Southeast Asia—Vietnam: Pho My New-Found Love

Southeast Asia—Vietnam: Pho
By: Kristen Dunphey GWU Geog2133: People, Land and Food, Spring 2011
My New-Found Love
If you ask anyone that knows my
family, even by the slightest bit,
they would describe us as AllAmerican. Apparently, everything
we do is somehow apart of the
“American Dream.” We live in
“Suburbia” Pennsylvania, my mom
drove a mini-van, my dad drove a
pick-up truck (until gas prices went
up, he then switched to a Honda),
there are two kids in my family
(my brother and I), and every night
our family eats dinner together at
the dining room table. Food, however, is the one thing that is not
“All-American” about my family. I
mean occasionally we have meat
loaf or charcoal grilled burgers, but
the majority of our meals are inspired by Asian cuisine. Once my
parents realized that we all love
Asian food we began to eat it
more often. In every city we visit
often we have our favorite Asian
restaurants. In Bar Harbor, ME we
frequent Siam Orchid; a fantastic
Thai Restaurant. In DC we always
go to Bangkok Joe’s, a contemporary Thai restaurant, and in Philadelphia the restaurant Vietnam is
our place of choice. The restaurant Vietnam single handedly
switched my favorite food from
buffalo chicken straight to pho. It
was love at first bite. There is
something about the combination
of sweet and spicy in Vietnamese
food that makes my taste buds go
wild. Ever since, I have been on
the hunt for the best pho restaurant, and I think I found it. In a
shady little shopping center on
the corner of Adams Avenue in
Northeast Philadelphia there is a
place that only serves beef pho
and for $11 you can get a bowl of
soup big enough to bathe in. And
now I am trying my own hand at
preparing my favorite dish.
Photo Credit:
Fun Fact:
A typical meal for the average Vietnamese family
would include:
 Individual bowls of rice
 A roasted meat or fish dish
 A stir-fried vegetable dish
 Canh (a clear broth with vegetables and often
meat) or other Vietnamese-style soup
 Prepared fish sauce and/or soy sauce for
dipping. All dishes are communal and to be
shared apart from the individual bowls of rice.
Vietnamese Cuisine
Vietnamese cuisine is
known for and has a hug emphasis
on fresh ingredients. Most dishes
use combinations of fresh herbs,
spices, fruits, vegetables and, meat.
The most common types of meat
used are beef, pork, chicken and
various types of seafood. There is
also a big emphasis on using and
supplying fresh vegetables and dipping
sauces as sides in Vietnamese cuisine.
Because of the fertile soils in Vietnam,
there is no shortage of these fresh ingredients.
Photo Credit:
Vietnamese Cuisine Continued...
Vietnamese cuisine can be separated
into three different sections: Northern, Southern, and Central. Each of these regions have
influences of their own. The Southern region
of Vietnam, for example, has a Chinese influence due to the high number of Chinese immigrants. These southern flavors are more
sweet compared to the other regions. Along
with their sweet influence, the Chinese
brought things like soy sauce and rice noodles
to Vietnam. The Northern section of Vietnam
has more strict and traditional menu items.
The birthplace of my favorite dish, pho, was in
the Northern region of Vietnam. The central
part of Vietnam has influences of both the
northern and southern regions of the country.
These dishes usually consist of many small
side dishes with a distinct spiciness. The
French culture, however, has influence
throughout much of the Vietnamese cuisine.
After the French occupied the region that is
now Vietnam, they left behind the legacy of
breads, sandwiches, coffee and ice cream.
Despite all outside influences, the fresh ingredients are what makes Vietnamese cuisine
Photo Credit:
Other Credits:
Beef Pho Recipe:
2 onions, halved
4" nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 lbs of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
1 lb of beef meat - chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large
slices *optional+
6 quarts of water
1 package of Pho Spices *1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag+
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (halve if using regular table salt)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) - or 1oz of
regular sugar
2 lbs rice noodles (dried or fresh)
cooked beef from the broth
1/2 lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced
as thin as possible.
big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha hot sauce
Parboil the bones: Fill large pot (12-qt capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the bones, keeping the heat
on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of
cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum
that rises to the top.
Boil broth: Add ginger, onion, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove
the beef meat and set aside. Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot.
Taste broth and adjust seasoning - this is a crucial step. If the broth's flavor doesn't quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons
more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar). Keep doing this
until the broth tastes perfect.
Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible - try freezing for 15 minutes prior to
slicing to make it easier.
Recipe Credit: