Cure for duck cold – Vietnamese pho
I learned a great phrase this week in French class: Il fait un froid de canard. Translation: It’s duck cold! Meaning: It’s freezing cold. One website I checked said the saying originated from duck hunting in the winter. Whether or not that’s true, I love the expression.
And believe me, this week was duck cold in Washington, DC. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house on Saturday. I did a lot of cleaning so I would feel like I had accomplished something. But finally, there was one thing that provided enough motivation to get bundled up and change out of my slippers: pho.
Yes, pho, the wonderful Vietnamese steaming beef and rice noodle dish. There is a place just a few blocks from our house that has amazing pho – Caphe Banh Mi. With pho, it’s all about the broth. And you can tell, this isn’t your store-bought beef broth. The broth is complex, with flavors that have clearly been coaxed over hours of simmering.
Other than the fact that pho is an obvious choice on a cold winter day, we had pho on our minds because the French newspaper Le Monde had an article about pho this week on their website. In the article, they talked about how pho is simple and classic Vietnamese at its best. It’s eaten by everyone, rich, poor, young, old. It is often considered more of a breakfast dish, but it can be eaten for any meal.
One of the chefs interviewed in the article believes there are some French influences in Vietnamese pho. He says that beef wasn’t a staple in Vietnamese diets before the French were involved in that part of the world, and their presence might have increased its incorporation into cuisine. Also, the word pho isn’t pronounced like “phone” but more like the French word for fire – “feu” (fuh). So maybe Vietnamese pho is related to the French dish pot-au-feu, a French beef stew. This is probably a bit blasphemous to some, who say that Vietnamese pho existed well before the French came to South East Asia. But I think that for anyone who has tried it, they would agree that pho is one of the best, most satisfying soups there is. And a sure way to beat un froid de canard.