10.1 C
Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Phở (‘fahr’) the love of food

Latest News

Mullum’s lilac house the subject Change.org petition

The plight of a Mullum resident has touched the hearts and injustice buttons of people far and wide who feel that a requirement that she repaint her house a heritage colour and possibly pay a fine, not only ridiculous but also petty.

Other News

The importance of talking about ovaries

Brother and sister clothing designers Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman are, were 11 and 13 respectively when their mother died of ovarian cancer.

A win for the roughy

The battle for the 'roughy had been a tough road for conservationists and hopefully this win will be the last fight.

Policy not ‘housekeeping’

Heather Martin, Mullumbimby According to a report in The Echo (24 March), the planning staff’s proposed amendments to LEP 2014...

Brunswick Heads surf lifesaver wins gold 

Brunswick Heads surf lifesaver Paul ‘Punchy’ Davis won gold in the 600m paddle board race

Poor Pauline

Bob Vinnicombe, Sefton A lot of hypocrisy from Labor and The Greens about respect for women. Look at the treatment...

Can you help this local family find a home?

A local couple whose much-loved baby boy was taken away by government officers and then returned is asking the community for help in finding space on a property to park their mobile home.

Lemongrass-PhoStory & photos Matthew Michaelis

Circle of life

Vietnamese people move in very small circles. It’s a cliquey community where ex-pats are concerned no matter where they’ve settled.

My first experience of this tight community was many years ago. I hadn’t gone adventuring overseas to an exotic Vietnamese province, or travelled to a bustling city in Vietnam.

No, it was a day trip to Cabramatta in the west of Sydney with a friend who had a fondness for the Vietnamese culture and food.

We arrived, and I swear I thought I’d been drugged and transported to a town in Vietnam. I was absolutely gob-smacked by the things I saw that day. Hundreds of people, mostly Vietnamese, were coming towards us, the streets were flooded with people, you could hardly move. Not an English word or sign to be seen or found.

We seemed to be the only westerners on that day with the exception of a healthy number of ‘junkies’, at regular intervals, slumped, flaccid and crumpled right there on the street in front of us.

This was a long while ago; they’ve cleaned up the drug scene there now (to the public’s view at least), but the Vietnamese culture is as vibrant as ever and the foods are street-style and as cheap as any you’ll find.

We visited a Phở shop just off the street. This heavily stocked soup is one of the favourite dishes of Vietnam and has now become an international favourite and one of mine too.

Pho-red-bambooOn your bike!

Phở (pronounced ‘fahr’), the hearty family-sized soup and noodle, is made on the stock of beef bones and filled with love, comfort and a lot of care (see recipe below).

Recently, I went pounding the footpath in Byron Bay to gain some further knowledge of this traditional Vietnamese dish. The local Vietnamese community in Byron itself only consists of around four families.

I know this because I enlisted the help of a Vietnamese local – enter Dao Vo.

Dao was five years old when she moved to Australia from Tây Ninh, a provincial city in southwestern Vietnam. It was at the early age of seven that Dao’s mother Lan decided it was time for her to learn the art of making Phở soup. ‘We don’t get recipes given us, we’re shown how at an early age.

‘I was around seven when my mum – an expert Vietnamese chef in her own right – got me to ride my bike into Footscray (where we lived at the time) to buy ingredients. I was completely on my own with a list of the ingredients I’d need for a traditional Phở.

My mum was relentless in her mission to show me every detail of the process until I had it down pat,’ Dao told me.

‘I grew up with Phở; it was traditional in our family to have a Sunday gathering with the soup, just like an Aussie roast. The only difference was that family members would come at any and all times through the day to enjoy the Phở. Oh… and it’s great for a hangover too,’ Dao added.

Dao has now developed a Vietnamese street-food concept herself called Pink Lotus and along with business partner, Meg Danielson, they have done their first trade at the Uplift Festival recently and are champing at the bit to start their foodie stall at markets and festivals soon.

Dao-portrait-1‘Good things come Phở those who wait’

Getting back to our local adventure, Dao along with her business partner Meg Danielson and I went into Byron on Saturday looking to try a local Vietnamese restaurant Phở.

As three of the four Vietnamese families sell traditional culinary wares, we thought it would be an easy task and, although fun, it wasn’t in the least bit easy. One family owns Lemongrass, in the Lawson Arcade and Noodle Box, on Jonson Street.

Another owns Red Bamboo, in Feros Arcade, and finally another family owns Muoi’s Feast in Fletcher Street. It may seem rude that I haven’t found the names of the families; however, if you’re not Vietnamese, getting any information from these private people can be challenging, as I found out.

Firstly, we tried Red Bamboo, with the intention of a quick Phở. It was 11.30am on Saturday. They had told me though that they’d be open at this time. Nope – doors firmly closed. Off we went for coffee to wait for the opening. Come 12.30pm, still not open. Unperturbed, we crossed the main street over to Lemongrass – it was shut tight (they don’t open for lunch on Saturday). At this point we were all starving and hankering after a Phở.

We sidled over to Muoi’s Feast – it too was closed but Dao heard the sound of Vietnamese voices and followed the voices down to a long table filled with Vietnamese folk eating away. I recognised Mr Hung from the Lemongrass (Muoi’s Feast’s opposition restaurant); he was sitting happily at the end of the table with his wife.

Well, I did say they were a cliquey people, right? And where did the proprietors of Red Bamboo get to on Saturday lunch? The other Vietnamese at the table offered us their excuse: ‘They went off to vote at the Brisbane elections,’ they told Dao in their native tongue.

Of course, we just couldn’t let it go and we all ended up back on Sunday evening at Red Bamboo for an excellent example of Phở (according to our resident expert, Dao). The moral of this story could be the old saying – ‘Good things come Phở those who wait.’


Dao’s Beef Phở

(Serves 10)


Fresh rice noodles (South Tweed Asian Supplies)

Beef: Brisket / topside 1kg

Beef bones (shin bones cut into smaller wedges)

1 tsp fennel seeds

3 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

7 cardamom pods

1 tsp coriander seeds

Ginger root (size of your palm)

2 large brown onions

1 pkt bean shoots

1 bunch spring onions (small)

2 hot chili (birds-eye)

1 large bunch of basil (Thai)

1 bunch of coriander

5 limes

¾ of a small bottle of fish sauce

3–4 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar or raw sugar)

Hoi sin sauce (for dipping)

Hot chili sauce (for dipping)


Wash the beef bones thoroughly under cool running water.

Take ginger and char on both sides over gas or under griller.

Place bones and whole peeled onion into a large pot (around 10 litres) and fill with water (don’t overfill). Bring to the boil, then simmer for around 1–3 hours (skimming off any impurities every half-hour or so).

Take a small cheesecloth (size of a bread plate) and place all spices then tie off with string and drop it into simmering soup. Add fish sauce, salt, sugar. Adjust flavour to taste.

To serve lay table with herbs and bean shoots, sauces and chilli.

Cooking Noodles

Fill large pot with water, bring to the boil, add rice noodles and let cook for two minutes, then drain and serve each bowl with portion of the cooked rice noodle.

Preparing meat

Take uncooked meat, thinly slice, then add relevant ­portion to each bowl.

To finish take each bowl and with the broth boiling pour over Phở soup and guests can then garnish with generous handfuls and top with fresh lime.



Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Overcharging and misrepresentation

Josh Scrivener, Palmwoods Three weeks ago I looked online to buy a Bluesfest 2021 ticket. The Google ad directed me to a website I believed...

What’s the real cost of ‘affordable housing’? 

With ‘affordable housing’ being the new catchcry in parts of the Northern Rivers, The Echo did a ring-around to find the cheapest rental living space in Byron Bay’s caravan parks and camping grounds.

My own pandemic imaginations

Robert Podhajsky, Ocean Shores Imagination is a powerful mechanism; I must admit I get unsettled with my own pandemic imaginations when I try to understand...

Inspector condemns prisoner health services

In the forward to the Inspector of Custodial Services Report published last month, Fiona Rafter Inspector of Custodial Services says that the provision of health services to inmates in New South Wales custodial facilities is a complex and challenging responsibility.