Pho Hanoi

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Pho Ha Noi has an extraordinary taste, coming from its very clear broth and fresh
noodles which distinguish it from Phd served in other places.

Introduction Pho Ha Noi

Pho is an original soup of our people, a delicious dish eaten by town-dwellers in the morning or evening. Some restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City bear the sign “Pho of Ha Noi”, but what is served there doesn’t show those trifles that are the attributes of the food eaten in Ha Noi. Because of my passion for Pho, in whatever country I happen to be, I always look for a Vietnamese restaurant where I can savour a bowl of Pho and draw a comparison with the soup served in our country. Let us note that Pho Ha Noi, whether beef or chicken, is loved by foreigners, especially Japanese tourists, some of whom may order two ot three bowls In a row. Reminiscing about his visit to Viet Nam, Kiyomi Tsujimoto, president of the Peace Boat Movement, exclaimed: “I pine for a snack of Pho”. Where does the flavour of Pho lie? What differentiates a bowl of this soup served abroad from out Pho (North Vietnamese Pho). Far from being a gourmet, I would like to start a discussion on this subject in the hope of benefiting from the knowledge of experts. I remember my first visit to Paris in the winter of 1989. Cold and hungry, I made my way to the 13th arrondissement, attracted by the reputation of its Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants which served, so I was told, even mote tasty food than that found in Viet Nam. Naturally enough, as soon as I took my seat at a table, I ordered a bowl of Pho with scalded beef. Let me say right away that, given the large number of shops, I took my choice of the restaurant with the largest number of customers, believing that I would find there the best food. Alas, I failed to bring to my mouth the taste of Ha Noi Pho, although no ingredient was missing: meat, hot pepper, lemon juice, midi aromatic herbs and cinnamon… but the beef extracted from the deep-freezer was rubbery, the rice noodles were a bit too rich, the aromatic leaves were large and green but had no flavour. And the broth… The artificial succulence given to it by the seasoning was sickening. Something peculiar to real Pho was missing, something perhaps, coming from Thao Qua, cinnamon and Lang mint.

Pho Ha Noi

Pho Ha Noi

A taste of Pho Ha Noi

An old Ha Noi gourmet has revealed to me a secret of Chinese caterers: an ingredient that gives the broth the taste of marrow bones, without recourse to gourmet powder. On the occasion for my passage to other French cities — Grenoble, Lyon, Besancon, — I also went in search of Phd served by local Vietnamese-Nice owned restaurants. I believed that Vietnamese expatriates came to them more to experience a certain gastronomic sensation than to draw a satisfactory comparison between “western” Pho and the soup served in Ha Noi or Sai Gon… I shivered with cold when arriving in Hamburg for the first time. I stayed there three days before driving on to Nuremberg and Munich. Never have I felt the sting of the cold and hunger more acutely than during those seven days. Never have I craved so much the ‘smell of a steaming hot bowl of Phd — even the kind served in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The mete thought of it made my heart miss a beat… I arrived in Copenhagen around nine In the evening. The city was then deserted. Harassed by the demon of Pho Ha Noi, I made a patient search in the telephone directory before ferreting out the address of a Vietnamese restaurant some 30 kilo-metres from the hotel where I lived. I paid a $35 taxi fare to go there. The owner, a native of Hai Phong, told me he had started his business three years before. He vaunted his Vietnamese specialities, eventually offering me a bowl of excellent Pho, which could approach the Pho of Ha Noi, He whispered to me his secret: “People of my family” he said, “send me from home regular supplies of Sa Sung and Thao Qua, so essential to the making of a good Pho” Alas, I still missed the aroma of Lang mint and the relaxed atmosphere created by customers squatting on benches in Pho Ha Noi stalls in Ha Noi around midnight. My pious search for genuine Pho has also taken me to Little Sai Gon, in California, USA. Every time I came back to Sai Gon, I had to take a bowl of Pho, steaming hot and duly flavoured. But I must say in all sincerity that Sai Gon Pho is no longer authentic Pho, except in some restaurants kept by northerners. Even in Ha Noi, the tradition is fading.

Pho Ha Noi

A taste of Pho Ha Noi

The taste of the clear broth, with a savour of Sa Sung, Thao Qua, Que Chi and ginger, the bits of meat from carefully selected cuts and crushed on blocks of wood, the soft noodles of newly harvested rice, the mauve leaves of ling mint — all this is part of a legacy of refinement and harmony coming to us from our forefathers. Pho Ha Noi is a good cuisine.