Little Ongpin on No 5 and Cambie in Richmond


A few weeks ago, Rey sent us an email introducing himself to us as an advocate for the Filipino community. Rey works with a Filipino foundation (the Ugnayan Foundation) whose goal is in promoting the Filipino culture through raising awareness and Filipino related content on the internet. Filipino Culture includes, among others, Filipino Cuisine!

Suanne and I jumped onto Rey’s invite especially when we know so little about Filipino Cuisine and Cultures.

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Rey wanted to introduce to us Filipino Cuisine gradually, starting from the normal Filipino cuisine before graduating to what he calls the Fear-Factor food. His plan is to start off introducing Chinese Filipino food, followed by Spanish Filipino food and end up with Filipino-Filipino food.

For the Chinese Filipino food, Rey brought us to the only one Filipino restaurant in Richmond, Little Ongpin. Little Ongpin is located at the strip mall of the intersection of Cambie and No 5 Road. It seems like it is out of the way for many people but I somehow think that it’s strategically placed next to a major Catholic church.

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Little Ongpin is named after the Chinatown district in Manila. It has a very neighborhood cafe restaurant feel to it — you know, the kind of places where one brings the whole family for a time out. It was busy and packed when we were there. I wished we could take the insides of the restaurant but we only managed to take a quick shot (above) when the tables were vacated.

Little Ongpin has a very friendly feel to it. I was quite amazed when two tables (one in front and one behind us) actually passed us their dishes to have a closer look when they overheard that Rey was telling us about Filipino cultures and cuisines. I was quite taken by surprised actually and really felt the homeliness of this place.

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Filipino Chinese makes up about only 2% of the population of the Philippines. However, the Chinese in the Philippines had over the centuries inter-married and if this is taken into account, Chinese Filipinos makes up a sizable 30% of the population.

Many people does not realize this but the Filipino community is the third largest visible minority group (after Chinese and East Indians) in the Metro Vancouver with 120,000 people in all. However, you will notice that there is no “Filipino-town” here or for that matter anywhere else in the world. This is because Filipinos tries to assimilate to the local population.

The food served in Little Ongpin is a mix of indigenous Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cuisine.

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We started off with a drink called Gulaman Sago. The main ingredient is Palm Sugar which is very similar to the popular Gula Melaka of Malaysia. This sweet concoction is served in shaved ice and is perfect especially in hot weather. The sweetness here is lighter than the common sugar and has a caramel taste to it.

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Rey knew that Arkensen and Nanzaro loves fried rice. He ordered a common Filipino version of the fried rice — the Bagoong (pronounced as Bah-go-ong) Fried Rice for the boys to try. The main flavour is imparted by Bagoong which is shrimp paste and is common to the Malay Belacan. The smell of shrimp paste, as you might imagine, is pungent and some people might find it overwhelming. Not to us at all. The Bagoong is what give the rice the pinkish color.

The serving is huge … three times bigger than the normal fried rice we get in Chinese restaurant. This is because Filipinos food are normally share family-style. Generally single serving food is not common. I like that.

The Bagoong Fried Rice is served with toppings of eggs, chicken, green onions and mango. It was the first time I had rice with mango and it really blends well, just like pineapple would. I later learned that Mango is the national fruit of the Philippines.

So what was the verdict from the boys? Nanzaro, the family fried rice expert, said that “Hmmm … good. Better than Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice”!

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Fried Lumpia is the Filipino version of the fried spring rolls. It was awesome. The best part of this is the sweetish and sourish dipping sauce. We asked Rose (the owner) about this sauce and was told that this had been with the family recipe for 50-60 years. And … shhh … it’s a secret! LOL!

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Since I asked about Lumpia which I had heard about so much, Rey also ordered the fresh version of Lumpia. The skin of this is made of egg crepe. I prefer the crunchy fried version.

Lumpia is a Chinese Filipino food.

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Here are the ingredients of the Fresh Lumpia. Sorry, I can’t quite make out what they are but I think they are primarily turnip. I can’t help by contrasting this to the Malaysian Popiah … the main difference is the crepe skin and the sauce it is served in.

Oh, one thing I noticed is the absence of chili. I would have thought that hot chili will figure a lot in Filipino cuisine since it is a chili growing region. Rey told us that Filipinos does not stand hot food.

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Then came the main course — the Little Ongpin Assorted Chargrilled. This is a huge platter of seafood and meat which very much delighted all of us on the table. I never knew that the Filipinos were so big on BBQ but they sure know how to BBQ!

In the Philippines, BBQ are usually done over an open charcoal pit.

