Simply Pho: A Complete Course in Preparing Authentic Vietnamese Meals at Home, written by Helen Le, is a noodle lover’s dream with dozens of varieties of Phở, vermicelli, noodle soups, accompaniments, and other inspiring recipes. Highlights include Phở Vịt Quay (Pho Noodle Soup with Roasted Duck), Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork Sandwich), Phở Khô Gia Lai (Gia Lai-Style Double-Bowl Pho), Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crepes), Phở Xiu (Pho Salad with Char Siu), and so much more. I will also be sharing her recipe for Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Race Point Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Helen Le was born and grew up in the coastal city of Da Nang, Vietnam. In 2011, she started Helen’s Recipes, a YouTube cooking channel featuring authentic Vietnamese recipes for home cooks. She is also the host of two television cooking shows in Asia.
The chapters are divided according to the following: How to Make a Perfect Bowl of Pho, Appetizers, Pho Noodle Soups, Pho Noodle Dishes, Vermicelli Noodle Soups, Vermicelli Noodle Dishes, Even More Noodle Soups and Dishes, Sandwiches, Condiments Pickles and Snacks, and Coffee Drinks and Sweets.
Want to learn how to make your own Phở at home? Helen will take you through all the basics from the best ingredients to “how to make a clear, fragrant, and flavorful broth,” toast spices, make fresh pho noodles (bành phở) from scratch, and put everything together to create a delicious bowl of Phở. There are even photo guides for the different types of rice noodles, spices, and beef bones. In addition to all the Phở, you will also find plenty of other noodle dishes and accompaniments from throughout Vietnam.
The photography is provided by Evi Abeler with styling by Julia Choi. Many of the recipes are paired with a beautifully-styled photo of the finished dish. There are also a handful of scenes from Vietnam by Ha Tien Anh and step-by-step photos on how to make fresh pho noodles (bành phở) and baguettes (bành mi). The names of the recipes are written in English with the Vietnamese name often provided in the paragraph below. The headnotes include background information, skill level, prep and cook time, serving size, and helpful tips. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Vietnamese cuisine, Phở, or just love noodles. I knew I came across something special when I saw that there was a chapter labeled “Even More Noodle Soups and Dishes.” Along with southern Vietnamese favorites that are more well known in the United States, Helen has also included regional dishes from all over Vietnam. Having a market with Vietnamese ingredients will be helpful to put together many of the recipes. Some difficult to locate ingredients include eel, turmeric, fish sauce, bird’s eye chili peppers, pork belly, banana blossom, perilla, specific noodles, seitan, fermented bean curd, garlic chives, quail eggs, lemongrass, rock sugar, taro, and more.
Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet)
Helen created this recipe for Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet) with the inspiration of another Vietnamese favorite, Bột Chiên- fried rice flour cakes with eggs. It is the perfect way to use up leftover Phở noodles. Fresh or cooked rice noodles are fried in a pan until crisp, then covered with seasoned beaten eggs. Chopped scallions are added for even more flavor and the resulting crisp Phở Chiên Trứng is topped with a sweet chili sauce and pickled carrots and daikon before serving.
The trick in making these omelets is to use just enough vegetable oil to cover the pan. If you add too much then the noodles with become soggy and too little will result in noodles not becoming crisp.
Helen recently posted a video on her cooking channel on how to make Phở Chiên Trứng.
I also made Phở Cuốn (Fresh Pho Rolls), Bành Mì (Vietnamese Baguette), Nước Mắm Pha Nhật (Fish Sauce Dressing), and Cà Phê Thạch Đá Xay (Frappuccino with Coffee Jelly).
It took a little bit of practice to get the Phở Cuốn (Fresh Pho Rolls) just right. Making the fresh rice noodle wrappers can be tricky, but it was oh so worth it. The rice four and tapioca starch-based batter is steamed in thin layers on a plate and used to roll together stir-fried beef and fresh greens. Helen states that there is a specific steamer used in Vietnam to make the wrappers, but includes the plate inside a steamer method since the equipment can be difficult to find outside of the country. The rolls are served immediately with a Nước Mắm Pha Nhật (Fish Sauce Dressing).
There are recipes in the book for a Grilled Pork Sandwich (Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng), Traditional Vietnamese Sandwich (Bánh Mì Thịt), and Meatball Sandwich (Bánh Mì Xíu Mại). To take these sandwiches to the next level, Helen includes a recipe on how to make your own Vietnamese Baguette at home as the foundation. This yeast-based bread takes some time to make, but can be a fun project for bakers. The trick to getting the crisp exterior that gives way to the soft and chewy center is baking the baguettes in the oven with a tray of hot water and spraying additional water during baking.
Helen includes many accompaniment recipes and this Nước Mắm Pha Nhật (Fish Sauce Dressing) was perfect for pairing with the Phở Cuốn (Fresh Pho Rolls). It comes together easily with a quick whisking together of sugar, fish sauce, water, lime juice garlic, and chili pepper.
I actually came across Cà Phê Thạch Đá Xay (Frappuccino with Coffee Jelly) for the first time recently and was so delighted to see this recipe. This frappuccino includes coffee in two ways. First, Vietnamese coffee is brewed and set with gelatin to form cubes of coffee jelly. The prepared coffee jelly is added to a Vietnamese coffee Frappuccino sweetened with a bit of sweetened condensed milk in addition to the milk, vanilla, and whipped cream. It was such a fun drink.
Looking for more Vietnamese recipes? Try Cà Phê Trứng (Vietnamese Egg Coffee) and Bún Thịt Nướng (Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles).
Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet) Recipe
Excerpt from Simply Pho
Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 5 1/2 ounces (150 grams) fresh or cooked pho noodles separated
- 1 scallion chopped
- Sweet chili sauce or sriracha to taste, for serving
- Picked Carrots and Daikon to taste, for serving
Pickled Carrots and Daikon:
- 1 cup (110 g) shredded carrot
- 1 cup (110 g) shredded daikon
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
- Crack the egg in a small bowl and add the fish sauce and black pepper. Beat well.
- Fill a 9 inch (22 cm) pan with just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom and heat to 375˚F (180˚C). Keep the heat at medium and spread the pho noodles over the pan. Fry until slightly golden brown throughout.
- Pour in the beaten egg and cook until it solidifies. Add the scallion to the pan halfway through cooking.
- Serve with a squirt of hot sauce and the Pickled Carrots and Daikon.
To make the Pickled Carrots and Daikon:
- In a medium bowl, toss the carrot and daikon with the salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. The salt will Dra the moisture out of the vegetables, making them crunchier.
- Rinse the carrot and daikon twice and squeeze out the excess water with your hands.
- Add the sugar and vinegar to the bowl, and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour. The pickles can be stored in an airtight container for a few weeks in the refrigerator.