Long before pho and fresh spring rolls became a hit in the Philippines, the Tatlonghari family had already been enjoying Vietnamese dishes in their household.
Not a surprise though as the family matriarch, Duyen, whom the head of the family, Ver Tatlonghari met in a military base in Vietnam, is Vietnamese and settled in Manila after having their first two children. As their family grew, Ver continued to work abroad, this time in Saudi Arabia while Duyen spent her time taking care of their children and cooking Vietnamese food for family and friends here in the country.
It is in their rest house in Silang Cavite, 10 minutes away from Tagaytay, where Duyen was encouraged to cook more Vietnamese homemade meals and was convinced by her relatives and friends to open a Vietnamese restaurant. Duyen went to Vietnam and took some formal cooking classes, until she was prepared, and Bawai restaurant, which means grandmother, was born.
Fourteen years in the industry, and the original Bawai restaurant is still a favorite food destination in Silang. Entering the dining hall provides a welcoming vibe and gives a hotel-like feel. The place is very cozy and homey which according to Paul Tatlonghari, the son, they would like to maintain. They encourage customers to book in advance to avoid the crowd as the restaurant follows health and safety protocols.
During our visit, we enjoyed some of Bawai’s pride. We loved their garden salad, a combination of arugula, lettuce, mango, wild herbs and shrimps with tamarind dressing. It was tangy and flavorful. And the mixture of sweetness and sourness of the tamarind dressing was perfect. It felt so healthy. And who could resist their Tong Rang Me, especially when you’re a seafood lover? The sautéed prawns in tamarind was something new to us and yet it became an instant favorite.
Of course, their fresh spring rolls shouldn’t be missed. The presence of Vietnamese herbs in these dishes added to the unique flavor especially when dipped in the sauce. Their beef skewers come highly recommended, and the Vietnamese food experience isn’t complete without pho or noodles which we enjoyed a lot since it was raining and the weather was a bit cold when we visited.
Indeed, dining at the original Bawai restaurant was another pleasant experience for us.