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The house of hopia


Neal P. Corpus

Posted on February 08, 2021

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Dip into the endless flavors of Eng Bee Tin, the most iconic Chinese deli from Binondo.

When you think of Chinese delicacies, especially hopia, there’s one iconic brand that probably comes to mind: Eng Bee Tin. Most known for their ube hopia, the heritage brand from Binondo has been innovating classics with modern twists since 1912.

And with Chinese New Year right around the corner, what better time to learn about — and stock up — on our favorite Chinese treats?

Eng Bee Tin began as a simple stall over a century ago, on the iconic Ongpin street in Binondo, Manila. It became well-known for its hopia (which only had two flavors back then, monggo and baboy), tikoy, and glutinous peanut balls.

The business did well up until the 1970s, when it faded into the background and became just one of the many stores selling Chinese delicacies in the area. Financial trouble ensued, and as the '80s came along, Eng Bee Tin needed a savior to stay afloat.

This came in the form of Gerry Chua, a third-generation descendant of Eng Bee Tin’s founder Chua Chiu Hong. Although he was still in his early twenties at this time, it was Gerry’s duty to save the ailing business.

As the story goes, one day Gerry headed to a local supermarket to cool off. It was a slow day of business, and he was looking for ice cream. He asked the saleslady what the bestselling flavor was, to which her reply was “ube”.

He had an idea: he took home six jars of ube, blended it into a batch of hopia, and had a eureka moment. According to Eng Bee Tin, Gerry even traveled to Pampanga to study how to make good ube from the province’s famed makers of ube halaya.

Although many people around Gerry thought that the idea for ube hopia wouldn’t fly, it was only a matter of time before his creation would break into the mainstream.

Around the same time, the TV host Cory Quirino highlighted Eng Bee Tin in a Binondo feature on her then-new show Citiline, marking Eng Bee Tin’s complete 180 from a struggling business back into a thriving one.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fast-forward three decades, and Eng Bee Tin has over 20 hopia flavors, with everything from ube, monggo, pork floss, kundol, langka, macapuno, and many, many more. They’ve even ported these flavors into their equally-well known tikoy, with variations like pandan, strawberry, sweetcorn, muscovado, cheese, and more.

Going beyond flavor variations, Eng Bee Tin has gone as far as creating all-new variations of our beloved Chinese delicacies. One such innovation is their Mochipia, which is basically a hopia with a small mochi ball inside, creating a soft and chewy center.

There’s also their custard hopia, and most recently, Eng Bee Tin launched a brownie hopia for even more sweetness. It doesn’t stop there: Eng Bee Tin has also created a line of sugar-free delicacies, creating “lite” versions of their famed flavors. There’s even a whole wheat version of their monggo hopia available.

Today, apart from having branches and kiosks all over the country, Eng Bee Tin still stands in its original spot in Ongpin street. You’ve probably been there on a field trip to Binondo; if you remember seeing purple fire trucks right by the Binondo church, the shop is only a few steps away from there.

These purple fire trucks aren’t just a random sight: part of Eng Bee Tin’s advocacy is fire prevention, and these purple trucks are ones that the company has donated to the city of Manila.

Gerry has been a firefighting volunteer since he was 16, and he went on to found Txtfire Philippines, a firefighter volunteer group. Proceeds from the café on the second floor of the Ongpin shop — simply called Café Mezzanine — have been directly donated to firefighting efforts for the last two and a half decades.

And now as we prepare to ring in the year of the Ox, we take a look at some of Eng Bee Tin’s signature delicacies you just have to try this coming CNY.

The classics

Try one of Eng Bee Tin's more classic flavors like munggo and red bean to get you started.

If you look at Eng Bee Tin’s offerings and get overwhelmed at the choices, that’s okay. They have a lot. Let the classics get you started: apart from its many flavor varieties, Eng Bee Tin also offers more traditional flavors like munggo, red bean, and pork.

Eng Bee Tin’s hopia hits all the right spots: a flaky crust envelops a soft but substantial filling. Have it for merienda, breakfast, or what have you — just make sure to buy an extra pack because you’ll probably want more.

The custard hopia

The custard hopia might just blow your mind.

This is where it gets interesting. If you’re still new to the world of Eng Bee Tin and its endless innovations, you’re in for a treat. Their custard hopia — which also comes in a flurry of flavors — will completely change your perception of what a hopia can be.

It features the same flaky crust, but this time with a soft, sweet custard that just lets your teeth just sink into it. If they had to be summed up into three words? Bite-sized pies.

The tikoy roll

Eng Bee Tin's tikoy rolls are soft, chewy, and best of all, available in small packs.

Tikoy is definitely a staple of Chinese New Year, but it’s just not going to be the same if you’re in isolation and there’s no one to share it with.

Eng Bee Tin’s tikoy rolls are these soft, gooey strips of tikoy covered in powdered sugar. The best thing is that they come in small packs of four, so you can get as little or as much as your heart desires.

The combis

Can't decide on just one flavor? Well, why not have both?

Ever wanted to bite into one flavor of hopia, then immediately right after bite into another one? Well, Eng Bee Tin has solved this very specific problem with their two-flavors-in-one hopia. Flavors include ube and queso, ube and langka, and a lot more.

For a more exciting combo, try their Mochipia, which, as mentioned above, is a regular ol’ hopia with a chewy ball of mochi in the middle. It’s a great balance of textures that will keep you reaching for more.

Visit Eng Bee Tin at Ayala Malls Cloverleaf, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, and Glorietta 2.

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