originally published in thelocaldish.com.
Photo: Katherine Montalto
Phở, the celebrated national dish of Vietnam, entices the appetite with a hearty aroma of rich stock and fresh vegetables. It’s not simply a soup but an experience. Phở is served everywhere in Vietnam. Every home is sure to have large pots simmering the soup all day. Street vendors serve fisherman a hearty breakfast before going out for a day’s work. Vietnam’s finest restaurants are sure to have Phở on their menus served at cloth-covered tables.
The dish was invented in the early part of the 20th century in northern Vietnam. Phở is a marriage of both Chinese and French cuisines, Vietnamese food being greatly influenced by these two cultures. The rice noodles and spices are borrowed from the Chinese. The French colonist popularized red meat in Vietnam. One theory is that Phở is derived from a French beef stew, named “pot au feu”, which has similar preparation such as slowly cooking beef bone marrow in a stock. The popularity of the soup spread southwards when Vietnam was divided into North and South in 1954. Cooks in the south began experimenting with the recipe, swapping beef for chicken or pork.
Phở moved beyond the borders of Vietnam, brought by the Vietnamese now gracing the tables of homes and restaurants around the world. American foodies have fallen in love with the simple soup, finding goodness in every flavorful bowl. Vietnamese restaurants have been popping up all over the United States, Phở being a staple on every menu. Phở has become popular enough to have blogs dedicated to its greatness.
Đà Nẵng Restaurant in Clawson is probably one of the best places in Metro Detroit to get a bowl of Phở among a menu full of wonderful Vietnamese dishes. Owner Kim Dao-Waldis opened Đà Nẵng in March of 2009. A self taught home cook, she taught her chefs Vietnamese cooking including the long process of slow cooking large pots of Phở always cooked from scratch. Kim uses Sirloin Flap sliced paper thin. The beef is set on a bed of noodles in the soup, cooked to perfection by the heat of the broth. Sirloin Flap has just the right ratio of fat to meat, enough to add the right amount of flavor without making it even slightly greasy. The Phở is served with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, peppers, basil, and a lime wedge. Dinners are given an array of sauces to flavor the soup to their liking. Đà Nẵng also serves a vegetarian Phở made with vegetable stock and fresh tofu. You can order a bowl of Phở to go but the sleek décor and relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant are a great place to have a seat and enjoy the soup slowly.