VietFood: Slow Cooked Beef Broth Pho in London's Soho
When I was in London last week, I ate at this modern Vietnamese streetfood restaurant *twice* in five days because it was just that good. I even took a Tube and walked in the rain to get there. (I had forgotten my umbrella that day. I should know better as I've lived in London, but after years of living in the Baleares, I keep forgetting how unpredictable weather is everywhere else!)
VietFood in Soho on the edge of London's Chinatown deserves a huge shout out. Everything was really fresh and delicious and served in beautiful earthenware in a simple, but charming and rustic interior of distressed wood and bamboo. They also made a lovely lychee martini—my all time favorite kind of martini! It was the food, however, that was memorable.
I'll admit that Vietnamese is probably my favorite cuisine. I love the abundance of fresh herbs that accompany almost every dish—even soups! Vietnam neighbors Thailand, and there are some similarities, but Thai food can actually be too sweet (for me)—especially the way it's often cooked in Europe and even in Thailand today. (It gets sweeter every time I go back to Thailand! I hope that doesn't happen to Vietnamese food! I don't only want to taste palm sugar.)
As a Korean-American born in Saigon and raised in California with a Korean mother who created her own Korean-Vietnamese fusion long before it was "invented," as well as a Mexican nanny who loved to make me fresh, homemade tacos, my solution to make anything tasty is to add lime and cilantro! So, Vietnamese, Thai, and Mexican have always been among my favorite cuisines. When I'm in a city where I can get really good food from any of these kitchens, I'm there checking off that list of foods that are harder to find where I live (which has been Spain and Switzerland for the last decade).
VietFood makes their own 16 hour slow cooked beef bone marrow broth for their Pho (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup), one of the reasons for my return the very next day! I was feeling under the weather and in need of an immunity boost. There are other vegetarian immune supporters such as ginger, my go-to at home since I find it a hassle to make bone broth. I was a vegetarian (and also vegan) for years so I'm not in full meat-mode, but when I'm not lazy, I'll source grass fed beef bones and take out my slow cooker!
Real bone broth has been a staple gut-health and detox promoting food for thousands of years because the nutrients that come together when cooking the soup are stellar. (Yes, I know it's marrow and ligaments and all kinds of animal parts! It's by product if that makes you feel better about eating animals . . . ?)
But, do you know that many restaurants (and homecooks!) don't use real broth? They use lab-made meat flavors in bouillon cubes and sauce mixes. They even add neurotoxins like MSG! So, unless you're vegetarian/vegan, sourcing out restaurants that use homemade stocks, or even better, make it from grass fed beef bones, is really important.
BONE BROTH, COLLAGEN, MINERALS, AND GLUCOSAMINE
Bone broth is one of the best sources of natural collagen. I grew up with my mother's Korean oxtail soup, but as a former decade long vegetarian, it still kind of makes me ill to think how these stocks are made, but I know there's magic in the amino acids that are produced when simmering. As the broth simmers, collagen and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and sulphur that are rich in glucosamine, leach into the liquid to become extremely bioavailable to rebuild collagen to keep our skin elastic and youthful and protect our joints. And who doesn't' want that? You can buy supplements, but they're very expensive and not nearly as absorbable. And, in the end, we aren't what we eat, but "what we absorb!"
Okay, that's enough nutrition nerding for now. Back to the food!
If I see Morning Glory on any menu, I go wild, so I was quick to order a double portion of Morning Glory in fermented shrimp paste, but we also shared vegan Vietnamese summer rolls, spicy soft shell crab, Bun (Vietnamese noodle salad) with charbroiled beef (for my husband who is suddenly eating red meat to up his heme iron intake as he's training for an uphill mountain marathon in September and his bloodwork showed an iron deficiency), and beef Pho (Vietnamese broth noodle soup). And we ordered almost the exact thing the next day (minus the crab because it was a lot of food). I'll have to save space for dessert next time and report back!
For non-meat eaters, there are plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and fish/seafood options too, so have a peek at their menu!
And . . .bon appétit! I'm off to France today, where Vietnamese food isn't so hard to come by (for when I've tired of French bread and pastries!) XX