When you think of Vietnam, what dish do you instantly think of?
For me, it is the wonderfully fragrant phở bò, pronounced more like 'fuh', not 'foe' as I innocently thought many moons ago. It is, as many of you probably know, beef noodle soup.
My Vietnamese butcher at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia told me that his mother would slow cook the broth for up to 24 hours. I gasped when I heard this, thought it was a joke. When he shook his head and told me that it was indeed true, I realised why he didn't seem keen on wanting to sell me any. It's a labour of love for his mother and I am sure it is one fine broth.
Now armed with this knowledge, whenever I visit a place for some phở bò, I often wonder how long they have laboured over their stock. Despite my romantic ideals, I doubt as long as my Melbourne butcher's mother.
I know for certain that I would not have the patience nor the inclination to watch over a broth for that long ... unless it was the elixir of youth and longevity.
Nevertheless, since leaving Melbourne, I have not had any phở bò and quite frankly, I missed it. So when I read about this place over at Camemberu, well, I had no choice but to take my good self down there today.
It's on a street called Amoy and you can't miss the two big forest green awnings with the words 'Phở 99 ... Vietnamese Delight' in bright red and yellow respectively.
I arrived just after the usual mid-week lunch rush, 2:30pm and I was delighted to find that I had the choice of most tables. I chose a table by the window looking back into the restaurant with a good view into the kitchen.
You can see two girls washing dishes who casually glanced over when I took this photo; one of them was singing a Vietnamese song and she had the most beautiful soft sounding, almost hypnotising voice. The other two girls sitting down were preparing spring rolls against a huge backdrop image of beautiful Ha Long Bay.
As I surveyed the lunch menu, the lady told me about the lunch special. For $11.90 (no tax or service charge on top), I could have a choice of one of the six mains on offer with 2 pieces of deep-fried spring rolls and a drink. Well, I was hungry and so I went for the obligatory phở bò with a homemade lemon barley.
You get two table condiments here - chilli in oil and hoisin sauce. You also get a plate of herbs: Vietnamese basil and sawtooth coriander; a wedge of lime and fresh slices of mostly de-seeded, red chilli. My homemade barley in the background; refreshing, not too sweet and just what I needed to cool down.
I didn't have long to wait and when my food arrived, it was heaven. My first phở bò in I don't know how long ... about six months I think?!
The soup was just lovely, the noodles were soft, the beef was tender and no gristle was present. The hoisin sauce was just a tad sweet, not too much, just right. Unfortunately, I went a little overboard with the chilli in oil, so next time I think I'll be a bit more conservative. My only gripe - why no beansprouts? I love beansprouts in my phở bò and sliced onion just doesn't cut it as well. Still, I had no trouble polishing it off.
57 Amoy Street, Telok Ayer Conservation Area, Singapore
Tel: +65 9678 8735