April 26, 2007


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Pho sure
Beefy noodly Vietnamese
By Susan Reilly Ware  news@hippopress.com

Pho is phat.

It’s a cozy, inexpensive party in your mouth.

What is pho? Pho is the national dish of Vietnam. Street food. A sort of beef-noodle soup, but much more than that. Every family has its own pho recipes for dishes that maybe be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Pho is said to be the ultimate hangover cure.

Pho is not pronounced “faux” or “foe” (although most restaurants are used to that); it is “fur” without the “r” or “fuh.”

Not like the other hugely popular noodle-and-broth dish, pad Thai, which seems to be popping up on every Chinese takeout menu because the masses are demanding it, pho is more of a layered, specialty dish wrapped in ritual and found only in authentic Vietnamese restaurants.

“We sell a lot of pho in the winter,” said Samantha Diep, owner of Pho Golden Bowl in Manchester.

Typically, pho is noodles with thin slices of rare beef and long-simmered broth. Diep says that most Vietnamese like the special pho, made with rare beef, brisket, tendon and tripe.

While there really are no wrong ingredients when it comes to pho (chicken is a very Western addition), there can be wrong ways to arrange its layers in the bowl. Each bowl of pho isn’t just ladled from a pot, but composed.

A bowl of pho is assembled like this: first in is a neat twist of rice vermicelli noodles cooked al dente. Then very thin slices of rare beef (sometimes raw) are layered, followed by thinly sliced scallions and raw onion. Hot beef broth is then ladled into the bowl, cooking the thin strips of beef ever so lightly.

The Vietnamese treat pho like it is a whole meal in a bowl. Fresh, regional ingredients are used, so it is different everywhere. Basically, pho is more of a concept than a recipe.

But don’t bother trying this at home. Pho from those who know how to make it is too good and cheap. Plus, pho broth would be a bear to make at home. It is a complex concoction of long-simmered bones, marrow, cinnamon and anise plus other exotic spices depending on the chef. It would be maddening for a home cook to try to duplicate pho from their favorite restaurant.

Popular in Vietnam for almost 100, pho is thought to be an offshoot of a French soup, feu, a leftover from when the French colonized Vietnam. On the other hand, some believe that pho was developed as an economical way to use leftover beef from Tet, the Vietnamese new year celebration.

How to eat pho
While the flavors may vary, the accompaniments and the best way to eat pho will not change. With every bowl of pho you will be served a side dish heaping with crisp bean sprouts, lime wedges, chili peppers (typically in a paste) and leaves of Thai basil or cilantro.

The timing of the addition of these ingredients to pho is much debated and a matter of personal taste.

Most add some of the bean sprouts right away, so that they soften in the hot broth. The rest are saved for the end when a little crunch is a nice addition.

Shred the Thai basil and stir in early on, then squeeze lime juice over the pho. Add sauces such as hoisin if you like and blend with chopsticks.

Now that you have prepared the pho to your liking, use the chopsticks in one hand to eat the meat and noodles, while alternately sipping broth from the spoon in the other.

Near the end, some pho-lovers kick up the last bits by adding lots of chili paste or the extra bean sprouts to switch up the texture. At this point, prepare yourself for a pho jones. It will hit you hard.

Where to pho
• Pho Golden Bowl 124 Queen City Ave., Manchester, 622-2000. A dozen different bowls of pho ($6.25-$6.75) including crab, chicken, rare beef, beef ball and vegetarian. House special is made with rare steak, well-done flank, brisket, tendon and tripe ($6.50).
• Vietnam Noodle House 138 Main St., Nashua, 886-4566. More than a dozen phos (46-$6.50) including beef balls, brisket and seafood. House special pho is made with rare steak, brisket, tendon and tripe ($6.50).

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A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

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