Wichita’s My Tho restaurant: It’s not faux pho
by Tien Tran – Horizon News and Features Editor
Who doesn’t love noodle soup? I am a fan of noodle soup, especial “pho,” our Vietnamese national dish. In the Vietnamese repertoire, beef noodle soup is a classic. What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho? It’s almost impossible to walk a block in Vietnam’s major cities without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand.
Being away from home for such a long time, I was so excited to hear that I could have an opportunity to enjoy my favorite cuisine again. Our newspaper advisor, Kendra Burkey, recommended a few Vietnamese restaurants, and eventually we had our first Vietnamese food experience at My Tho, a little Vietnamese restaurant at 500 E. Central –right at the corner of Central and Emporia, Wichita, KS.
My Tho was one of the unassuming but awesome Vietnamese restaurants just off Broadway Street, which provides a variety of Vietnamese specialties. I was surprised when first tasted the broth of the beef soup; it was so authentic, except for the extra sweet taste. The sweetness is not original in pho. The owners of My Tho, who are from southern Vietnam, add more sugar to the soup while northern Vietnamese tend to keep the natural taste of the soup by not adding sugar.
Vietnamese cuisine is one of the great fusion styles of cooking. The humble pho soup is fantastic. If you ever get a chance to go to some upscale Vietnamese restaurants, you are in for a treat. You will be tempted by the very flavorful beef broth with hints of ginger, cinnamon, star anise, onion, and garlic. Together with soft rice noodles, flavorful and tender thinly sliced steak, cilantro, Thai basil, and thinly sliced onions, pho becomes the greatest invention ever that will satisfy the strictest gourmets. In addition, adventurous gourmets will enjoy all the extra add-ins that traditionally go into a bowl of pho: soft tendon, tripe, various flanks and Asian style beef meatballs.
Pho incorporates lots of herbs in the food. For example, beef noodle soup is only served in half bowl but later the vegetables and herb toppings will make it into a full bowl. This simple staple consists of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet. The broth is lightly seasoned, and very clear, and often clarified so there is almost no fat.
If you have a chance to go to any Vietnamese restaurant to have pho, it is extremely helpful and interesting to watch local Vietnamese putting the herbs (basil, mint) and seasonings (lemon, chilis, sauces) in a bowl of broth and noodles, along with beansprouts served on the side. Depending on your order, the beansprouts may already be inside the noodles bowl or served separately.
Next time if you need some suggestions on good Vietnamese restaurants and you are up for a dining adventure, go to My Tho. It is not fancy, but it is clean, tasty and widely available at all hours. Make sure to get bread with your pho when you go to My Tho. They get it fresh daily from a bakery and you get a lot for little charge. You will be missing out if you skip it. However, the owners do not take credit cards, so bring cash along and I am sure that you will have great time there. Are you ready for a super delicious and irresistible lunch, dinner, or midnight snack?