Food We Miss – Pho Ba

It’s cold out. I work from home and spend most of my days sitting at our new kitchen table, in our empty apartment (remember how we do not have our stuff from London yet?), typing. The shock of coming back combined with the cold of the New York City winter – and it’s a cold one this year, believe me – makes me really miss what had become a daily occurrence when we were in Vietnam and Laos: Pho Ba.

Pho Ba is a fancy way to say Vietnamese beef noodle soup. While it’s readily available all over the world, we believe that this 13 year-old girl in Hanoi made the best version on earth.

It may have been the ridiculous heat , her smile when I got up and ran to the ice-bucket to show her that we did not need ice cubes in our beer, or simply the contrast between this seemingly dirty hangar/restaurant and the intricate, bold yet smooth flavour of the soup, but I swear this girl makes the best soup in the world.

We recently hung out with Jodi of Legal Nomads and agreed that pho could easily fall in the mysterious category of food that is usually better when someone else cooks it for you. We also included dumplings, empanadas, roti canai and the bacon cheeseburger we were devouring in that category. The next morning, I was up at 7, desperately trying to find the best recipe for all of the above listed items.

Does Pho really belong in that category? Well, I am not sure yet, but finding out definitely is on our list for 2010.

Want to help us figure it out? Try this detailed recipe from Jade’s Steamy Kitchen and then move on to this tempting list of the most authentic Pho recipes on the web, on aptly named

Oh and let us know what you think!

Cat Ba Town or how to get off the beaten path on a vietnamese motorcycle

Spending the night in Cat Ba Town, the main town on the islands of Halong Bay. Cat Ba is also a vietnamese national park covering a large part of the islands of Halong Bay and we spent the day frolicking in the waters of the bay and hiking those crazy peaks.
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After one night at sea, we are spending tonight in Cat Ba. This is a Saturday night at the peak of the Vietnamese high season. The town is packed with families and groups of twentysomething on holidays but although we stand out quite a bit, the tourism industry is clearly focused on the vietnamese tourists and hardly anyone approached us to offer us anything.

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As we did in Sapa, we asked our guide not for a recommendation but for where he eats when he goes out in town. He pointed at a barge in the harbour, Xuan Hong, which we drove past on the way to the hotel. Again, it was way out of the tourist area and our hotel’s staff seemed a bit uncomfortable with the fact that we wanted to go there. After asking twice, a younger staff member was nice enough to write down for us “Please take us to Ben Beo for 10,000 dongs per person. Thank you.” and showed us where to find some men who would drive us.

This is how we ended up on separate motorbikes, racing through the hills of Halong Bay to eat dinner on a floating restaurant, surrounded by dozens of vodka pounding, screaming  Vietnameses. The grilled whole fish with lemon and the garlic greens where amazing and so was the motorcycle ride back especially since that time around, we had helmets on.

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Xuan Hong, Ben Beo (Harbour), Cat Ba, Halong Bay, Vietnam.