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Pho Thit Cho 2010-12-19

by foodbitch 19. December 2010 20:34

delicious dog meat brunchOur friction with Vietnam wasn’t born of commies or Koreas but the fact that we consider our best friends they consider lunch. And for the first time, into this taboo breach, comes a place where the palefaces can sample the tastiest of doggies right here on Argyle street. So good, the eponymous bag won’t be needed.

One of the funniest phobias in western travel is going out for some pho and getting dog in place of cow. All silliness aside, canine meat is a rare delicacy in Vietnamese cuisine and carries a steep premium in price. The chances of ordering beef (bo) pho and “accidentally” getting fluffy is about as likely as ordering a Whopper and accidentally getting prime rib. Thit Cho (dog) is clearly marked and mightily expensive. So go occupy your neuroses with equally unlikely things like getting in shape next year. However, if you do wish to push the envelope of taste into this forbidden delicacy, you no longer need to go to north Vietnam.

Other than its name, Pho Thit Cho reveals no clues about the tasty tenderness within the traditional-looking storefront. And as a paleface, you would be hard-pressed to see any mention of your furry friends on the menu. Unless, of course, you ask. In Vietnamese. And then, like choosing the red pill, you are plunged headfirst into a rabbit-hole of pure delight. Today’s special was the Afghan Sheepdog which, due to its mix of Afghan Hound and Belgian Sheepdog, does not carry the same price premium as the purebreds. Even so, if the American Bull Mastiff is Cristal, the Afghan Sheepdog is Veuve which was fine for my novice self. Prices are strangely not displayed for specials so don’t be afraid to ask unless you want to be surprised with a 4-figure bill. Tough economic times have caught many former dog-lovers without sufficient funds to care for larger pets so Pho Thit Cho happily pays the market price for poorly-tended animals, fattens them up and processes them with all respect and ritual due them. The kitchen table offers full view of the preparation but the actual kill is performed elsewhere. I guess America is still too squeamish for that little link in the food chain especially since dogs put up quite a fight – nothing like the bovine passivity we see in all the PETA videos.

Pho Thit Cho means literally: dog soup. When ordering the entire animal (suggested for groups of 4 or more) one can choose to have the paws and jawbone cooked in the broth or wok-seared and served alongside. We opted for the latter and nibbled tasty foot-pad meat with generous pours of rice wine. It’s definitely not for the faint of palate but after 6 shots of 50 proof rice wine, you’ll cherish every morsel you can pick from in between the toes. The jaw meat was not as tender as say, hamachi jaw and if you like your pork ribs falling from the meat you definitely won’t like it. I, however, like to gnaw and work for mine and therefore found myself at home.

If sufficient notice is given, the kitchen can create some lovely dog-blood sausage. This is done by stuffing the blood-brain mixture (something so carefully avoided in a vertebrate’s life) back into the dog’s intestinal lining to create a flavor unlike any other you will ever taste. Pork blood sausage is nothing in comparison. Indeed, when tied off with simmered tendons, the snap of the intestinal casing can release a flavor so intense that whatever praise the dog had lacked in life can easily be given in its final moments in the state of matter. A unique take on “hot dog” to be sure.

In conclusion, dog meat is indeed very good. In either pho-style soup, in sausage or wok-seared. It compares to very rare venison and the torched skin reminded me of lean bacon. Don’t let squeamishness stop you from sampling this delicacy. Remember that all earthly creatures are here for our entertainment or consumption. In Vietnam they live in dog farms. Here, rather than be turned loose to starve on the street, they create human jobs and fill human bellies. And I promise you that after enough rice wine, you won’t give two flocks about it. Instead, the next time your friends ask what you did on Friday night, you’ll tell them you took Fluffy for a Wok.

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Pho Viet 2009-11-28

by foodbitch 1. December 2009 14:25

Our biggest problem with North Vietnam probably wasn’t communism as much as what we consider our best friends they consider lunch. So before you take my advice, know that if Pho Viet served Chihuahua noodle soup, I’d definitely have a bowl.

Luckily, Argyle Street doesn’t serve the “mutton of the earth” as the Mandarins have called it since 500BCE. At least to white people. This spares the beast-lovers from having to travel north of Lincoln Park to protest on broken sidewalks and me from boasting loudly and grossing people out more than I already do. The pho they do serve merely exploits America’s favorite ruminant. And exploit it they do.

If Le Colonial is your only point of reference, the contents of pho around Argyle Street may surprise and/or disgust you. Personally, I have enjoyed too many hot dogs over my lifetime to care much about what I’m eating so long as it tastes good. And the reticulum chamber of the stomach with some hot sauce bites back at me like the snappiest of sausage casings. Submucosa is predictable that way. The tendons are usually so tender from extended cooking that the only muscle fibers they can hold together are made of noodles. I will warn you that they still have enough resistance to stretch down your throat if you eat a gob of them so either practice your gag suppression or pull them apart with chopsticks first. The brisket, flank and “rare” steak (that is never anything but well-done) are all good enough for a soup dish but definitely better in the company of Hoisin and hot sauce. You’re not at Gibson’s. Garnish accordingly. My favorite way to eat pho is to take some broth, chopstick some noodles into it, then take some meat, dip it into a swirl of Hoisin and hot sauce and slurp it all down loudly enough to embarrass your date. If you spoon some mint leaf bonus! If, however, you spoon a raw pepper, good luck with that. But please, even if you like it hot, do not pour hot sauce into your broth before you try it. It’s too delicious on its own.

Pho Viet is well on par with Tank, Pho 777, Pho 888, Pho 666, Pho 911 and whatever else those people own pretending they’re different restaurants. In the back of Viet is a dance floor and karaoke machine begging the question: if sounds of slurping noodles add depth to sing-along incompetence. Yet no amount of noise could deafen me to the quality of the food. Maybe if they had a velvet rope…


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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me:

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