Sep 20th, 2017, 03:41 PM

Five Vietnamese Dishes That Aren't Phở

By Elizabeth Nguyen Son
Pho. Image Credit: avlxyz/Flickr
Soothingly warm bowls for the fall

With the cold weather setting in quickly this week, why not try some other comforting, warm bowls of Vietnamese food? In January, I published an article on Lunar New Year celebrations, which mostly consisted of food. Although food is a huge part of Vietnamese celebrations, it is also a defining aspect of Vietnamese culture. Phở is a famous Vietnamese noodle soup that is now easily found in most parts of the world as refugees from the Vietnam War escaped to different parts of the world and popularized the dish. You can find a recipe of beef phở here, but there is a whole lot more to Vietnamese cuisine than just phở. Here are my 5 favorite Vietnamese dishes  (that aren't phở) to eat in the fall.

Image Credit: Flickr/star5112

First on my list would be a light breakfast meal, Bánh Cuốn (pronounced: bahn koon). In restaurants, it tends to be presented as an appetizer. It is a small, thin rice cake filled with cooked seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushrooms, and shallots. It is often accompanied with a dipping sauce called 'nước mắm', which is often seen in Vietnamese cuisine and has a fish sauce base. This is actually a dish that was originally from the North of Vietnam but can be found everywhere nowadays. However, the South actually does have its very own version of this delicate rice cake called 'bánh ướt', but it does not have a filling. It is savory and very flavorful thanks to the mushrooms and shallots, but especially the dipping sauce. The meat gives the dish a little more consistency, which could make this appetizer a light meal for those who don't have a large appetite. You can find a recipe here!

Image Credit: Flickr/Gary Stevens

Next would be a noodle soup, Bún Bò Huế (pronounced: boon baw way). Personally, this is my favorite. I love noodle dishes and a little spice, so this dish really puts the two together. What's great about making this dish yourself is that you can turn up the heat and add chillies and more annatto seeds if you like spicy food! The dish consists of various levels of flavor thanks to the herbs, the broth that is made from pork and beef simmered over three hours, the banana flower garnish, and the aromatic annatto seed oil. Contrary to the typical bowl of phở, which uses flat rice noodles known as 'bánh phở', bún bò huế uses circular, vermicelli rice noodles called 'bún rối'. All the different kinds of noodles can get confusing and overwhelming but it's like the different types of pasta; you'll get used to it! You can find a recipe here but if you're lazy, you can find a great bowl of bún bò huế in the 13e arrondissement at Pho Bida Viet Nam. I don't eat much meat (and I'm not a fan of pork hocks and pork blood) so when I go, I always ask for just the noodles and broth (and I add in the banana flower garnish). You can often omit certain meats if you don't like them, so don't let some ingredients scare you away! They just need to be used to make that delicious broth. Pho Bida Viet Nam is open Monday through Sunday from 11:00 to 15:00 and then 18:30 to 22:30! For the address, click here.

Image Credit: Flickr/Gary Stevens

This is yet another noodle soup called Hủ Tiếu (pronounced: hoo tea-oo). It can be served in its original soup form, or khô, which is the 'dry' version where the noodles are served topped with sauce and a bowl of soup on the side. The noodles in this dish are similar to the ones you find in phở; a lot of Vietnamese dishes use rice noodles actually. It's also unique in flavor because the dish mixes jumbo shrimp and different kinds of pork. You can find a recipe here! Otherwise, my favorite "canteen" style restaurant to eat this is Hao Hao, located in the 13th. Just be warned, this is the kind of place you go to solely to eat and not to hang around! It gets busy so they tend to run around and give you the bill once they clear your table. For the address click here.

Image Credit: Flickr/Prince Roy

Next on my list is (Hủ Tiếu) Bò Kho (pronounced: hoo tea-oo baw kaw)! Bò Kho on its own is a beef stew, but there's Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho, which is served with flat rice noodles. This might be the most comforting fall dish on this list because of the spices used in the stew; it is warm and soothing but very flavorful thanks to the use of five spices, which consist of cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns. There is Hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and mushroom seasoning in the base of the stew (don't worry, the flavors mesh well and you can't even taste the fish sauce if you do it right!), but the carrots and a bit of sugar balance out the saltiness of the dish. I have yet to find a place in Paris that can make this well, but until then, you can find the recipe here!

Image Credit: Flickr/Nick Nguyen

Lastly, a dish for those who don't like soups or noodles: Cơm Bò Lúc Lắc (pronouced: come baw look lack). 'Cơm' in Vietnamese means 'rice', 'bò' means 'beef', and 'lúc lắc' means 'shaking' so the name of the dish is supposed to mean 'rice with beef that looks like shaking dice', hence the cubed beef—I know, it doesn't make much sense to me either. Anyway! If you try Googling this, it will often come up without the rice, so just "bò lúc lắc", but for the sake of this article, I had to include the rice because I think it tastes better that way and I'll tell you why in a second. Although I don't usually like rice, this dish is served with tomato rice (my grandmother just puts tomato paste in the rice cooker and voilà: tomato rice) and the beef has a dipping sauce which is made of pepper (as finely ground as possible), salt, and fresh lemon juice. It is so simple in its flavors and easy to whip up, which is really what makes this one of my staple Vietnamese dishes! Honestly, most Vietnamese restaurants will make this so it's not all that hard to find, but here is the recipe for it, in case you want to try it at home.

So, that's my list of 5 Vietnamese dishes that aren't phở! Whether you attempt to make any of these at home or try them at a restaurant, at least now you know that there's a lot more yummy Vietnamese food out there.