A Taste of Saigon
Saigon is called ‘Far East Pearl’ because it influences culinary cultures from throughout the world. Food here is like a ‘hot pot’ which is gathered and mixed between many different culinary cultures, traditional and modern. This city is the center of culinary culture in Vietnam. We can find different types of food from Northern to Southern Vietnamese dishes to many famous French and Italian dishes, American burgers, German sausages, Indian curry, Japanese sushi, etc. Food from street vendors or big restaurants can bring great satisfaction.
Particularly, when we talk about Vietnamese food, no one can forget Phở, which is an interesting traditional food, usually served with beef (or with chicken). We can find Phở easily in any city/province from South to North with many different flavors depending on the style of each region.
What makes a good Phở is the broth made from beef bones, yellow rock sugar, fresh onion, grilled ginger, cinnamon and anise (some use dried cuttlefish to make the broth sweeter). You can also add to Phở, Asian basil, cilantro, coriander leaves, sawtooth herb, rice paddy herb and a little lime juice to make the taste more delicious. Depending on your taste, bean sauce and hot chili garlic sauce may be added. You can choose the meat depending on your taste as well, choosing from rib-eye steak, brisket, flank, fatty brisket, soft tendon, tripe etc.
Saigon Phở has its own style – I love the taste of ‘Phở bò’ in Saigon
Phở originated in the north of Vietnam where people usually call it “Phở Bắc”, but really started to spread when a million refugees fled south when the country was divided in 1954. What’s different between Phở Saigon and Phở Bắc? Well, the taste is very different – phở Saigon is a bit sweeter, and the broth looks sort of opaque, and a bit greaser than Phở Bắc. Try both variations and see which you prefer, as each kind of Phở has its unique flavor and both kinds have it’s own signature marks that would make it an unforgettable experience trying it for the first time.
“Phở originated in North Vietnam”
Besides the traditional Phở, there are many ways to break the old order and cook a variety of different versions of Phở, such as sautéed Phở (Phở áp chảo), Steamed rice crêpe rolls with Phở (Phở cuốn), dried Phở (Phở Gia Lai), Phở with sour sauce (Phở chua), and instant Phở (Phở ăn liền).
Out of these, stir fried Phở is tasty – it is basically pan-fried rice noodles sautéed with beef. The noodles are pan-fried first, then sautéed with the sauce, for a crispy and chewy noodle that soaks up all the juices of the meat. The sauce is made in high heat – a bit of oil and sautéd onion slices and beef, reserving the marinade. The important corn starch is the last step to start thickening the beef mixture into a gravy. Add the mushrooms, carrot, and bell pepper and sauté to make the dish colorful.
“stir fried Phở”
Gia Lai dry noodles (Phở khô Gia Lai): this is a very special dish from the Gia Lai province. It is served in 2 separate bowls – one with dry noodles, with a mixture of fried ground pork, fried onion, and a raw vegetable like lettuce, bean sprout, and hot chili garlic sauce. The other bowl contains a sweet broth with sliced beef or meat balls.
“Gia Lai dry noodles (Phở khô Gia Lai)”
Phở with sour sauce (Phở chua): a unique type of Phở from Lạng Sơn Province, when it came to Ho chi Minh City (HCMC), it was cooked a lit bit different to be suitable for the ‘Saigon-ese’ people. What makes this Phở so delicious is the tamarind sauce. The sauce is very thick, sweet and sour, blending with the noodle, chicken, chicken giblets,cracklings, peanuts, and raw vegetables, together with a little bit chili oil and cracklings. This combination is a very unique. Besides the bowl of noodles, there is another bowl of broth with chicken and small spring onions.
“Phở with sour sauce and cracklings op top (Phở chua)”
Each kind of Phở has a unique flavor, and are made differently by Vietnamese cuisine. However, the traditional Phở is the best, and the most popular not only in Vietnam but also in many countries all over the world. So please try it if you have a chance to visit Vietnam – Highly recommended.