In my last visit to Palawan on November last year I missed the Chaolong due to insufficient time and chances. With that being said, I craved to taste this famous Vietnamese cuisine popularly known as Chaolong or Chao Long, whatever way they call it. This time (February 2012) I’m in Roxas, a municipality North of Puerto Princesa City and about three (3) hours travel from there. After the day’s work, we treat ourselves to a Vietnamese eatery that offers this rice-based noodle soup. Combined with garlic bread and cold softdrink, I satisfied myself with this favorite noodle. Though this one is a variety yet it still has the taste unique in it. Just a word of advice, when you are in Palawan, a taste of this Vietnamese food is a must. Never leave Palawan without you tasting it.
What is Chaolong?
Chaolong is made of rice noodles in sweet broth and meat that can be garnished with bean sprouts and mint leaves. It is composed of flat, thin rice noodles in a sweet-savory broth with meat of either beef, buto-buto or beef bones and pork, served with the requisite plate containing sprigs of mint and basil, raw bean sprouts and a piece of kalamansi.
In Roxas, a regular bowl costs only P45 while the bigger bowl with more noodles and meat amounts to P50. Another variety of Chaolong is called “beef stew” – a sweetish soup laden with thin strips of beef long-cooked in spiced broth. The spices achuete (annatto seeds) render the soup a bright orange hue and infuse it with a rich flavor.
The common and perfect pair to Chao Long is a freshly baked French bread made into a sandwich. Pork special is the bestseller – the bread is sliced lengthwise, brushed with the beef stew sauce, laden with chopped grilled pork, and spread with a dollop of mayonnaise.
How do this Chaolong started to become part of Palawan cuisine?
In 1975, more than 40,000 “boat people” fled to the Philippines after the Communist takeover South Vietnam. And out of the 2,000 Vietnamese boat people or refugees who arrived in the Philippines, around 800 where able to find their way to the US, while the other 800 opted to go back to Vietnam.
Few Vietnamese nationals, especially those married to Filipinos opted to stay in Puerto Princesa City. A Vietnamese Village that is located in Sta. Lourdes was being constructed to be a Vietnamese asylum. This is where refuge seekers from Vietnam came in the late ‘70s.
Others got a chance to open restaurants which offer various Vietnamese cuisines that people enjoyed and they began integrating themselves in the province, socially and economically and thus, their cuisines find their way to the heart of Palawan’s popular and local cuisines.
Aside from local seafood delights, the island province’s food scene is now also well-known for its Vietnamese restaurants that offer this rice-based noodle soup which we call Chaolong.