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Malaysians are proud of their satays but they could learn a thing or two from the Filipinos. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is called Chicken Skewer and is much more larger and juicier than the ones we are accustom to. The boys absolutely dig this and told us this is the favourite of everything we had that day.

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Now, this is nice and you will never-ever get this in Malaysia. This is the Pork version. Like the chicken, it is extremely moist and unbelievably tender.

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The large squid had a springy texture. We absolutely loved the charred sides.

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And then there are the mussels too. By itself, it is kind of dry …

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… but it is perfect when dipped in the sauce. The dipping sauce is meant for the seafood. It is made from palm tree and has a stronger than vinegar taste.

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The dipping sauce is also great with the white promfret. Pomfret is a very common south Asian fish.

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Central to the Assorted Chargrilled is this condiment (can’t remember the name). I used this primary as a topping for the meat and is an excellent accompanying condiment. I’ll try to concoct something like this for my own BBQ next time.

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The BBQ Pork were kind of dry and tough to us. We used the condiment above to go with this. This give its a better balance to the pure meatiness of the pork.

Rey told us how pork figures so prominently as the primary meat in Filipino Cuisine. Does anyone know why?

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We ended up with Buco Pandan. Oh wow … this is one of the best dessert we ever had. It is rich and very fragrant. The greenish color came from Pandan leaves and in this are young coconut flesh, jello and palm seed. Give this a try … I think you will also like this.

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Suanne and I had a great time learning about Filipino cuisine. This is what we enjoyed most about blogging these days … not just eating but learning about the history and story behind the food we eat.

The above is called Pancit which is a very popular Filipino dish. We did not order this but Rose was kind enough to show us the dish since we asked about it.

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Rose also showed us the Crispy Pata. Oh man … this is my kind of meat! It is not just any pork hock. Making this takes hours of work. It is first steamed and the boiled for several hours before it is then deep fried. This process gives it a very distinctive texture of a crispy outside with moist tender meat on the inside.

We did not order this but we’re coming back for this next time!

Little Ongpin on Urbanspoon

48 thoughts on “Little Ongpin on No 5 and Cambie in Richmond

  1. This may be an old post but it caught my attention as I was looking at this little ongpin restaurant just the other day; got their take out menu to see what it was about.

    Nice review. I think I’ll go just for the desert take out, the food doesn’t seem to be my taste haha

  2. Wow. i have to say, those look exactly like how they are served here in the philippines.

    I stumbled upon this restaurant when searching for a friend with last name Ong on the yellow pages and got curious. lol.

  3. Hey Kevin, did you take lots of pictures of your trip to the Philippines? Looking forward to your blog posts on your trip.

  4. Unimaginable craving for Filipino food right now, and it’s 12:16am and pouring outside… sigh!

    Maybe I just crave the warm weather and friendly people of Philippines?

    nah, it’s gotta be the food =P

  5. SO sorry Ben, I thought you were from the Philippines..THank you fmed for explaining,

    Crispy, Im glad u liked the Maki mi, too bad youre not fond of Aristocrats bbq…

    • Hi Bulakz, I do like Aristocrats bbq with Java rice. As a matter of fact, I like any version of Filipino Pork Barbq’s available here in the Lower Mainland. The best I have tasted so far is the one from Georgio’s in Burnaby. Kumare’s pork barbq is nice too.

  6. Ben basically Filipino Chinese food is based on Fujian style cooking since about 90% of Filipino Chinese have ancestry from there and then it was Filipinized just like the Nonya of Malaysia.Many Fil-Chi dishes would taste familiar to a Fujian resident,I was in Xiamen a few years ago with A Fil-Chi and He commented that the cuisine tasted just like home

    • Lumpia is the Fujian word for …..spring roll! So those Fil-Chi with more literacy and knowledge of Tagalog, can actually speak to Fujian/Taiwanese people!

  7. Fmed to update another member of the clan spun of another restaurant chain with about 40 branches in the Pjilippines called Reyes Barbeque specializing in(drumroll)Chicken Barbeque with Java rice and Atchara.Yes they have a real family rivalry.I had it for lunch today and maybe my standards are now higher,but it was barely edibile IMHO

    • Thanks for the update PG. (Also to note that The Aristocrat has been around since 1936….making it one of the longest running chains.)

