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Condiments for and Preparation of Pho


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It's hard to find good pho in Saigon. The Hanoians do it really well and there's that Hanoi pride too! I never got to Pho Hoa in Saigon on my last trip. From your blog, it sounds like Pho Hoa there is like Pho Hoa in the U.S. -- mediocre and for the masses.

Isn't Hu Tieu the preferred noodle soup in Saigon, not Pho?

I really like Hu Tieu. Its a totally underrated Vietnamese soup. I realize that the word "Hu Tieu" is really just the generic name for any noodle but I am referring to the traditional chicken/pork broth soup of southern Vietnam.

There's another really interesting noodle soup that I was introduced to by a local Vietnamese chef in NJ that she calls "Bouillabase" which has rice noodles in it and is a sweet and sour/spicy broth with seafood and okra in it. I don't know what its called in Vietnamese.

And then of course you got Bun Bo Hue, from the Hue province of Central Vietnam and is atypically very spicy compared to most Vietnamese food. Which when I get sick during the winter, is guaranteed to restore my respitory system in a matter of minutes due to how spicy that stuff is.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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It's hard to find good pho in Saigon. The Hanoians do it really well and there's that Hanoi pride too!

Do you find that lots of people eat the Chinese donuts (you tiao gui in Mandarin; you chao quay in Vietnamese) with pho?

I would say there is more mediocre or bad pho in Vietnam than good pho. But, I would have to say there's more good pho in Saigon than in Hanoi - that's even with a personal Hanoi bias for flavour. When it comes to pho this country is most definitely still at war.

Sure - the Hanoians can cook a fabulous beef heavy stock, but there's zero imagination when it comes to flavouring it. I would say the southerners are way more skilled in that department. I'm no food expert, and I'm not Vietnamese, but even I can 'sense' there's a sophistication down here that doesn't exist up north. Having said that, I can appreciate the both versions - unlike most Vietnamese folk;).

Two of my fave all time pho bowls can be found in Hanoi - 13 Lo Duc & 2 Le Van Huu. Lo Duc probably pips the number one spot as it was so reliable for all 4 years I scoffed it (always with a raw egg added). It's a massively popular, basic, filthy restaurant I never fail to visit whenever I am in Hanoi.

About the breadsticks, Yes - a lot of folk eat them. I don't think they are a poor man's thing - maybe that's a bit of Grandma Viet Kieu story telling of how hard life is in Vietnam, blah blah blah;) - and it's not a recent trend as far as I know. In Hanoi the sticks are shorter and crustier. In the south they are longer and softer. (Do men cook these things? Are there more 'inadequate' men in the south?) I always have them in the north when available. In the south I usually skip them as they smell faintly of coconut.

pieman

noodlepie

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There's another really interesting noodle soup that I was introduced to by a local Vietnamese chef in NJ that she calls "Bouillabase" which has rice noodles in it and is a sweet and sour/spicy broth with seafood and okra in it. I don't know what its called in Vietnamese.

Think you mean Canh Chua Ca. Wonderful sweet/sour fish soup: okra, beansprouts and pineapple heavy with stacks of tamarind pods. Absolutely bindin' broth.

pieman

noodlepie

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There's another really interesting noodle soup that I was introduced to by a local Vietnamese chef in NJ that she calls "Bouillabase" which has rice noodles in it and is a sweet and sour/spicy broth with seafood and okra in it. I don't know what its called in Vietnamese.

Think you mean Canh Chua Ca. Wonderful sweet/sour fish soup: okra, beansprouts and pineapple heavy with stacks of tamarind pods. Absolutely bindin' broth.

pieman

noodlepie

Yup, thats the one.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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About the breadsticks, Yes - a lot of folk eat them. I don't think they are a poor man's thing - maybe that's a bit of Grandma Viet Kieu story telling of how hard life is in Vietnam, blah blah blah;) - and it's not a recent trend as far as I know. In Hanoi the sticks are shorter and crustier. In the south they are longer and softer. (Do men cook these things? Are there more 'inadequate' men in the south?) I always have them in the north when available. In the south I usually skip them as they smell faintly of coconut.

It was actually a young person who mentioned the poor man's version of pho with the crullers, which traditionally are eaten with rice soup (chao), a practice derived from the Chinese who invented them. I suppose that recent to me is anything post reunification.

As with many Vietnamese dishes, you can have pho your way and that means it's hard to pinpoint a definitive version of it.

Andrea

Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)

Vietworldkitchen.com

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But, one difference with your NJ version - no noodles - at least not in Vietnam.

In the U.S. too. The noodles is a little personal flair that the NJ cook added. There are normally no noodles in canh ca chua.

Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)

Vietworldkitchen.com

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  • 3 years later...

Here in the East Bay the typical platter usually has cilantro, thai basil, sliced jalapenos, cut limes and bean sprouts and there is always a bottle of Sriracha on the table.

