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Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

By Quynh Tran   March 5, 2022 | 12:00 am PT
A Saigon chef sets fire to the iconic pho (rice noodle soup) to give it added flavor. Preorder it, for only 10 bowls are sold a day.
Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

An obvious highlight of the restaurant run by chef Tran Van Thuong in HCMC’s Binh Thanh District is the literally fiery pho bo (beef noodle soup).

A dish that took around two years of crafting has each bowl of pho subjected to a trial by fire before being served to diners.

After working for over 20 years as a chef, Thuong opened his own restaurant on Le Quang Dinh Street a few years ago. While his menu has more than 30 dishes, the fiery pho bo is his signature offering.

"It took me many months to find a new way to renew my cooking. I have had my hands burned many times," said the 40-year-old chef.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

For this special bowl of noodle soup, the broth made with beef bones and his own recipe is cooked for over four hours. When customers order the dish, the chef starts weighing the beef for each serving on a scale.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

The rare beef and brisket are lightly sautéed with cooking oil and sauce for about 40 seconds over high heat. Each bowl contains more than 200 grams of beef imported from Australia.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

The boiled pho (rice noodles) is placed in a bowl and the rare beef and brisket placed on top.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

After putting all the ingredients into the bowl of pho, the chef stands nearly two meters away and sprays cooking oil into the pan to set it on fire.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

The flame in the pan sweeps over the bowl of pho in an instant, just enough to lightly burn the herbs, giving the dish its unique flavor.

Thuong said it took him about two years to control the fire the way he wanted.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

Because he only sells around 10 bowls a day of this special creation, the chef keeps the broth in a kettle and heats it up on order. Since this dish must be had on the spot, it cannot be ordered as a takeaway.

To ensure its original taste, the dish is not served with lemon, chili sauce and bean sprouts the way it is normally done at other restaurants.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

A bowl of the fired pho costs VND120,000 ($5.24) and diners need to pre-order it.

Saigon chef subjects noodle soup to a fiery end

Having come from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on business trip, Nguyen Thanh Binh preordered the special pho bo for dinner. "I've been here twice. The bowl of pho has a very unique aroma and impressive processing. The price is high, but worth it, given the quality of the dish," he said.

The restaurant, Black Chef, is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at 449 Le Quang Dinh Street.

 
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