To celebrate my (Mark’s) 27th birthday, we went out to eat at with the fam at a local pho place in Warren, a major suburb of Detroit.
I’ll never pho-get my first pho experience. It was at a place aptly named Pho 777, beneath the Argyle Red Line stop in Chicago. We went for a birthday party of a friend of a friend of a friend, and were delighted to partake in the cheap eats and free PBRs (it was a BYOB place).
My favorite place to get pho in the Detroit area is Pho Que Huong, on 13 Mile & Dequindre. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a tight squeeze, especially for a party of eight, so we went with the roomier Pho Viet down the road in Warren.
As you can see, we had no need to worry about fitting our entire party…
Afterwards, we went back home for dessert. Katie made a parfait version of Take A Megabite’s French Silk Pie.
All in all, it was a great birthday.
I discovered Pho Viet while writing a piece for Hour Detroit magazine about the local Vietnamese community and eating at the pho restaurants that line John R and Dequindre roads around 13 Mile.
Because it uses oil only sparingly, Vietnamese cuisine is lighter than the Chinese cooking traditions that heavily influenced it during 1,000 years of Chinese rule. It’s not as spicy as Thai food, and owes a thing or two to a century of French occupation. (The word pho, itself, is said to derive from the French beef stew pot-au-feu.)
“Pho came from the North [Vietnam],” Hoang says. “It’s French-influenced because the French came to the North first. When it came to the South, they added all the culantro and bean sprouts and stuff. Mom said that in the North it was just the broth itself and the meat and the noodles. None of the other things.”
Apart from the outside influences, Vietnamese food is known for its use of fish sauce (nuac mam), fresh herbs and vegetables, and inexpensive cuts of meat, combined for complex flavors. In metro Detroit, at an average of about $8 per hearty portion, pho hits all those marks. The flavor of the heady, fragrant broth is derived from long-simmered beef bones, charred ginger, and a spice cocktail of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel seed, and cardamom.
But part of pho’s appeal has to do with all the additional condiments. Along with fresh herbs, most pho restaurants offer hoisin sauce, hot chili paste, more fish sauce, and Sriracha. A table of four can all order pho, but that certainly doesn’t mean that each dish will taste the same.
Read the rest (and drool over Cybelle Codish’s mouthwatering photos, like the one above) at hourdetroit.com.