I make a sort of unorthodox or faux pho, using oxtails as my stock base, along with lemongrass, etc. I like to add chopped cilantro a few minutes before serving and then have the thai basil as a garnish. I would be interested in other ideas for a more classis stock perhaps. From a casual glance at some other threads, a lot of people like The Vietnamese Table book. I've never used it...does anyone like it for pho recipes?

I disqualify pho restaurants if the broth is too sweet or too salty. That said, I would be happy with a bowl of pho for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For pho phreaks www.phofever.com has fun stuff on it, including some background on the history of pho, T-shirts, etc.

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  • 2 months later...
Here in Saigon we never get cilantro with pho. The accompaniments are hoisin (never plum sauce!) and sriracha or similar; a wedge of lime; sliced red chili (not the small super hot ones, the larger ones); and a veg plate with bean sprouts, basil, mint sometimes, and usually that slightly sawtooth green (rau mau in Vietnamese I think).

In Hanoi you don't get often get the veg plate, that's a southern thing.

Also a lot of pple in the south like pho ga (chicken) .... well, it's not available now what with the avian flu thing,  but it's not an unusual variation when chicken can be sourced.  And Vietnamese beef is really not very tasty (though the pho broth is).

Someone mentioned bun bo Hue --- what I love about this dish is that it comes with a HUGE plate of mixed lettuces and shredded lemongrass, mix it in and it's like eating a salady soup (or soupy salad) ... and the fresh pounded chili sauce (red chilis, garlic, lime, maybe some fish sauce) is always on the table to accompany.

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Here in Saigon we never get cilantro with pho. The accompaniments are hoisin (never plum sauce!) and sriracha or similar; a wedge of lime; sliced red chili (not the small super hot ones, the larger ones); and a veg plate with bean sprouts, basil, mint sometimes, and usually that slightly sawtooth green (rau mau in Vietnamese I think).

In Hanoi you don't get often get the veg plate, that's a southern thing.

Also a lot of pple in the south like pho ga (chicken) .... well, it's not available now what with the avian flu thing,  but it's not an unusual variation when chicken can be sourced.  And Vietnamese beef is really not very tasty (though the pho broth is).

Someone mentioned bun bo Hue --- what I love about this dish is that it comes with a HUGE plate of mixed lettuces and shredded lemongrass, mix it in and it's like eating a salady soup (or soupy salad) ... and the fresh pounded chili sauce (red chilis, garlic, lime, maybe some fish sauce) is always on the table to accompany.

I believe the sawtooth herb you refer to is called "ngo gai" (Latinos call it "culantro") see (http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/essentials/herbs.htm) ... additionally the only basil I have been served with pho here in the San Diego area is Thai Basil...I have never been severed cilantro with pho...culantro, yes, cilantro, no!

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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I believe the sawtooth herb you refer to is called "ngo gai" (Latinos call it "culantro") see (http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/essentials/herbs.htm) ... additionally the only basil I have been served with pho here in the San Diego area is Thai Basil...I have never been severed cilantro with pho...culantro, yes, cilantro, no!

I saw both fairly regularly in Hanoi. Cilantro was chopped fine and pre-sprinkled into my soup at the pho place on my street.

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I believe the sawtooth herb you refer to is called "ngo gai" (Latinos call it "culantro") see (http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/essentials/herbs.htm) ... additionally the only basil I have been served with pho here in the San Diego area is Thai Basil...I have never been severed cilantro with pho...culantro, yes, cilantro, no!

I saw both fairly regularly in Hanoi. Cilantro was chopped fine and pre-sprinkled into my soup at the pho place on my street.

I have to correct myself! within a couple of days, I took my sister for pho and it was served with a lot of cilantro already in the broth...I still have not been served cilantro with the add-in vegetables.

Edited by dmreed (log)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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I can't speak for Vietnamese culture, but in Japan you hold the bowl with your left hand and eat the noodles with chop sticks in your right hand.  You are to slurp your noodles, in sync with the others at the table, and then sip the broth from the bowl as if it were a cup of tea.  I apply this method (minus the slurping :biggrin: ) at home and in a local favourite Vietnamese restraunt and no one seems to care.

What I am more interested in though, is whether or not anyone has any great recipes for a pho broth?  I have a poor, "Americanized" one that tastes terrible compared to what Vietnamese restraunts offer.

it is my understanding that the older generation of Japanese frequently go for loud slurping but that the younger generation do not.

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Oh, I'm so glad that you read and liked the story. (For those of you who want read "The Evolution of Pho," a 6/9/04 San Jose Mercury News "Food and Wine" section story, I've posted it full text at my site. There is lots of info, including its history, tips on how to cook and eat pho and a recipe.)

I think that at most pho joints in the U.S. , they make their broths from scratch.  If you're the Viet owner of a pho shop, your name rests on your broth and people will judge you by it. But be forewarned that there are many bad broths out there (too sweet, bland and watery), just like there are lots of terrible hamburgers, burritos, etc...

