Pho is one helluva bowl of soup.
Think tender slices of meat brushing back scallions, onions, and basil leaves; hovering over a base of chewy noodles; and swimming in a sweet, clear, steamy broth.
For lovers of the slurp, this is a bowl that can’t be beat.
We asked Chef Chan Le of Chicago’s Le Colonial if she could tell us more about our favorite noodle soup.
Not surprisingly her answers made us very hungry!
Will it do the same for you?
1. What is Pho?
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, banh pho (linguine-shaped rice noodle), herb and meat.
There are two types of Pho – Pho Bo (beef) and Pho Ga (chicken) although Pho Bo seems to be what comes to people’s minds when they think of Pho due to its popularity.
2. Why is it important or significant in Vietnamese culture?
Originally, Pho was sold by street venders in Northern Vietnam as an early breakfast fix, mostly for the working class. Then, it was popularized throughout the French Colonial period in Vietnam. Nowadays, people from all walks of life enjoy Pho. You can find this popular noodle soup anytime of the day from a street corner to a 3-star restaurant.
After the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese refugees started globalizing Pho by bringing it to counties around the world, making it the official representative of traditional Vietnamese food. You can now find Pho in any major city in Paris, Canada, Australia and the United States, etc.
3. Is it something that Vietnamese still eat or crave? Or is it more of a traditional dish? How often do you eat it? When do you crave it most?
Absolutely! As I have mentioned above, Vietnamese eat Pho anytime of the day, and it is the go-to breakfast item. I myself have to eat Pho at least once or twice a week, usually for lunch.
4. If you can’t make it to Le Colonial, how can you make Pho at home?
Here is a Pho recipe that serves 6 to 8 people.
- 3 lbs. of beef oxtail
- 2 lbs. of beef chunk (cut into 1 inch cube)
- 1 lb. of flank steak
- 2 yellow onions (charred)
- I piece of ginger (charred)
- 3 oz. of rock sugar
- 8 pieces of star anise
- 1 piece of cassia bark or cinnamon
- 6 pieces of clove
- 1 T salt
- ¼ cup of fish sauce
- 1 package of Pho noodles
- ½ of yellow onion (thinly sliced)
- Cilantro and scallion (finely chopped)
- Sliced chili pepper
- Thai basil, cilantro, beansprout and lime wedges
- Sriracha and hoisin sauce
Boil a pot of water and add oxtail and beef chunk. Keep it boiled for 10 minutes. Then, rinse and wash the meat and oxtail. This will make the broth clear. Put them back in the stockpot and add 6 quart of water. Bring to boil and simmer, just so there are a few bubbles on the surface.
In the meantime, char the onion and ginger over an open-flame until black. This will give the soup a smoky flavor. Wash the black skin off and add to the soup. Simmer soup for 3 hours. Check chunk for tenderness and remove from the pot. Reserve until serving.
Toast cinnamon, clove, and star anise until fragrant in a dry pan, which usually takes about 3 minutes. Add to soup and simmer for another half hour. Tips: Keep them in cheesecloth for easy removal. Add fish sauce, sugar and salt one at a time to taste.
Boil Pho noodles for about 3 seconds, and place in bowls. Add beef slices, herb, onion and chili. Pour boiling hot broth in bowls. Serve with sauces and lime wedge.
5. Other than Le Colonial, what are five other spots/eateries that serve your most favorite pho around the world?
Here are some of my favorite Pho places:
- Pho Pasteur
- Pho Huyen
- Pho Vung Tau
- Pho 88
- Xinh Xinh
About Le Colonial:
Le Colonial is Chicago’s noted up-scale French-Vietnamese restaurant which vividly recaptures the beauty, romance and spirit of French colonial Southeast Asia from the 1920s. Le Colonial is situated in the heart of Chicago’s esteemed Gold Coast in a charming two-story vintage rowhouse, located at 937 North Rush Street, featuring a main floor dining room, seasonal café on the first floor, and a bar, lounge and all-season terrace overlooking Rush Street on the Second Floor, all featuring savory authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Photo Courtesy of Le Colonial