Food

This Vietnamese Restaurant Serves the Kind of Propaganda We Could Get Behind

Enjoy hearty, herbed delights from the land of Uncle Ho    
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In politics, propaganda is a powerful tool. The proliferation of fake news on the internet to push a certain family back to power, for instance, has preyed upon those who are unfamiliar with history to see Martial Law as a good thing (it’s not).

In contrast, the newly opened Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro at Greenbelt 5 seeks to awaken Pinoy palates to the distinct flavors of theirtype of progressive cuisine that comes straight from the heart of Saigon. It is a franchise of a roadside concept that is a popular dining destination that offers food and culture in a sensorial mix of fresh flavors and riotous colors.     

Avigail Chua, one of the partners that brought Propaganda to the Philippines, says that they discovered the concept on a trip to Vietnam. “We took motorcycles around Saigon and we came across Propaganda. We fell in love with the food, and thought that it would be a good fit for Filipino diners.”

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Edamame Tofu Salad

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IMAGE: Kai Huang

Fried Spring Rolls

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Avigail Chua took two years to convince the Vietnamese owners of Propaganda Bistro to the Philippines. Her group is also responsible for the local iteration of Ramen Nagi IMAGE: Kai Huang

Homemade Pan-Fried Tofu

IMAGE: Kai Huang

 BBQ Beef Salad

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IMAGE: Kai Huang

Fresh Spring Roll

Chua calls their food “twisted.” The menu features modernized versions of traditional dishes using authentic ingredients that they import from Vietnam. IMAGE: Kai Huang

It took them two years to bring the concept here, with the first year spent on convincing the owners to look at expanding to Manila. “They were not sure about the market,” she recalls. “When they saw that we have a growing culinary scene here, that was when they agreed.”

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Chua calls their food “twisted,” but not fusion, because the menu contains modernized versions of traditional dishes using authentic ingredients that they even import from Vietnam. “The avocado is not popular as a savory item in the Philippines, but at Propaganda, we use it in our noodle salad.”

The other items work on the same premise. They are made with familiar produce—Vietnam being our ASEAN neighbor after all—but the iterations are different. “They are pork eaters, like us. They also have dishes using coconuts, there’s grilled meats, and of course, there are the rice and noodle dishes.”

Speaking of noodle dishes, one should not give the Propaganda chicken pho a pass. It is a light but comforting hug that is packed with flavor from the herbs with big chicken chunks floating in the warm broth. Chicken is presented in a different way with the crunchy tri-colored rice bowl, where it is barbecued and served with veggies and a fried egg for an all-in-one meal.

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Chicken Pho

Beef is a usual favorite in Vietnamese pho joints, but this chicken flavor is a hug on a warm day. IMAGE: Kai Huang

Tri-Colored Rice Bowl

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The crunchy tri-bowl is a convenient all-in-one meal. IMAGE: Kai Huang

Bahn Mi

The Pate Banh Mi is different from the usual Vietnamese sandwich. Propaganda's version is filled with braised pork and floss and packed with cilantro and pickled vegetables with a hot chili mayo that gives your palate a jolt. IMAGE: Kai Huang

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The pate banh mi is a level up from the sandwich counters that have sprouted up recently, as their super savory version is filled with braised pork and floss and packed with cilantro and pickled vegetables with a hot chili mayo that kicks in after a few bites. Then, of course, there’s the addicting spring rolls, wrapped iinto bite-sized pieces for sharing with friends.       

If you look at it from a healthy eating point of view, the dishes won’t make you feel too guilty. There are vegetarian options available, but not to the point that it intimidating or alienating to those who are not into the lifestyle. What is highlighted here is that every dish is made from scratch and there are no shortcuts, as Avigail says the kitchen avoids all artificial flavorings, premixes, and purees.

This being a Bistro, they serve wine and you can actually have a pairing with your meal. Taking cues from their history with the French, the restaurant recommends wines such as the R de Roubine and the Codorniu Clasico, to go with a meal of prawns, chicken, and vegetables. Then, of course, coffee: They have a strong blend that can be enjoyed hot, as in the traditional roadside coffee stands of Saigon, or as a cold concoction that will make your heart go pitter-patter with its caffeine-loaded goodness.  

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Frozen Banana and Coconut Bar and Homemade Soursap and Palm Sugar Ice Cream

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Vietnamese Coffee

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Dessert is a choice between the homemade frozen banana and coconut bar as well as the homemade soursop and palm sugar ice-cream. Both are light and not too sweet, giving you nice big chunks of the real thing for both mouthfeel and flavor.   IMAGE: Kai Huang

While waiting for your orders, take a gander at the restaurant’s murals, which show off the Vietnamese culture in a very colorful display. Avigail explains, “The murals are distinctly Propaganda, and are also the trademark of the original restaurant. It is a patriotic homage to the Vietnamese values of hard work, harmony, and practical use of resources. This is something that we Filipinos can emulate so it is, in effect, our own use of propaganda in a good way.”      

Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro is now open at Level 2, Greenbelt 5, Makati. For more information like PropagandaBistroPH on Facebook or follow @PropagandaBistroPH on Instagram.

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Maan D'asis Pamaran
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