway can i know the proper making of siopao.

  11. Ian says:

    Their mami still tastes good as well as the siomai and siopao. Pero some people still believe that Ma Mon Luk’s siopao meat is made from cats. So far, I’ve been to Quezon Avenue’s branch. I think the one in Quiapo is closed already.

  12. Hi Ajay,
    Just to clarify, the Ma Mon Luk is different from Masuki (formerly Makong, originally owned by John Ma).
    Ma Mon Luk and Masuki are owned by separate Chinese-Filipino families. The Ma Mon Luk now is owned by Robert Ma (son of Ma Mon Luk), and Masuki is owned by Willen Ma. I They are not related.
    I happen to know personally both Robert and Willen.

  13. butch says:

    Follow up to the much opinionated comments of Dennis Villanueva. While it is true that the Mamonluk Chain and the former Ma Kong Mami is distinct from one another. What he claims as Willen Ma is not a Ma but a Villanueva. Willen Villanueva was the daughter of Chan Ban with his Filipina Mistress Linda Villanueva. The legitimate son and daughters of who he identified as John Ma has nothing to do with the former Ma Kong Mami Restaurant and are living comfortably in Hong Kong and Australia.

  14. john ian flores says:

    ver much interesting, so masuki is to ma mon luk as what serye and reyes barbeque is to the aristocrat huh? nice to know there is a cleaner version of ma mon luk in this day and age. If you know what i mean, from what I gather ma mon luk of long ago good taste and well, a bit of un sanitary went well before during the times of our forefathers, i mean mr ma mon luk used to cut the noodles from a scissor he hung from his waist…..perhaps the stomaches of our granfathers wer a lot tougher than what we inherited…i have read sad reports from cousins over at daly city wherein they can testify that the old woman running the ma mon luk there has “lost her touch.”…and well, sad news for the filipinos there….wish masuki can revitalize itself to branches like max restaurant and ling nam which also has impressive noodle taste and also started in the 1950’s n binondo manila.

  15. john ian flores says:

    I however have yet to try their mami and siopao, as you know my dear, i have been eating them long before the “happybee” and golden arches came to be in our country..and once i do get to sample their mami and siopao beside the one i can get from banaue ma mon luk. il let you know if my gifted tounge can identify if the two are indeed related, as i also was able to properly spot the difference between aristocrat’s bbque from serye’s and reyes bbque,(its in the sauce thickness and lather) and the savory chicken recipe of the one in commonwealth,san juan and from the ones in SM and timog ave ( the strength of the marinade and pancit canton recipe)

  16. Willen Ma says:

    Hi sir butch, legitimate po laming anak ni Mr. John Ma aka. Chan Ban. Pls before you post comments eh magtanung muna kayo sa census! And our dad died year 2007. Magkakasama po kami ng mga kapatid naming sa Hongkong at Australia ng ilagay sa Chinese temple sa Hongkong ang abo ni daddy, si John Ma aka Chan Ban, salamat po!

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