While Spain was busy colonizing the Philippine Islands from the 16th until the late 19th century, France was doing the same to Vietnam beginning in the 17th century. European occupation brought along some cultural imposition, which is obvious in the cuisines of the occupied nations. Many Filipino foods are Spanish “inspired” and in Vietnamese cuisine, the influence of its occupier is obvious as well: bánh mì uses baguette and cháo phở is similar to the French’s pot-au-feu.
There are many noodle houses serving only pho, definitely in California, and the more diverse parts of Washington State. To my amusement, when I first moved to Washington State in 2005, people were talking about pho as if it were the “it” dish and something exotic, which it is to many non-Asian folks and even to some Asians not having yet been introduced to Vietnamese cuisine.
Having lived in San Jose, California where demographics show that it has the largest Vietnamese population; out of the 945,942 people reported in the 2010 US Census, 10.4% of which are Vietnamese and 2.03 x 10^-6 are family friends as they are my sisters’ BFFs, and due to Claire and Kat’s longtime friendships with Quynhnhu and Linda, respectively, Vietnamese culture has been nicely incorporated into my family’s own.
When I was a junior in high school and my youngest sister, Kat, was a senior in junior high (word play intended), she asked me to make a noodle dish called bun (pronounced būn, not buhn). When she spent time with her friend Linda, bun was what Linda’s family served her for a meal and Kat wanted a repeat, and for the life of me, I didn’t know how to make bun. So we set out recreating bun with Kat recalling the ingredients and flavors she remembered. Bun and pho are both noodle soup dishes but they’re not the same in terms of the noodles used and the flavors; bun contains more spice whereas it’s optional with pho.
Now with my own household, Asian noodle soups play a primary part in our meals, especially when it’s cold, damp, and gray, as it often is in our part of the Pacific Northwest. Although The Hubby would say that I don’t need the weather to be cold to have noodle soups. Though it’s nice to have cold weather as an excuse.
(Broth: beef bones, ginger, onions, fish sauce, salt, sugar, and cloves)
1 package of Banh pho noodles (wide rice stick noodles)
1/2 lb Beef tenderloin (sliced thinly, after cooked)
1 lb Bean sprouts
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Green onions, cut into thin rings
2 large or 4 small Jalapeño peppers, cut into rings (optional)
Chili sauce (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges
Prepare the broth using a large stockpot and the listed ingredients with 5 quarts of water. Bring the broth to a boil for about ten minutes then allow to simmer. Remove the bones and any surface foam and fat. Add the beef round in the simmering broth for 15 minutes. Remove the tenderloin and allow to rest before slicing thinly. Skim off any fat from the broth and make sure broth is clear before serving. Leave the broth in low heat to keep warm. Prepare the noodles according to directions on the package. Place the cooked noodles in large bowls and on top, add the sliced tenderloin and bean sprouts. Ladle the hot broth the beef and bean sprouts. Garnish with cilantro, Thai basil, green onions, and Jalapeño peppers, with lime and chili sauce on the side.
Smile and serve.
Numerous pho recipes are available online and for those unfamiliar with Vietnamese foods, check out as many pho recipes as you like so you can find the recipe that fits your diet best. Pho can also be made with chicken and vegetables, hence if you’re not a red meat eater, replace the beef with chicken or tofu. Enjoy!
*Pho photo courtesy of The Hubby and his sturdy Nokia Lumia 920.