Monday, October 15, 2012

Travel to Vietnam - enjoy "pho"

Vietnam is an agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation with ancient Dong Son culture as one of its defining aspects. The major stimulation of Vietnamese culture’s development comes from indigenous factors, with Chinese and Indian influence serving to further enrich it. Through history, Cham culture and the cultures of other minority ethnic groups in Vietnam have been integrated with Vietnamese culture in correlated effects. The official spoken and written language of Vietnam is Vietnamese.

Vietnam is considered a part of the East Asian Cultural Sphere, or Sinosphere, due to highly significant cultural influences from China throughout its history. In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.

Vietnamese phở noodle soup is made by sliced rare beef and well done beef brisket. Rice noodles are noodles that are made from rice. Their principal ingredients are rice flour and water. However, sometimes other ingredients such as tapioca or corn starch are also added in order to improve the transparency or increase the gelatinous and chewy texture of the noodles.

Rice noodles are most commonly used in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia, and are available fresh, frozen, or dried, in various shapes and thicknesses. In Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Idiappam, a type of rice noodle, is usually freshly made at home and tends to be far more tender with distinctive texture, as opposed to the dried form of Chinese noodles. A variation of Idiappam, known as sevai in Tamil Nadu, is used as the base in savoury preparations; it is also called santhakai or sandhavai in the Coimbatore region of Tamil Nadu. A similar mode of preparation called savige is popular in Karnataka.

Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, meatballs,chicken leg, chicken breast, or other chicken organs. “With the lot” (made with chicken broth and all or most of the shop’s chicken and cattle offerings, including chicken hearts and livers and beef tripe and tendons) is known as phở đặc biệt (“specialty phở”)

Vietnamese dishes are meals typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and flavor enhancements, such as a squeeze of lime or lemon. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander, Thai basil (húng quế) (not be confused with sweet basil, Vietnamese: húng chó or húng dổi), fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon orlime wedges, bean sprouts, and coriander (ngò rí) or cilantro (ngò gai).

Several ingredients that are not generally served with phở may be ordered by request. Extra fatty broth (nước béo) can be ordered and comes with scallions to sweeten it. A popular side dish ordered upon request is hành dấm, or vinegared white onions. The dish is sometimes flavoured with cà cuống, which is a pheromone, collected from the male giant water bug.

The best phở in Hanoi

I can say for sure that its definitely my favorite place to go for phở. And, I would be happy to argue that it is probably the best in Hanoi!

Every night at the western end of Hàng Mã, in the midst of paper street, starting at about 5:30pm, sitting on the corner is a middle aged women working her noodles, her pots, and her knife. You can almost picture her as a drummer with her two big base drums for stock, her two smaller toms for re-heating the phở, and as her snare, her worn cutting board for slicing the beef. She is fiery and fierce to her workers, kind and generous to her patrons.

The small street-side restaurant is run with her brother. An older man with a strong smile and a weakening voice. He acts as the maitre d’, busboy, and manger. The two of them are often in a heated ‘discussion’. Not knowing enough Vietnamese to understand, I imagine that it is about the rising price of quality beef, but I know that it is an argument and verbal-beating in response to something the older fellow forgot to tell the staff.

It is a joy to sit and watch the pair at work and the satisfied customers slurping away. It is obvious the sister-brother team have a well-developed customer base. Returning clientele show up every night picking up to-go orders of Phở Tái Chín (phở with rare beef and braised brisket) or Sốt Vang (Southern style beef stew) almost bowing in thanks as they see it slopped into their stainless steel carriers.

And what about the phở? Well, its delicious of course! Fresh ingredients. Great ratio of meat to noodles to garnish. Seasoned to perfection. The stock is clear and flavorful. There is a great selection of condiments for personalization. It’s a delight that I frequently treat myself to (at least once a week). And, every once in a while I am enticed to have a second bowl, half-filled with sốt vang.

Surely, a coveted family recipe.For those who have phở-ed their way through Vietnam, or have staked claim as Hanoi’s street-food gurus; or for those who just don’t believe that the best phở in Hanoi is on Hàng Mã, then I suggest you go, try, and prove me wrong.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, they have tall chairs and regular sized tables! ;)

Phở Gà Trộn - Mixed Chicken Noodle

On a side road in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a very popular, locals’ favourite restaurant serving what is called Phở Gà Trộn. Translated to English it means Noodle Chicken Mix. The dish, which is not readily found in Hanoi, is rich, fresh and delicious!

