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Food, Health & Fitness Travel & Tours

CHAO LONG: TASTE OF HOME

Palawan is known for its majestic sceneries. From the UNESCO World Heritage Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, up to the Crocodiles in Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, the place just never stops to impress.

As a true-blue Palaweño, one thing that I always look forward to whenever I visit my humble hometown is Chao Long or the Vietnamese Pho. Literally every corner of the city, you would find Chao Long houses. Soon as you exit the Puerto Princesa International Airport, you would find at least seven Chao Long houses in just a minute’s ride. Yep! That’s how famous Chao Long is, specifically in the city.

What is Chao Long?

Photo from BillsFulgoro

Thick and sweeter broth, slippery translucent noodles, chunks of meat, and eucalyptus leaf and bean sprouts. Cháo Long is a localized Vietnamese rice noodle soup. Usually served in roadside eateries, this delicacy has been the go-to meal for those who came from a long trip or those nursing a hangover from a night out.

Do not be confused with the name, though! The local name of this dish is Misnomer. Cháo Long, in Vietnamese, is a rice porridge with pork. However, the local Palaweños did not bother to change the name as it already gained popularity, not just with the locals but also with the tourists and other visitors of the city.

Where did it come from?

Photo from Sacramento News & Review

When the Vietnam war ended in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese (Boat-people) refugees sailed through neighboring countries to seek asylum. Some of them found the islands of the Philippines, with a good number staying in Puerto Princesa, where a Vietnamese village was founded.

The area where the Vietnamese Village was established is in Sta. Lourdes. A place surrounded by mountains and hot springs. I remember, as a child, visiting this small village filled with huts and kiosks outside. Most of the people living in the Viet Ville would sell various products like spices, jewelry, and food.

Photo from Palawan Online News

One of the many things they offered is Chao Long. A hot, steamy, flavorful soup that could take away the gloom hitching on your back. Luckily, when the Vietnamese Village was closed in the 90s, many Vietnamese people who considered Palawan as their new home stayed within the city of Puerto Princesa to offer their good food and merchandise.

Evolving Culture

If you would ask anyone who grew up in the city, they would likely tell you stories about how it used to have many Viet people. How going to the Chao Long Haus became a reward for every weekend’s good-kid habits. It became a go-to place for family gatherings and casual dine-ins. Along with the changing times, Chao Long managed to find a companion in French Bread, commonly known as Bàhn Mí.

Photo from TripAdvisor

Cháo Long, together with Bàhn Mí, became a tandem that could make Marvin and Jolina quiver. They became a must-try delicacy for tourists and a staple comfort food for the locals. While there is no known eatery serving the same recipe in Manila, thankfully, we can settle with the Vietnamese phò Beef Stew in various Vietnamese restaurants in town.

When you find yourself in the city of Puerto Princesa, I highly recommend you to visit Rene’s Saigon and Bona’s Cháo Long haus. Experience the smell of comfort and the taste of home.

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