Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I thought it was supposed to be pho+?...

No, that is not a typo... It's the non-technical, non-Unicode way for doing a Vietnamese alphabet. The 'o' has a funny squiggly thing coming out of it and another squiggly thing on top of it that looks like a question mark without the dot. Pho+? is the Vietnamese noodle dish that is commonly pronounced by us non-Vietnamese speakers as 'pho', which rhymes with toe. The correct way to pronounce it rhymes with 'saw' with a dip in tone, which quickly rises back up at the middle of the 'a'.

Pho+? is a very tasty beef noodle soup made from beef bone with tender, love, and care and no vegetables. The no veggie requirement is key to it having that deep, rich beef flavor without the artificial sweetness. But my love for pho+? is a topic for another day.

Today, I'm going to tell you about my visit to Vien Huong, a noodle shop in the Oakland Chinatown. Their name means 'Far Scent'. I am quite perplexed by why they decided to name their store 'Far Scent' - do they mean that they can be smelled from a far? Or do they mean that they smell of distant places? Both of these definitions would apply to the characters used in their name...

Anyway, I went to Vien Huong, since I read a very good review about them in my favorite Japanese blog. This blogger is GREAT. The guy is a culinary expert who knows his food, and I trust his taste preferences more than I trust my own! So, when I read that Vien Huong had wonderful Vietnamese noodles, I thought, "Great! I love pho+?!! I need to go check this place out!!!"

I was taken back when I got to the store, though, because I saw this:

viet noodles

This is not what pho+? looks like. There's chicken on top!!! I wanted beef slices, not chicken!!! I sat down in a state of mild panic, not knowing what was going on... Luckily, my Vietnamese roommate picked himself out of the confusion before I did and proceeded to order for me.

When my bowl came, the soup was fragrant, but smelled of the more delicate chicken, and not of the wild and beasty beef. The soup was warm and loving, but in a more gentle motherly kind of chicken-soupy way, and not the fatherly strong way of beef I have come to love in pho+?. It was good alright, but it just wasn't pho+?...

At home, I went back to see what my favorite Japanese blogger really said, since I was so sure he recommended the pho+? there. Well, he never called the noodles "pho+?" and referred to the house special noodles only as the "Vietnamese noodle dish", which this chicken dish sure was...

I'll have to go back to Oakland for pho+? very soon to fulfill my craving.

1 comment:

The Papa Bear said...

In case you folks were curious about what the "real" Vietnamese words look like, here are the terms that Alice had used:


Hopefully, these words will be rendered properly on your browsers.

Viễn Hương means "Distant Fragrance". The fragrance here is that of the food; It's "distant" because it comes from the Old Country. It's the restaurant owner's way of expressing his longing for the Old Country.

I had ordered hủ tiếu, which is a white rice noodle, for Alice since she was having a craving for phở, which uses a similar noodle. But personally, I think the wide and flat egg noodles would be a much tastier accompaniment to the chicken broth, which does not have the deep flavors that a good beef broth exudes. It's all about balancing, isn't it?

So, if you happen to go check out Viễn Hương, try the flat/wide egg noodles.

Good post, Alice-san! But what about the XOX that you got after? (grin)