Making phở

Man eating bowl of Pho. At the market in Đồng Văn a man eats his early morning bowl of the national dish - phở While all food is important to the Vietnamese, one dish is paramount: phở. The word is pronounced a little as though asking 'Is that made of fur?'. This refers to the bowl of noodle soup which consists of a stock to which are added noodles (of varying types) meat (such as beef or chicken) and, as always, copious handfuls of herbs. The preparation is painstaking. The stock is made fresh each day and requires 18 hours of simmering. This page has snapshots of what goes into the delicious result, taken from a breakfast cafe in Tĩnh Gia - 'Phở Hà Nội'. Cafe and house as it started. Phở Hà Nội (locally known as the Hân Duyên Cafe after its owners) when it started life, with the one story building of the house in the background... The cafe and house. ...and the cafe more recently with the three floors of the house beyond, and the sign over the gate Tipping up the large vat. The day's cycle of stock making starts with the emptying of the vat as breakfasts are finishing Bones being thrown out The bones from the vat are emptied onto a cloth for collection soon afterwards Vat The 190 litre vat that is filled with new stock each day Used bones and dog. Dog heaven. Murphy guarding a sea of bones Bones and knife. A box of bones waiting splitting Thirty or forty kilograms of bones are required each day for the stock. These are split open and simmered overnight. At the end of serving breakfasts the next day, the stock is finished or added to the new brew, and the bones are sent for recycling. Removing meat from skulls. Nothing is wasted in Vietnam, here meat is being scrapped out of the split skulls of cattle; it is considered a delicacy, and yes those are eyes! Coal burner. These rather obnoxious, and very cheap coal burners, can run for 8 hours without attention Chopping bones. The bones are split open to let the marrow become part of the stock Sack of noodles. Each day a sack of noodles weighing between 20 and 35 kilograms arrives. That is enough for 200 to 350 customers - 100 grams for each person Baskets for pho and bun. Phở is actually a particular type of noodle, but the word is often used more broadly for a breakfast meal. Here the two baskets had phở, a flat noodle, in one, and bún a round noodle in the other Putting pho into bowls. Noodles are placed in a bowl, here by a gloved hand, the mask is not for hygiene, but because of the fumes from the coal burner. The Vietnamese are alarmingly unworried about coughs and sneezes! Herbs and brains. Herbs are always added, brains cost extra Meat added to bowls. The chosen meat is placed on the noodles The two commonest types of noodle are phở and bún, but there are many others. While beef is probably the most popular meat, chicken and pork are readily available. Side dishes of various entrails and brains are common. The ritual of serving phở often seems as important as the dish itself. Into a half litre bowl the noodles are placed, onto these a handful of mixed herbs, onto which the chosen meat is laid. A large ladleful of stock is added and the resulting steaming bowl topped off with pepper. Two bowls of chicken pho. Two bowls of chicken phở Adding pepper. ...and finally pepper Adding stock to bowls. Stock is added... Four bowls of pho. Four bowls of beef phở on their way to a waiting table Four people with pho. Condiments on the table include garlic and chilli. Chopsticks, spoons and napkins are provided, and here these are augmented with vodka, and a kind of biscuit Serving pho with a smile. And in Vietnam service is always with a smile The next page takes up the recycling theme, moving from these small parcels of bones in Tĩnh Gia, to the Makattam area of Cairo with its 30,000 population of Christians who deal with some of the city's vast mountains of waste. The entrance to the Coptic Church at Makattam in Cairo. line
Saturday 13th May 2017 Murphy on duty

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