  8. Ive been to LIttle Ongpin a few times,,, They now have a combo – Chicken BBQ with java sauce, achara, jave sauce and side of soup for $9.99..I find it reasonable as its the exact replica of what Aristocrat (alex III) is serving..I heard LO’s cook used to work there, so was able to get the secret recipe…. Their MAKI MI is also good and their pancit canton, They also have a cheap combo of 2 small portions of dishes plus rice which i think is also quite reasonable..
    One time we ordered their grilled combo, just like PinPins version of the big feast..they have the squid, chix/pork bbq, tilapia fish, tahong..BUt I was disappointed as the taste is obviously a reheated one, i didnt say anything but vowed not to order that dish ever again…

    I will still go there if I will have craving for Chicken BBQ – Alex III style..or the Maki Mi or their Halo Halo..

      • The Aristocrat is a famous mini-chain of restaurants in the Philippines. (I’m not a fan of the place.) The Alex III chain is an off-shoot – owned Alex Reyes, former president of the Aristocrat and a member of the Reyes family who own the Aristocrat chain. The Aristocrat was one of the first “upscale” Filipino restaurants inn Manila and are famous for their BBQ Chicken (and now “Java” rice….which is why you see “Java” rice at places like Pin Pin).

      • Aristocrat was the restaurant that my friend’s family friends insisted to take us to eat, even though we told them we already ate before they picked us up.. we tried the location by Malate district (which was super sketchy…).

        Tried dinuguan, their famous BBQ Chicken w/ java sauce, and also FINALLY for the first time in my 5 days in Philippines, actual crispy lechon. Wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but better than nothing.

        Really wanted to try Halo Halo as well, but our stomaches just could not handle anymore food..

    • They have maki-mi? Yes!!! I’m going there for lunch tomorrow. It’s one of the Fil-Chinese dishes that I miss. Its one of the dishes that I wish to be available in Kumare.

      • Hi Ben, maki-mi is a popular Filipino-Chinese noodle soup dish. The soup is thick, dark and soya sauce based. Meat is tenderized pork. No veggies at all there. Just a little bit of chopped green onions on top. The closest I can find here in Vancouver is the Taiwanese pork potage soup except it has veggies. I grew up in Manila Chinatown and maki-mi is my favorite afternoon snack food.

        Here’s a blog post with pictures of maki-mi.
        http://www.happyfoodies.com/2009/06/23/of-makimi-and-dimsums-at-shin-din-kha/

        BTW, I did go to Little Ongpin and had their maki-mi. Its close enough to what I used to get in Manila Chinatown.

      • Hi Crispy: That looks delicious. I would love to try that one day. First time I came across a Filipino noodle soup dish. Is this the most popular noodle soup in the Philippines like the Pansit is to the dry noodles? You know, I am thinking if Maki-Mi like what pho is to Vietnamese, Beef Noodles to the Taiwanese, Wonton Noodles to the Cantonese, Ramen to the Japanese … that sort of comparison. Ben

      • Yes you can definitely say that. But its more Filipino-Chinese than Filipino. Not very many Filipinos are familiar with maki-mi. More familiar noodle soup dish is a chicken noodle soup called chicken mami. Its popularized by Ma-Mon-Luk. One of the oldest and still operating restaurant in the Philippines (opened in 1920). Incidentally, one of the Kumare’s owners is related to the Ma-Mon-Luk clan.

        Here’s a blog post on Ma-Mon-Luk and their famous chicken mami.

        http://www.recadosfilipinos.com/2009/06/ma-mon-luk.html

        In the Philippinws, noodle soup is more of a Fil-Chinese dish than Filipino. Filipinos generally eat more dry noodle dishes such as pancit bihon and palabok than the noodle soup dishes. But there are also a few popular native Filipino noodle soup dishes such as batchoy. Wikipedia entry on batchoy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batchoy

  9. i was craving for filipino food over the weekend and decided to go back to little ongpin. as Ed Lee have mentioned, their fried rice is super greasy. after you scoop up the rice from the plate, you can see grease/oil at the bottom of the plate! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    dont think i will order any of their fried rice variation in the future. just plain white rice is fine.

  10. Walang kwenta Ongpin Special Fried rice nila..it’s so greassy. The cook in this restaurant doesn know anything about fried rice cooking.

    Dated Dec. 04 when I ate lunch…ang mahal pa 10 dollars.

  11. thanks for saving a trip to Richmond,So I guess nothing new there,Maybe Loves Chicken Barbeque is related to Eduardo,the operator of Little Ongpin?????

  12. Somehow I missed this thread originally. That charred squid looks awesome (some of the best grilled squids I’ve had were in Greece, but they were bland in flavour). I should check out this place next time I’m going to IKEA.

  13. Well,Ben,Maybe there was a relaunch of Little Ongpin.I will give the place a visit and try to give feedback during the Saturday Dinner.They are running new ads in the Filipino Papers inviting people to see their new look

    • Hi Pinoy Gourmet:

      On the way home yesterday, I dropped by Little Ongpin (I did not go in). The place looked the same and definitely no sign of any “transformation”. What is the transformation about? The entire restaurant or is it just the menu … that I would like to know.

