When in Puerto, Go Vietnamese

October 08, 2015

For Palaweños currently based elsewhere except Puerto (as what we, the locals, lovingly call Puerto Princesa City) it is imperative for us to visit our favorite Chaolong-an place before going back again out into the wild. However, during my surprise visit in Palawan two weeks ago, I was so caught up with family and friends (a good problem to have, btw) that I forgot to include eating the local Vietnamese food into my itinerary.

Why Vietnamese food?
On August 21, 1979, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Executive Order No. 554, which established a task force on international refugee assistance and administration. This entity was created to build refugee processing centers as well as to work with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in giving aid to the refugees. It also designated Ulugan Bay and Tara Island in Palawan as initial refugee processing centers and camps. [Source: malacañang.gov.ph]
There are plenty of readily available resources online if you want to read up. But as a local who was born and raised in Puerto, it was sort of a known knowledge to everyone that we have a Vietnamese village called Viet Ville, which until now houses refugees from the Vietnam War. This meant Vietnamese food has been in fusion with the Palaweño palate for a long time now.

There are two common Vietnamese dishes that can be seen everywhere: The Chaolong (pho) and the french bread (banh mi). As to why there were called like that instead of their original Vietnamese names, I don't actually know. Although french bread could have been simply called that because the bread it uses is shaped like a small French bread. These two delicacies are popular amongst locals and you can order them from authentic Vietnamese kitchens, to Pinoy-ran restaurants that happens to also serve them. Aside from seafood, this must be the next most sold food items in Puerto.

Imagine my luck when my flight going back to Manila was delayed for a good three hours. I say luck, because during the original time of my flight, there was a heavy downpour. Scary, turbulent flight, I do not want! Instead of grunting and complaining like the other passengers, I made the most of it by calling my parents, asking them to meet me at the nearest Chaolong-an, so I can spend more time with them and with my dog while waiting for my flight, and of course, over a hot bowl of chaolong and crispy french bread.

The photos were not from my favorite Chaolong-an because it was still closed that time, but it was good enough for me. Some of my best friends swear by Rene's Saigon for their chaolong and french bread, while I prefer the mas malasa type being served by Bona's Chaolong.

Interesting To Note

I met and became friends with a Vietnamese backpacker named Jasmine Phuong at the Malasimbo Lights and Dance Festival and I suggested she try these two dishes when she visits Palawan. Jasmine actually did and as a response she wrote me back. "If you want to know what a REAL pho and banh mi should taste like, you should visit me in Vietnam."


It's either she tried the place that does not sell good quality chaolong and french bread, OR real Vietnamese food do not taste anywhere near as even the most "authentic" ones in Puerto. Either way, I am hoping to take her on her offer before the year ends. I'll let you know which one is it by then!

P.S. I LIVE FOR AIRPORT DRAMA! (Related: What Could Possibly Go Wrong, and all other posts where I retold how I was racing the clock so I won't miss my flight.)

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