Vietnam fare in Jayanagar

Down foodpath

Diep Vu

It’s been two decades since I came to India from Vietnam. I came here to study but fell in love with the place and people and decided to stay back and make Bengaluru my home. Over the years, I met my husband and adjusted myself to the food, culture, lifestyle of this place. 

Initially, I had a culture shock in every aspect — from restrictions to food. The way I grew up and the things that I grew up learning was very different in how things worked in India. I had to unlearn a lot of things during my stay here.

The one thing that took me a while to get use to was the food. For me, Indian cuisine is about curries and spices — something I am not familiar with at all.
Yes, we do make similar dishes or use methods that are alike but the way spices are used is not similar in any manner. In fact, the overall flavour is completely different.

Since I came here as a student, I lived in a hostel. I missed home very much, especially the food. I craved for Vietnamese food.

Unfortunately, in early 2000s, the ingredients that I wanted weren’t easily available in the market. I had to find alternatives.

In Vietnamese dishes, we mostly use beef and pork. We also use a lot of stock from these meats — it helps with the flavouring.

When we couldn’t get what we were looking for, we learnt to use chicken stock instead.

Looking for vegetarian versions of it wasn’t really an option as it’s not common in our culture at all. We really like our meats.

But years went by and Bengaluru slowly became the IT city that it is. This was a good thing for us as it meant that there would be more imported ingredients available. We soon started seeing items from Korea, Thailand and Japan. Those were easily alternatives we were happy to get our hands on.

Eventually, Bengaluru residents too were open to trying new cuisines, Vietnamese included.

Two decades later, I can happily say that there are many takers in the city for Vietnamese cuisine.

I’d be lying if I said that I was surprised that they adapted to it so quickly.

As a restaurateur, I thought that I might have to alter the taste and make it in a way that would suit the Indian palate. Thankfully, I didn’t have to work on it much. Diners were quite open to enjoying the real thing.

Having said that, finding ingredients is still a challenge. We can’t often get our hands on certain company products or herbs that would give its authentic taste.

That’s the only time we use what is available in the markets here.

Just like us, Vietnamese cuisine has also changed over the years. In the last couple of years, people in Vietnam are following a healthier lifestyle and cutting down on their meat consumption.

This lead to the introduction of vegetarian dishes.

It may not sound much but at least three to four vegetarian meals a month are prepared at home.

I’ve changed over the years too. I’ve learnt how to make a few South Indian breakfast items like idli, dosa and chutney, to name a few. And my Gujarati mother-in-law taught me how to make some of the dishes. Though mine aren’t too traditional, I think I have learnt a lot more than I thought I would.

But for now, keeping home close my heart, here’s a recipe of ‘Vegetarian Pho’, a simple but wholesome dish.

The ingredients are easily available and anyone can make it. Don’t forget to have it with some hoisin and sriracha sauce. 

For Broth

Vegetarian Pho
Vegetarian Pho

  • Vegetable broth, 6 cups 
  • Sliced onions, 3 large
  • Fresh ginger, 100 gm 
  • Sliced carrots 
  • (coin-shaped), 120 gms 
  • Brown sugar, 1 tbsp
  • Ground black 
  • pepper, 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • (toasted mildly), 2 
  • Black cardamom, 4 pods
  • Star anise (toasted mildly), 5 to 6 
  • Cilantro stems and leaves, 5 to 6 
  • Lemons 
  • (sliced in half), 1 1/2 

For Pho

  • Rice noodles, 220 gm 
  • Soft tofu, 100 gm 
  • Bean sprouts, 2 cups 
  • Green onions, 4 
  • Chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup
  • Fresh basil leaves, 1 cup 
  • Sliced bird eye chilli pods, 2 
  • Lime wedges, 1 

Method

  • To make broth: Place all ingredients in a large pot with six cups vegetable stock. Cover, and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, one hour. Strain broth, and return to pot. Discard solids.
  • To make Pho: Cook rice noodles, drain, and rinse under cold water. Divide among four large soup bowls.
  • Ladle the broth over noodles, and top with tofu, sprouts, carrots, bok choy, and green onions.
  • Serve cilantro, basil, Sliced Bird eye chilli and lime wedges on the side to be added as per liking.
  • Pro tip: Serve Sriracha and Hoisin Sauce by the side as well.
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