      Ben

      • They’ve got a new menu but I heard more new dishes are coming… They serve ARISTOCRAT-style chicken with java…. so so yummy!!! Yes, Pin pin and L.O. are related, brothers I think. Love PINPIN too! Oh my gosh! I think I have to quit my pinoy food addiction!

  14. THE REBIRTH OF FILIPINO BBQ IS FINALLY ARRIVED.CHECK OUT FOR THE LITTLE ONGPIN’S TRANSFORMATION.ONCE YOU TRY IT, YOU WILL ALWAYS COME BACK.BELIEVE ME..

  15. Pingback: Chow Times ยป Pinoy Pork BBQ from Georgio’s
    • Hi Christian:
      The opening hours is on the take out menu at the bottom of the post. They are opened 11AM-9PM Tuesday to Saturday and 11AM-8PM on Sunday.
      Ben

  16. Pingback: Chow Times ยป Pinpin Restaurant on Fraser, Vancouver
  17. decided to try out this place today for lunch.
    food’s ok, nothing special. i’ve tasted better filipino food.
    owner of this place and pinpin are related.

    pinpin and goldilocks have better food than little ongpin.
    would i go back to little ongpin? probably not, unless i’m really craving for filipino food and i dont want to bother driving to vancouver.

  18. Glad to see some Filipino food on the menu. YUMMY YUMMY is all I can say. I often travel abroad to Asia on biz and love it when I can get a chance to dine in the Philippines. It’s a real treat for sure and the beautiful woman whom always seem to have a wonderful smile waiting to serve your food. God really knew what he was doing when he created that country. And when I can’t get to the Philippines I always try to hit the west coast of USA preferable LA, San Dieago or SF as there are plenty of rest stops to stop and taste the spoils of travel. Thanks for the blog report as usual you guys are on top of things.

  19. Pingback: Chow Times ยป Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe on Denman, Vancouver
  20. only one region in the Philippines (out of about 15) has the local populace enjoy really hot (spicy) food and that is Bicol. Filipinos love sweet stuff because sugar is one of the primary crops in the Philippines. even the spaghetti sauce is sweet in the Philippines.

  21. Hi,

    Finally my friend, I am happy to see your blog about Filipino foods. Looking at what you feasted on that day really makes me hungry. Pinpin restaurant in Fraser is definitely a place to go too. You could also try the Rekados in Main & King Edward. This is a bit trendy with a better ambiance but good food too.

    I’ll let all the others folks here in BBY read about this blog.

    More power to Chowtimes!

  22. If you enjoy the Filipino-Chinese dinner you had, you should try Pinpin Restaurant in Vancouver (Fraser and 45th). It’s the first and original Filipino-Chinese restaurant in the Lower Mainland. I find that Pinpin’s food is much better than Little Ongpin. I often drive down to Vancouver just to eat there eventhough I live in Richmond and closer to Little Ongpin.

    Check out Pinpin’s menu. BTW, Pinpin is named after a street in Manila’s Chinatown.

    http://www.pinpinrestaurant.com/our_menu.html

    • can you suggest what food I shud get at pinpins?
      beacause for some reason when i ate there the service was HORRIBLE the food was sooo dry and the owner was soo rude to me and my buddies.

  23. i think the condiment is called ensaladang mangga (literal translation is manggo salad) made up of green mangoes, red onions, tomatoes and most importantly the bagoong! ๐Ÿ˜€

    there are many kinds of pansit: canton, palabok, bihon, luglog, sotanghon, malabon, lomi, misua, chamisua, pansit sa bato, etc… (i think the one you showed it pansit palabok)

    i’m a chinese filipino living in the philippines and we do love bbq’s! most street food here are bbq, anything you can put into a stick, you can barbeque it ๐Ÿ˜€ you should try isaw (pork intestine bbq) dipped in seasoned vinegar.

  24. I love your website and frequently look at it to get the new 411 on the happenings in Richmond, since I moved away to Ontario for university.

    I am Chinese Filipino and was ecstatic that you guys finally found your way to a filipino restaurant. The picture you guys have of the pancit..isn’t actually pancit… That is a picture of palabok. It is actually very different from filipino pancit.

    If you want to explore more, there is a place called “Pinpin” in Vancouver, I can’t really remember where..but they have AMAZING crispy pata. Also, if you like spicy food…there is a dish called “Bicol Express” made with pork and coconut milk. It is my favorite filipino dish.

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