Apart from World War II, Bataan is known as a former safe haven for Vietnamese refugees who escaped from the Vietnam War. These so-called “boat people” introduced the Bataan locals to their highly distinctive and healthy cuisine. One of them has actually inspired a former refugee camp worker to start her own business which has now grown into Morong’s longest-running Vietnamese restaurant.
Owned by Lolita “Loleng” Vistan, the eponymous restaurant has been delighting both tourists and locals with Hu Tieu or Vietnamese rice noodles for more than 15 years. Aling Loleng was a former food vendor at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) refugee camp in the 80s, where she met a Vietnamese friend who taught her the basics of Vietnamese cuisine. Originally, she sold Filipino food to local teachers who were teaching English to the refugees at that time. She then started to add a Filipino flare to the traditional Hu Tieu and offered it at her small stall, and the rest was history.
The famous Hu Tieu is a simple dish or rice noodles, meat, and rich pork, beef, chicken, or seafood broth—that sets it apart from other noodle soup. Its origins can be traced back to Chinese settlers who moved to Southeast Asia, which explains its difference from Pho. Special versions of Hu Tieu in Aling Loleng’s restaurant use different toppings and noodles, for variety. The Hu Tieu Special Overload (PHP 300)—their best-seller—is a combination of flat noodles, pork, beef, crab sticks, squid balls, shrimp, and mussels in a rich broth.
Apart from the hearty noodle soup, they also offer other Vietnamese dishes like the Banh Mi Special (PHP 70) which is a Vietnamese pork and beef sandwich topped with onions and tomatoes, that uses simple buns instead of the usual baguette. For a larger meal, there’s the Vietnamese Salad Combo (PHP 149) that consists of pork barbecue, vietnamese spring rolls, carrots, and vermicelli noodles in a bowl, and gives a feast of flavors and texture when mixed together with a special Vietnamese sauce. Should you look for something unique, there’s the Vietnamese Shrimp Roll with Peanut Sauce (PHP 120) seasoned with Thai basil.
Accessible and easy to find, this second and air-conditioned branch located near the town’s terminal and public market just opened in December of last year to cater more customers. Aling Loleng always encountered a diverse crowd in her restaurant, from locals to visiting motorists from Metro Manila. Some rider groups even leave their mark in the form of stickers on the designated wall inside the restaurant. At present, Aling Loleng looks forward to a lot of things this 2019 particularly, adding another floor to her family-friendly restaurant’s second branch.
7 AM to 9 PM
Monday to Sunday
Words by Jewel Sta. Ana
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE April 2019