Writing about cuisine is Ania’s domain. Somehow I did not succeed in talking her into writing a post about a certain Vietnamese dish, which next to rice fields, motorbikes and conical hats, is the national symbol of Vietnam. What I have in mind here is the famous Phở soup (prou: phoh).
Calling Phở a Vietnamese chicken soup would be a gross understatement. Before I share its ingredients and the way it is served let me share a couple observations first. Imagine you eat the same dish day in and day out. It could be either breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is hard, isn’t it? Well, we, the priviliged people from rich countries, usually think one must eat something different every day. That it is a condition of maintaining a diverse diet. Well, the animals and children somehow do not have this problem. Once they like something, they can eat it endlessly .
Spending a month in Vietnam and having Phở on a daily basis was not a problem at all. I do not know if it was for lack of better alternatives, or maybe because Phở is indeed nutritious and delicious.
Since it is a thick soup, it is served in a bowl. Apart from broth, which I will get back to in a moment, its main ingredient are rice noodles. Others include meat, mostly beef, chicken or pork, green onions and coriander. On a separate plate you often get addional garnishes such as chilli, limes, Thai basil, bean sprouts, mint leaves and vinegared white onions. There are also three sauce to choose from: fish, hoisin and chili. Time to talk about the broth, which is a work of art itself. It is made after hours of cooking beef bones with essential bone marrow. The typical spices here include charred onions and ginger, cinammon, aniseed , cardamon, coriader seeds and clove. I must have missed something, so abundant are the ingredients here. All of them produce a very fragrant dish, which can fill a small and a big tummy. The kids are fond of the rice noodles in particular. I like the way it is prepared instantly by dunking it in a special strainer into a separate pot of hot water shortly before serving.
Like many other dishes, Phở is eaten mostly in the streets. It is prepared in front of customers. Such a restaurant business does not need an additional kitchen, changing room for the staff and other unnecessary things. With such low overhead it can offer a dish for USD1!!! BTW, the average salary in Vietnam is about USD70. It would be hard to compete with the local gastronomy. No wonder we could not see a single McDonalds (we saw quite a few though empty KFCs) across the entire country from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, which is quite unprecedented.
We are all anxious to invite you to taste our first Polish Phở, which we are planning to cook at the earliest opportunity. I hope we will get all the key ingredients.