Ethnic Eating 101: Vietnamese, Part 1
|ccdoh1 @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
If you're reading this from somewhere else, we'd love to have you visit. Really. But in the meantime, the introduction to Vietnamese food below will work anywhere, but you'll have to do your own research for where to seek these gems out. (We hear free, weekly, alternative newspapers often have awesome food sections.)
Get ready: we're here to give you the lowdown on what to eat, where to eat it, and, of course, how to eat it. For those of you who are old hands at eating in Little Saigon, feel free to chime in with all the stuff we missed.
|avlxyz @ flickr.com CC BY-SA 2.0|
The first Vietnamese dish most non-Vietnamese encounter is phở (say "fuh", not "foe"). Phở is beef noodle soup; rice noodles and cuts of beef swimming in a rich, dark broth. This is Vietnamese comfort food, so loved that it's even eaten for breakfast. When I'm sick, it's not Jewish penicillin (chicken soup) I reach for, it's phở.
You order phở by the cuts of beef you want in it. If you're nervous about weird animal parts, go for tái (rare steak), chín (sliced flank steak) and nạm (brisket). If you're adventurous, order gầu (fatty brisket), gân (tendon) or sách (tripe), or try the đặc biệt (house special), which is usually an amalgam of all of the ingredients but may include things like bò viên (beef meatballs) or hành dấm (vinegared onions). There is also a chicken version of the soup, made with chicken broth, known as phở gà.
While the dish isn't at all spicy, you'll be given a plate of herbs, sprouts, sliced chiles and lime wedges to doctor the broth as you see fit. There will also be squeeze bottles of sweet hoisin sauce and spicy sriracha (called "rooster sauce" because the ubiquitous Huy Fong brand has a rooster on the bottle).
|jypsygen @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
There are so many phở shops in Orange County that there is essentially a price ceiling within Little Saigon; a bowl of phở is $5-$6.