No one knows exactly the origin of sour “phở”, but with most ethnic groups that live in mountain region of Vietnam as Mông, Dao, Tày, Nùng, Thu Lao, Hà Nhì, sour “phở” is always their typical and indispensable dish.
To make sour “phở”, people here use six main ingredients: rice noodle (phở), sour bouillon, pickle, peanut, soybean jam and hot sauce.
The rice noodle that they use is not the normal kind that is sold in the market. This rice noodle is made from the local rice, and then it is ground and spread all by hand.
Sour bouillon is taken from the sour water that is used for soaking the pickles. The vegetable used to make pickles must be the green mustard that grows up right in the mountain region. It is cut it into small pieces of about 2 centimeters and then soaked into salty water for a few days to become pickle.
Along with ground fried peanuts, the soybean jam is also an important ingredient of the dish. Soybean jam is made from soybeans. It is very meticulous and complicated to have a good jar of soybean jam. The whole process from the first step of choosing the soybean, adding spices to the last step takes a few months.
When we mix soybean jam with sour “phở”, the dish would have a brown color and a delicious fragrance. The last thing that we have to add to the bowl of sour “phở” is hot sauce.
The dish is so tasty and unique with the crunchy and soft of the rice noodle, the greasy and fragrance of soybean jam and peanut, the moreish sour taste of the pickle and the hot of chili.
In Lao Cai, if you want to enjoy a good bowl of sour “phở”, you should come to Muong Khuong town or Bac Ha plateau. Stopping by an inn on the road side and enjoying the dish with some Mông or Tày people, you would completely feel the real atmosphere of the mountain region.
Although it is not too sophisticated and delicacy, the sour “phở” has always been a typical dish in every high days and holidays in the mountain region. It is true to say that sour “phở” could completely be a brand name for the cuisine of the mountain region.