Monday, March 13, 2006

Pho Shizzle

"Pho" may not be the most tranditional Vietnamese food but I can assure you that it is the most popular/wide-spread cuisine among the others.

Texas-size super bowl of pho (tô xe lửa) is as big as a full-size flower clay pot with full of hot source, boiled bean sprout and onion. From coast to coast, wherever Vietnamese community goes, there are always at least a couple of pho restaurants opened to served. This soup somehow manages to sneak into the dictionary of American with a funny, non-punctuation pronunciation. My family once owned a phở restaurant back in Vietnam. Our phở bò kho (beef stew) was among the best in town (Ninh Hoà, about 40 miles north of Nha Trang)!!!

Pho originated from the northern side of Vietnam (probably at the dawn of the 19th century) and began spreading to southern Vietnam in the mid 1950's after the French was defeated and the eventual partition of the nation.

Speaking of styles in pho, there are actually several ways to categorize:

Regional styles have:
  • Phở bắc (northern style): distinguishable by a wider noodle
  • Phở nam (southern style): using a thinner noodle,
  • Some people even claim that there a "cetral style (Huế)", but I personally never seen one
Meat flavor styles have:
  • Pho Gà (Chicken-based pho)
  • Pho Heo (porky)
  • Pho Bò (beef) (grand daddy, tranditional style)
  • Pho Bò Kho (beef stew)
  • or even vegetarian pho.
  • Seafood style also known to exist
Pho Gà

Veggie delight pho with tofu substitutes the meat

Pho Bò (Beef, can be served raw then dip in the super hot soup bowl to delicately process the meat or "tái" in Vietnamese.

Pho Bac in my opinion somewhat emphasizes on a bolder and spicier flavor while Pho nam is sweeter with added a lot of bean sprouts and fresh herbs (or my American friends call "grass" and "mint").
Some photos of the "green" herbs we add into the bowl of pho

By the way, naming convention for pho restaurant is pretty unanimous:
  • With a number: numbers can indicate two different things: A restaurant opened in a year indicate the name. Some of them are "Pho 54", in Houston we have 'Pho 2000" etc... Or, the restaurant opened in Vietnam before immigrating and named after the street number. For example "Pho 24" (I am not sure about this name tho). Some don't care for the number but take the street name instead, like "Pho Cong ly", "Pho Cong Hoa", "Pho Tu Do" were pretty big names in Saigon before the war.
  • A restaurant named after its owner. This is rarer but quiet mundane now specially for some new opened restaurants: "Pho Binh", "Pho Nga", "Pho + your name, your daughter name, your dad name" etc.... I think this style of naming convention is self-indulgent and ordinary.
A toothsome pho bowl is a super hot (as it's making you shizzle), has very clear soup water. Making a clear soup bowl is not easy. Pho's sweet flavor obtained from source consolidated in pork or beef bones. The source must be filtered thoroughly before yielding the crystal clear soup. I think for this reason chilli sauce, hoisin sauce or balsamic leaves are put on tables as customers' need. As placing these condiments without asking could be considered unorthodoxial among cranky consumers who want to see the clear bowl of soup before enjoying the soup.

And if you live in Houston, you should try a bowl of "Pho Thai Binh Duong" (pacific Ocean Pho) super bowl. They don't name the restaurant for nothing: their proudly served super bowl is the biggest I ever seen. I wish i could have some photos handy to post. But believe me, I've seen some even ate 2 bowls of this size.

Nothing would be more delightful than having a big hot bowl on a cold day when you could just enjoy the soup forgetting about your sweat dripping down along side your face into the bowl (ewww!!!). Nothing could beat that...

Cheers and go get some phở my friends.


Anonymous said...

I never expected to learn so much about pho...... now maybe i can handle eating more since there's 50 restaurants by work that serve it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for solving the restaurant name/number question! It has been puzzling me for some time now, and it's great to have the answer.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the Pacific-Ocean size, there's Mekong-size (To Cuu Long).