Have you ever walked into a restaurant and wondered if you would come out alive? I have and let me tell you, it’s a funny kinda feeling. However, as you can see I was unharmed in the quest for authentic Vietnamese and having looked death straight in the eye (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration) I am here to tell the tale.
“Who needs a WALL when you cook AMAZING Phó?”
Last year I embarked on an incredible cruise around Asia. Yes you read correctly, I said cruise. No it’s not just for old people. Yes I recommend it. No the ship won’t sink. Yes I’ve done it more than once…….try five times. Anyway, that’s beside the point. One of the ports we had the pleasure of visiting was Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam of which we were shown around by our wonderful tour guide along with a group of equally enthusiastic cruisers. Although when it came to lunch they suddenly didn’t seem all that enthusiastic.
“You can find food in the main market. Lots of choice for tourists. There is a Starbucks just around the corner. Or you can come with me to my favourite Pho restaurant in the city. Meet back at the coach in one hour.”
I don’t think I need to tell you which one we opted for. I mean the title of this blog post kind of gives that away. We followed our tour guide blindly down one of the many hustling streets until he stopped outside a building with quite literally no front wall. My eyes scaled to the top of the building, it was high. I could see people sat at tables, sipping on Pho and looking strangely calm as the space beside them plummeted to the concrete, gravel ground. How can a restaurant with no wall possibly be in a position to serve up good food?
We wound our way through the tables towards the back and were ushered into a separate, private room. The first thing that struck me was the heat. My God it was bloody boiling! The ceiling was low, there was no breeze and no sunlight, just a large fan sitting in the corner struggling to cool us down. The sound of people shouting, eating, pots and pans clashing, motorbikes revving their engines outside all added to the authenticity of this place. We were seriously in the thick of it.
“NEVER, ever…….ever, judge a book BY it’s cover.”
A menu sat in front of me but I didn’t even bother to look. We turned to our tour guide and said “we’ll have the same as you”. Out came the clearest looking broth and it smelt rich with flavour. It came with five different types of pork including pork sausage, pork ball and sliced pork. Each had it’s own unique texture and flavour. Not a fan of the pork ball myself but the incredible freshness of the beansprouts and herbs definitely took a shine to my palette.
Eating hot soup in sweltering conditions is not something I would usually choose to do but I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. Had I known how good the Pho was going to be before I had eaten it you could have sat me next to a roaring fire and I would still have happily guzzled it down.