A friend told me I should NEVER MISS—yes, in all caps—Chaolong in Puerto Princesa. Since I had a lot of time to kill before my flight back to Manila, trying Chaolong didn’t seem too bad an idea, even if (or especially because?) I was alone. I decided to forego Ka Lui and Kinabuch’s as I have been to them on a previous trip, plus I thought going there solo would be so awkward (tamilok all alone? NO THANKS).
Bona’s employee on the loose!
This would be my first time to wander on my own, and it helped that going around Puerto Princesa’s city proper was nothing different from what I am used to doing back home: small city, small traffic, but with bigger tricycles.
Bona’s, it turns out, looks every bit the typical carinderia by the roadside, if slightly bigger than most. There was a smattering of foreigners and what looked to me like locals having their lunch. If any, these are good signs in the Philippines: most of the best-tasting food come from the most unassuming kitchens (and dining areas, for that matter).
All that’s left to affirm this is the food.
As is usual in these hole-in-the-wall places, the menu is usually very lean, and the house specialty/bestseller is almost always at the top of the list. Bona’s fulfills these two: on top of the heap is the Buto-Buto with Noodles, with the special bowl at P60 and the regular bowl at P55. I asked the cashier about the difference between the two—“mas marami yung sa special bowl.”
I understood “marami” to mean it’s simply a bigger bowl. Another dilemma for the lone diner—do I get the bigger bowl or the smaller one? The thing is, my mind always thinks I’m hungrier than my stomach really is. But I ended up going for the bigger one all the same; if I opted for the regular one, I would never know the difference, would I?
So, what in the world is Chaolong, and is it best consumed, um, alone?
CHAOLONG is a Vietnamese dish, introduced by the Vietnamese refugees that have settled in Puerto Princesa, particularly in the now-largely-uninhabited Viet Ville (short for Vietnamese Village). BUT Chaolong, in Vietnam, is really a rice porridge with pork innards, and what is widely referred to as Chaolong in Puerto could actually be the pho (pronounced fuh) instead, a noodle soup cooked in beef broth. Lost in translation?
Every bowl of Chaolong comes with bean sprouts and basil leaves, which you can add to the soup. Priciest goes for P60.
No matter; the bowl I was having—the product of a war—was tasty, filling, and perfect even without the banh mi, which I decided to forego because I might not be able to drag my ass off to the airport if I ate that much. Banh mi, or simply French bread, was brought by the Vietnamese as a souvenir of the French occupation of Vietnam. I noticed at least three variants from Bona’s—something Owen and I may have to come back for next time.
Bona’s is along Manalo Street, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. It’s one tricycle ride from the airport.