Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eating Outside My Comfort Zone - II

(Continuing our meal at Pho Thanh, a Vietnamese restaurant in Phoenix, with cousin Raina and her husband Jesse.)

And now for one of Jesse’s favorites—pho—which he would eat for breakfast almost every morning while serving in Vietnam. And the version that we selected was the Phở Filet containing noodles in a beef broth accompanied by a plate of raw beef tenderloin filet and plate of cilantro, jalapeno pepper slices, lime wedges, spouts, and an herb called sawtooth (also called Ngò Gai) that has a strong cilantro flavor.

The pho at Pho Thanh is described by Laura Hahnefeld phoenixnewtimes.com: “It's not a side dish. It's not a soup dish. It's pho—a main course, a noodle dish. In Vietnam, it's the people's food. Street food. And at Pho Thanh, it's delicious. It should be—it's the house specialty.

“…There are several variations of pho at Pho Thanh including chicken, seafood, or cuts of beef…. The first spoonful made us appreciate the fact that only a broth that's been simmering with marrow-rich beef bones over low heat for hours could taste that intense. Just salty enough, with layers of flavor brought out by the various herbs and spices.”

You place the raw beef slices in the steaming hot broth, add one or all of the accoutrements to your taste, and dig in. I don’t know if Vietnamese etiquette allows for noodle slurping as does the Chinese, but I will tell you that loud slurping noises came emanated from my place at the table.

Next I veered into safe territory and suggested that the four of us share an order of gỏi cuốn (shrimp, pork, vermicelli, lettuce, mint, and sprouts) spring rolls (right pair in the photo below) and an order of bì cuốn (shredded pork, vermicelli, lettuce, mint, and sprouts) spring rolls.
Early in our dining adventure, Raina warned that often the seafood used in Phoenix has been frozen, so may not be of the highest quality, and you could tell that such was the case with the shrimp in the gỏi cuốn. But the veggies in both were impeccably fresh and crisp and the shredded pork in the bì cuốn was tender and moist.

The spring rolls came with bowls of a sweet peanut sauce and fish sauce containing shredded carrots and daikon.
(“Fish sauce is an amber-colored liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt…. In addition to being added to dishes during the cooking process, fish sauce is also used as a base for a dipping condiment…. Fish sauce, and its derivatives, impart an umami flavor to food due to their glutamate content…. Nước chấm is a Vietnamese prepared fish sauce condiment dipping sauce that is savory, lightly sweet and salty tasting, and can even be sour or spicy if lime and chili peppers are added” [wikipedia.com]).

I’m not sure if any of us was still hungry, but we decided to share a dessert—chè đậu trắng or white bean and sweet rice in coconut milk pudding.
As described at theravenouscouple.com “Chè đậu trắng is a typical Vietnamese dessert—it is simple, sweet and has a touch of creamy coconut milk. The dessert can be eaten warm; but during the summer months, I like to eat this dessert chilled straight from the refrigerator. The sweet rice with the soft beans and creamy coconut sauce combine together for a velvety feel with just a bit of texture from the beans.”

Just one more item before I finish—the café sữa đá or iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk that Raina ordered for me to taste. Café sữa đá “is a traditional Vietnamese coffee recipe. It is also called…cà phê nâu đá, ‘iced brown coffee in northern Vietnam.

At its simplest, (it) is made with finely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter (cà phê phin) into a cup containing about a quarter to a half as much sweetened condensed milk, stirred and poured over ice” (hungryhuy.com).

In this instance, the condensed milk sat in the bottom of the glass of ice to be mixed when the hot coffee has finished dripping through the cà phê phin. This was delicious. Too bad Raina and Jesse took me up on my offer to share with them.

What could be better? Great food shared with great people. A real 5.0 Addie night.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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