Saturday, July 17, 2010

Palawan: Chaolong & Vietnamese food in Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa has a lot of Vietnamese restaurants owing to the fact that it was once host to many refugees from Vietnam. Locally, these restaurants are known as chaolongan because they serve a noodle dish called chaolong. I wonder though why they call it chaolong when the noodle dish is more aptly called pho (phở). Chao long is congee (rice porridge) with pork innards.

The best of these Vietnamese restaurants is Rene's Saigon Restaurant. Unlike other restaurants which serve the local chaolong, Rene bakes his own Vietnamese baguette or bánh mì. Plus he's half Vietnamese and his wife is Vietnamese. The other chaolong restaurants are owned by locals who inherited the restaurants from the Vietnamese after they migrated to the U.S.

At the same time, Rene's Saigon Restaurant has more choices when it comes to Vietnamese food including fresh rolls or gỏi cuốn and fried spring rolls chả giò and authentic bánh mì sandwiches among others. In the menu, you will see the sandwiches under the heading French Bread.

We ordered fresh rolls (Php100) and fried rolls (Php85) for starters. Both are not in the menu but are served upon request. The fresh rolls are wrapped in rice paper and have pork, shrimp, bún or rice vermicelli, herbs, and other ingredients inside.

For the chaolong (again the right term for this is pho), we got Beef Stew with Noodles and Beef with Noodles (Php60 each). And for French Bread, we got French Bread with Pork Barbecue wich is a very popular bánh mì filling in Vietnam.

Among the Vietnamese restaurants in Puerto Princesa, Rene's Saigon Restaurant is on the higher end and rightly so because it serves the most authentic Vietnamese food of all the chaolongan. But even then, it's still very affordable.

The masa version of chaolong is served at Bona's Chaolong House and Restaurant. This is very popular among the locals because prices are very cheap. I ordered the Beef Stew with Noodles Special (Php45) and French Bread with Chicken (Php25). I even took home one of their fusion sandwiches, French Bread with Longganisa (Php28). While it is cheap and good, they're also very generous with the MSG. Not good news for the health conscious.

There are several more chaolong restaurants in Puerto Princesa which are also worth the visit. So if you have more time, you might want to visit them too. Tricycles know how to get to most of these chaolong restaurants.

You can also get authentic Vietnamese food at Viet Ville which is on the way to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.
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