One of the neatest things about the restaurant is not the patrons that sprawl along the sidewalk on both sides of the road, but the long slender hall way that brings you to the actual 3-table restaurant. Inside, a single lady methodically and precisely prepares the never-ending orders of the phở gà trộn, as well as a specialty chicken and cabbage salad. A mountain of freshly prepared chicken surounds her as servers run back and forth with trays of the special dish.

photo-19-e1335704515344-225x300 Street-food explained: Phở Gà Trộn (Mixed Chicken and Noodles) photo-20-e1335704584717-225x300 Street-food explained: Phở Gà Trộn (Mixed Chicken and Noodles) photo-18-e1335704698778-225x300 Street-food explained: Phở Gà Trộn (Mixed Chicken and Noodles)

The dishes cost around 50,000 VND each (2.5 USD) and definitely worth the challenge of finding the place. The address to this must-try street-food is 65 Lãn Ông, two blocks down from Hàng Gà near “bamboo corner”.

Noodle ( Phở) in Vietnam

Phở (noodle soup) is a delicacy and specialty in Vietnam.
It is probably Vietnam’s most famous food, and locals and foreigners alike can be seen chowing-down on the rice-noodle soup in almost any major city in the world.

Soup is not the only way to enjoy Vietnam’s signature dish – “mixed pho” is a new dry blend of soft noodle threads and tasty sauce
Phở gà trộn (rice noodles mixed with chicken). When rice noodles are mixed with chicken, the dish tastes greasy but not fatty.

Most of Vietnam’s unique culinary traits, known for their nuance and subtlety, are available in a bowl of phở noodle soup. Whatever foreign visitors are from, they often love to find their own tiny phở shop on some unfamiliar corner or down a small alley. Walking the city in search of the best phở is as great a pastime as any.

In its most traditional version, phở is prepared as a rice noodle soup served with beef, herbs such as basil and cilantro, and bean sprouts.
Apart from the traditional version, talented Vietnamese cooks have combined other ingredients or prepared phở noodles in non-soup dishes. Phở cuốn (rice noodle rolls), phở chiên (deep-fried rice noodle crisps) and phở xào (stir-fried rice noodles) are three different non-soup options enjoyed on city corners.

But the newest version is phở trộn, which translates literally to “mixed pho”: it’s rice noodles with sweet and sour sauce. It has a delicate and pleasing taste that eaters often enjoy in the summer. There are many kinds of popular phở trộn and among the most popular are phở gà trộn (rice noodles mixed with chicken), phở bò tái trộn (rice noodles mixed with rare beef), and phở trộn thập cẩm (rice noodles mixed with chicken and beef).

Phở trộn is prepared by mixing scalded rice noodles, meat, herbs, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and some sweet-and-sour sauce in a bowl. Next to the bowl of mixed rice noodles is a bowl of broth which is taken from boiled bones and smells fragrantly of ginger and green onion.

The threads of rice noodle in phở trộn are white and naturally crisp. They are soft but still tough enough. The sauce is extraordinarily delicious.

The sauce may be the most important part of the dish because it decides whether the dish tastes delicious or not.
Apart from some basic ingredients needed to prepare the sauce, restaurants often have secret recipes to make themselves stand out for their delicious and distinctive sauce.

Some restaurants use soy sauce in phở trộn instead of sweet-and-sour sauce. The soy sauce is critical to the success of the dish, therefore, it is prepared pursuant to a special recipe. When the soy sauce is added into the bowl of mixed rice noodles, it creates a fragrant and flavorful mixture.

When rice noodles are mixed with chicken, the dish tastes greasy but not fatty. It still retains the flavor of the herbs and spices used.
When rice noodles are mixed with beef, the beef is sliced thinly and marinated with some spices to make it softer and sweeter. The beef can be rare, well done, or anywhere in the middle.

BOX: To enjoy phở trộn in Ho Chi Minh City, customers can come to the following restaurants:
Pho Dam Sen
3 Hoa Binh Street, Ward 3, District 11
Pho tron Ly Van Phuc
5 Ly Van Phuc Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1

Source: en.baomoi