Last night, our mate L invited us over for dinner as his parents were visiting from Australia. L’s parents are well-known throughout Sydney’s Cabramatta as the owners of Pho Cay Du; as well as being the parents of Sydney’s Luke Nguyen of Red Lantern restaurant Surry Hills and host of street food tv series Luke Nguyen Vietnam.
So what better family to feed me a great Pho that I have been craving for so long.
I don’t know where my obsession with Vietnamese food stems from. I ate a decent amount of it growing up in Sydney, but I think it was not until I travelled through Vietnam and subsequently met Sam (yes we met travelling!) that I really began to fall in love with the cuisine. Obviously Sam and Luke have played a huge influence over the years, always making sure that I was eating food nothing short of authentic, and talking about Vietnamese food so often so that even I now know my pho bo tai from my pho bo chin. Since moving to London we have craved it like crazy. London has decent Vietnamese but that really is the problem, it’s just decent.
Back to last night.
It’s probably been a year or two since I last saw Aunty and Uncle (whilst I’m not Vietnamese, my chinese background has it drilled into me to address my friends parents with respect), but both greeted us with such a warm hug and smile we felt like we were about to be fed by our own parents. As soon as we walked into the kitchen the waft of one thing came all over us – the wonderful aroma of pho broth combined with freshly chopped herbs on the table top. Our stomaches were rumbling and L’s parents were ready to lay on the food.
It was quite funny seeing Aunty and Uncle operate in the kitchen as it became quickly apparent that each of them had clearly defined roles.
Aunty portioned out the rice noodles which had been soaked briefly in warm water. She then cooked each portion of the noodles in simmering water to al dente perfection as the heat from the broth would continue the cooking process later on
Uncle then topped the noodles with raw sirloin beef, cooked flank beef, shallots, onions and herbs. Watching him do this was like watching a true master at work. Accuracy and precision.
The pho was served alongside fresh thai basil, lemon and bean spouts as well as fresh chopped chilli and chilli sauce. Uncle then let us know that he had handmade the delicious XO sauce we were eating from dried scallops and dried prawns.
The broth was rich and had such a depth and complexity in flavour and as you can see from the picture above, was so delicious we drank every drop. The beef brisket was perfectly braised, and I could taste the quality in the raw sirloin that was served.
Two rounds of pho later I was stuffed to the brim and contemplating how I was ever going to make the walk home. I then heard Aunty and Uncle mutter a few words about more food, and before I could even digest what was going on, Bo Kho (Beef Brisket) and a duck taro curry (I don’t remember the Vietnamese name) was brought to the table accompanied by piping hot bread and rice.
Uncle and Aunty made the Pho broth the night prior so we didn’t get to see the process, but I’ll link here Luke’s Pho recipe as it’s probably the closest to what we ate last night. Like any family secret recipe I have a feeling they didn’t quite give everything away with this published recipe, but I may have to try using this myself to satisfy my next craving…