Vietnamese Pho offers home comforts in Sri Lanka

Monday, 2018-02-19 10:40:14
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The 'Vietnamese Pho' restaurant owner Phung Huyen Nga (R) and the chef Nguyen Quoc Vuong
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NDO – It seems that for the first time Vietnamese people visiting Sri Lanka, known for its pungent spice dishes, can find Vietnam’s traditional foods, including ‘Pho’ (Vietnamese noodle soup), become available.

Referring to the only Vietnamese Pho restaurant in Sri Lanka, almost everyone on Havelock Town Street knows it. Even, local people say that the “Pho, very good!”

Located on a busy street in the central area of Colombo, the largest city of Sri Lanka, the sole Vietnamese restaurant is simply named as “Vietnamese Pho”. According to the young restaurant owner Phung Huyen Nga, because she is selling Vietnamese foods, she chose the name in the hope that all people will know and remember the traditional food of Vietnam. The owner’s scrupulousness was also showed through her restaurant’s design, with Dong Ho folk paintings and Vietnam's traditional water puppetry.

The local market

The restaurant’s ‘pho’ brings the flavor of Vietnam, with fresh bouillon, fresh noodles, green onion, and fresh hand sliced beef. According to the restaurant’s chef Nguyen Quoc Vuong, in order to have a good pot of stock bouillon, he has ordered the bones and beef meat from the wholesalers in the large market. Meanwhile, onions, herbs, ginger, lemon, and chili have been bought at local markets. Fresh rice noodles are hand-made by the chef. In addition, spices and nuoc mam (fish sauce) have been brought in from Vietnam. The chef Vuong wanted higher wages, so in 2014, he travelled to Sri Lanka to work as a chef. Each year, when he returns to Thai Binh province, Vietnam to visit his family, he brings some Vietnamese spices and nuoc mam when going back to his restaurant.

Opened in 2014, the ‘Vietnamese Pho’ restaurant has only about 30 seats, and they are often full. Pho is the most requested dish, although the restaurant has many other Vietnamese dishes, such as nem (spring rolls), banana flower salad, and Hanoi cha ca (grilled fish). A large bowl of Pho is priced at 600 Sri Lankan rupees (about VND80,000), which is a reasonable price compared to the cost of eating at the neighbouring Japanese and Thai restaurants.

It can be said that for the Vietnamese living far from home, Pho is a precious memory of the homeland and an excuse to meet. Tran Loan, who came to Sri Lanka more than five years ago, is a regular customer of the restaurant. Her Australian husband and children love the Vietnamese food. Coming to the ‘Vietnamese Pho’ restaurant every weekend has become a family habit.

At the end of the year, Vietnamese people living far from home often meet through enjoying the most familiar dishes, such as pho or Chung cake, which is a traditional and indispensable dish of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.

THANH HIEN