On the other hand, products like the StockPot Inc. broth may be making their way to larger, commercial chain restaurants and other mainstream eating outlets. The broth is made from chicken and not beef. Discerning pho eaters will know the difference, but the "flavor profile" universally appeals. StockPot concocts the broth from scratch. The final broth is reduced to a concentrate and refrigerated. When you use it, you dilute with water and bring it to a boil.

So to answer your question, yes, the mom-and-pop pho shops in the Bay Area are making their own.  Whether or not they're good, that's a horse of a different color!

Happy eating and cooking,

Andrea

I have been a pho fancier for some time. I usually eat pho at a couple of local restaurants but I do try new restaurants from time to time. I frequently get pho to go (all components separate) with extra dia tai and extra vegetables. I have made pho from scratch a couple of times and they came out OK but when I get a pho craving at home I am not close to a restaurant :>(

so, for my emergency cravings, I finally bought a couple of Vietnamese soup mixes by Dragonfly Brand: Soup Bun Ho Hue and Soup Pho Bo (also Thai Tom Yum which we did not really care for). my wife and I both liked the Bun Ho Hue (I added fresh ginger, green onions, onion to the broth) with fresh rice noodles, cilantro, culantro, and Thai basil (my wife prefers 1/4" cubed potato to the noodles) and sliced pork or sliced beef.

I just made the Soup Pho Bo broth and it seems to be OK but I have not yet added noodles, etc....update: IMHO definitely needs additional ingredients.

my question is, for such emergency cravings, which brands of Pho Bo and Bun Ho Hue broth mixes do the members of this forum prefer?

Edited by dmreed (log)

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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About the breadsticks, Yes - a lot of folk eat them. I don't think they are a poor man's thing - maybe that's a bit of Grandma Viet Kieu story telling of how hard life is in Vietnam, blah blah blah;) - and it's not a recent trend as far as I know. In Hanoi the sticks are shorter and crustier. In the south they are longer and softer. (Do men cook these things? Are there more 'inadequate' men in the south?) I always have them in the north when available. In the south I usually skip them as they smell faintly of coconut.

It was actually a young person who mentioned the poor man's version of pho with the crullers, which traditionally are eaten with rice soup (chao), a practice derived from the Chinese who invented them. I suppose that recent to me is anything post reunification.

As with many Vietnamese dishes, you can have pho your way and that means it's hard to pinpoint a definitive version of it.

Andrea

a couple of questions:

1) I have recently tried Dragonfly Brand "Soup Bun Bo Hue" broth dry mix and with some doctoring (additional ginger slices, Thai chilis, bell pepper, onion slices, etc.) and served it with pho tai ingredients (sliced raw beef, Thai basil, ngo gai/culantro, rice noodles) and it was quite...can I order Bun Bo Hue broth with Dia Tai and pho condiments? or would this be considered outrageous? BTW I posted a question regarding favorite Pho and Bun Bo Hue broth mixes...so far I have received no replies :sad:

2) is anyone here familiar with NGUYEN THU TAM. Nhung Mon an Vietnam: Vietnamese Dishes (http://www.antiqbook.co.uk/boox/toby/29084.shtml)? I ask because the pho recipe calls for Bib or romaine lettuce to be added with the other condiments! Are the recipes reasonably authentic?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Concerning what condiments and greens are presented with a bowl of pho, in Saigon (apologies to Uncle Ho) I got amounts ranging from none to a whole salad plate with coriander, or the sawtooth substitute that tastes like coriander, mint, basil, sprouts, chilies, etc. In Toronto I usually get the works. But the important thing is whatever you get, there is no right or wrong kind, no right or wrong amount because what you get as veggie garnishes may be entirely dependent on whatever the kitchen staff has on hand. I would stop worrying about what is normal, traditional or proper and do the Chinese thing and ENJOY.

Cheers.

the "sawtooth substitute" is ngo gai (culantro) and, for me, it does not really taste like coriander...I do not much care for cilantro but I like culantro which tastes a bit like cilantro. I also much prefer the Thai basil rather than other basils. I do agree that unless the pho broth is just plain terrible...just use what is provided and enjoy!

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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Andrea - Interesting article and very detailed cooking instructions - Thanks.

One minor gripe about the price of pho in Hanoi. A bowl of Pho on the street in a 'popular-with-locals' place in Hanoi is always 5,000VD or maybe 7,000VD with a raw egg added. Not sure if you mixed up the pricing with the south, where it is generally double the price. In Saigon pho commonly goes for 10,000VD, or the 11,000VD you mention. It can cost more in the newer, posher pho restaurants in town.

I am still hunting down my ideal pho at noodlepie. There's an interesting pho article in The Observer which concentrates on the Hanoi take.

pieman

noodlepie

the Observer article says "Under the base of meat or fish stock, there are whispers of liquorice, onion and cinnamon, smells with the promise of warmth and comfort. It is the smell of a national obsession." Liquorice and cinnamon? I know the liquorice smell is 5 star anise but what produces the cinnamon smell?

The link "Cooking - Food - Recipes - Cookbook Collections" on my site contains my 1000+ cookbook collections, recipes, and other food information: http://dmreed.com

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