Another family meal post here today ^_^ Pho 97 was the first restaurant I ate at upon arrive back to Hawai’i. I got in late afternoon, was shuffled home for a quick shower, then off to a family friend’s dinner party. Local, home cooked parties are the best kind. Here’s part of the spread.
And here’s the other part, hehe. Mostly Vietnamese food with Chinese influence. A few Thai dishes, along some local favourites. A dark spicy curry to be paired with either sticky rice, steamed noodles, or baguettes. Roasted pork, kalbi (with Vietnamese flavours), som tum (green papaya salad), gau gee, fried noodles, cake noodles, (can never have too many noodles). For dessert: tapioca with taro and red beans, and another of mango + sticky rice + coconut. Parties don’t get any more tasty than this :)
An hour later, I joined my grandparents, cousins, aunt and sister for another dinner at Pho 97 in Chinatown. I made my first post on Pho 97 back in the fall of 2006, and while the family still frequents this restaurant quite often, I think it is wise to not claim devotion to any one Vietnamese restaurant in the island. Each has pros and cons, and Pho 97 wins with spring rolls and…
…this gargantuan plate of happiness. A base of broken rice, barbecued pork, savoury steamed egg, pork, and vermicelli cake, shredded pork and pig ears, and a fried egg. Nuoc nam to finish! My favourite is the steamed cake (diamond shaped wedge at top-left), which you should really make a point to try if you haven’t yet. It puts American meatloaf to silly shame. It’s a mouthful, and an utterly wonderful one at that. I tend to think of this as my Vietnamese version of the Loco Moco, hehe.
The best bun rieu is found in my mother’s kitchen. But since she rarely cooks nowadays, we find comfort in the version at the nearby 99 Coffee Shop on King Street (post here). The broth at Pho 97 is slightly muted and the crab cakes are too loosely packed. This was my dish, fully equipped with the floating crab cakes, shrimp, mushrooms, and pig’s blood. My grandma, who sat next to me at dinner, feared for my cholesterol levels and suggested I pass on the chunks of pig’s blood to my younger, more athletic (and therefore more healthy? ;) cousin.
The spring rolls here never fail to be remarkably light, and are always served straight out of the fryer, still hot enough to burn your tongue. The best part is the little chunks of taro in the filling, a major bonus.
Michel had this bowl of noodle soup and I cannot remember the name of the dish for the life of me. I shall email her and update you :) It’s a tomato heavy broth with pig’s blood, ground pork, and slices of jah.
This is a two-part dish, dry and wet. First a small plate of cold sliced duck with shredded cabbage, onions (green and white), and minced ginger. The proper way to do this is to first remove the duck off to another side dish, then pour nuoc nam over the “salad” and mix away. Then eat the duck and salad together. But you might want to alternate between doing that and getting down to business with your noodle soup before it gets cold!
Duck broth. Noodles. Pig’s Blood. Even with the pig’s blood, I find this soup to be cleansing and clear. Probably to counter in all that fat hidden between the duck meat and skin. You don’t, gasp, remove and discard the skin, do you?[Oh!
That reminds me.
On the matter of skin. I have a close friend who does not eat fried chicken skin. It drives me crazy to eat fried chicken together because she loveslovesloves fried chicken…just not the skin/the best part. (Trisha, I am looking at you!)]
This is a slightly toned down version of the first Com Tam pictured at top. Here we have the broken rice with grilled pork, and the shredded pork & pig ear mix. I personally prefer this dish with the fried egg and steamed meat cake, but to each his/her own.
Unadorned pho, ready for meats and veggies.
It’s pouring out in NYC today, but just wanted to wish my dear apartment-mate and long time (since elementary school!), Darien, a happy, happy 22nd! ^_^ We’re a day belated, but better a day than never right? ;)
1120 Maunakea Street
Honolulu, Hawai’i 96817