It all starts in a big pot. A cauldron, really.
It’s filled with water, fresh ingredients and then set to simmer on low heat overnight. And just like that, the base for pho is made
Shyla Enoul, a managing partner that opened the Oakwood location of Saigon Deli, brought pho, one of the staples served at the restaurant, to Hall County. Until now, there wasn’t anything nearby that served the Vietnamese noodle soup.
What: Vietnamese restaurant
Where: 3446 Winder Highway, Oakwood
More info: 678-714-0008
First off, pho is pronounced “fuh.” With just a hint of a long “o.” But there is a pretty long process to making it.
It starts off with a pot full of about 60 quarts of water. The heat is turned as high as it will go so it will come to a boil as all of the ingredients are added.
First are about 5 pounds of beef bones that are cut about 2-3 inches in thickness. Adding these creates a beef stock with deep, rich flavor. Then two onions, cut into halves, are added along with ginger and sugar cane. Two cups of salt goes in next with cinnamon sticks and about 6 ounces of star anise. The blend of spices and sugar adds to the deep and rich flavor in the broth and balance out nicely in the end.
That’s just the base. The rest comes after all of those ingredients simmer overnight, ensuring all of the flavors come together to create a unique, fresh and homemade broth for each customer.
“If you ask any Vietnamese person about how to cook pho, they will give you a million ways,” Enoul said. “It is served as breakfast, lunch or dinner any time of the day. But for myself, I enjoy pho, and I cook it the way that I learned from people who could give me recipes, from family members, former restaurant owners and even friends.”
Once the broth is made, rice noodles are added to a bowl. They’re covered with thin slices of beef brisket cooked in the broth. You can also order it with thin slices of raw eye of round steak.
Next comes the freshness. Sliced green onions and cilantro are served on top of the meat and a plate of other fresh ingredients like jalapenos, bean sprouts and limes come out with it. The very last thing added is the broth, which is ladled out into a smaller pot to heat to a boil. Once it’s hot, it’s poured over all of the ingredients in the bowl. If you ordered the raw meat, the broth cooks it and keeps it juicy and tender, Enoul said.
It’s a beautiful dish. While it may sound a bit adventurous, the warmth of the broth with the fresh ingredients on top and a lime squeezed in, along with some spice from the sriracha sauce set out on the table, creates a unique flavor unlike anything else.
“Good food to me is not just delicious, but beautiful and colorful,” Enoul said. “And it will give you a good feeling after you finish. Not just too full and regret it all.”