On the way back to Laoag, we reached Vigan in sync for dinner. Cafe Leona was full I think (too tired, I slept my ass off), so they tried Grandpa’s Inn’s Kusina Felicitas, another popular resto down Sur.
I got Abra candied karmay and pias (kamias) from the pasalubong counter behind me. Unfortunately, the Carmelite nuns of Laoag stopped making those mouthwatering sweet-sour-and-salty dried fruits of my childhood. The first time I saw the hubby pop any of the strange stuff I love… haven’t even seen him touch those Chinese preserved fruits at Bee Tin? He liked the karmay, btw (good to know his food taste is moving to new directions).
The dinengdeng, bagoong rice, poqui-poqui, grilled capiz and chicken karimbuaya arrive. The rice looks like it was inspired by the Thai salted fish fried rice. Kusina Felicitas’ version is a mix of greens (kangkong I suppose), bagoong alamang, pork tocino and salted egg bits… layers upon layers of saliva-inducing flavors that get the brain into normal mode — ideal with the very Ilocano dinengdeng!
Such a waste, the capiz shellfish were not fresh like we expected. Kusina Felicitas redeems itself with the chicken karimbuaya. Curious, I forked one teeny-weeny piece. I’ve never tasted such a thing before, provocative! I ended up eating more (luckily, my immune system was abnormally okay). My initial encounter with karimbuaya (just came to know it is a kind of thorny euphorbia plant that is perfect for grilled meats including lechon). Sweetish, full-bodied, with a pleasant slight tinge of tangy-bitter taste.
Capped the meal with Vigan peanut pralines, more popularly known as turones de mani.
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012
Our longing for seafood fizzles out, and so is our planned dinner at Badjao Seafront Restaurant. Then came the inevitable crack at Puerto Princesa’s Vietnamese influenced cooking.
Viet cuisine, introduced by Vietnamese refugees back in the mid-70s, has seeped through the city’s vernacular diet. Chaolongans (places to eat chao long), originally operated by Vietnamese emigrants, have become consistent crowd-drawers. Our guide recommended Rene’s Saigon, a celebrated Vietnamese restaurant along the bustling Rizal Avenue, but it was closed before we arrived. Who else to ask but our tricycle driver. He brought us to Bona’s Chao Long Haus, a busy no-frills eatery along Manalo Extension. There were more local diners than tourists in the chalongan. They ate noodle soup with what looked like a baguette. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so we ordered beef stew chao long with plain French bread, an unmistakable French influence in Indochina. The other variations of chao long are buto-buto, pork and beef. I noticed that the diners favor the meat-filled baguettes. It must be good.
The hot beef stew chao long arrived with a separate bowl of fresh bean sprouts, basil, mint and calamansi. It looks and tastes pretty close to a pho bo kho. Minus the flavor-boosting herbs, the dish would be plainly sweet. The hofan-like rice noodles are notably pleasing to the bite The stew’s intense red-yellow color must come from natural anatto oil. I read that cháo lòng in Saigon is rice porridge with pork innards. How Puerto Princesa’s chao long got its name is vague. Suffice it to say, chaolongans and chao long have character worth exploring.
The husband considers the downright cheap 45-peso chao long meal his best chow in Palawan. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ciao for now.
Bona’s Chao Long Haus Manalo Extension, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved