4 feb. 2013

Postcards from Vietnam: 3

Phở: the quintessential Vietnamese dish

Nothing defines Vietnam better than phở. This humble noodle soup is one of the most satisfying yet simple dishes one can encounter. In the big cities of Vietnam, it is the young, busy people’s favourite lunch or dinner. The secret to phở is of course the stock. Made in big pots and using the freshest ingredients, the flavours of the herbs and the lime juice are enhanced by the sublime taste of the stock.

One of the curiosities in Ho Chi Minh (the former Saigon) is the photographs of President Clinton happily enjoying his bowl of phở and posing with the staff. The photographs now decorate the Phở 2000 restaurant, across from the Bến Thành Market in downtown Saigon, a reminder of Clinton’s historic visit.

Due to the pressures 21st-century life puts on people, it is becoming increasingly difficult for families to make phở at home. Unsurprisingly, franchises have been sprouting in the cities, with Phở 24 one of the best I tried. Yet the best phở is the one the visitor will find where tourists rarely venture, where the locals sit down to eat and the English language becomes useless.

The culinary variety of Vietnam is astounding. Despite rice being the staple food one can find anywhere, each region has its own dishes and variations. Visitors to the former imperial capital, Huế, should give Bún bò Huế a try. This is a spicy, rich soup that incorporates the flavour of lemon grass and shrimp paste.

Bún bò Huế

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