This Hanoi-style beef pho needs no sauce

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The Vietnamese have a saying: “Rice is the dutiful wife that you can rely on [while] pho is the flirty mistress that you slip away to visit.” Maybe that’s because few other dishes provide the same relief that a steaming hot bowl of soup noodles can, particularly on a cold winter’s day. “The Pho Cookbook,” by food writer Andrea Nguyen, is a love letter to this quintessential dish and its special place in Vietnamese culture.

Pho aficionados argue that pho bac, the Hanoi-style of pho is the purest form out there. Compared to the Saigon-style bowls that are typically doctored with Sriracha, hoisin sauce and all manner of condiments, pho from North Vietnam is a spartan soup. The sole focus is the flavor of one’s broth, bolstered by dried shrimp, scallops or anchovies for extra umami. Nguyen’s recipe, which she’s been refining for years, calls for a pig trotter for viscosity and a Fuji apple for a hint of sweetness. Top with the usual cooked and raw beef, slivers of green onions and cilantro.

Andrea Nguyen’s Hanoi-style pho, or pho bac, is a labor of love. (Photo by John Lee)(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)