Summer Le (above left) is a food blogger and owner of Nén restaurant in Danang. She also runs food tours around the city. Chef Keisuke Takeda (above right) is the founder of Ramen Keisuke in Singapore, and winner of the Ramen Champion title at the Tokyo Ramen Championships 2011
What are its origins?
There are numerous stories about how ramen originated but the only thing most people would agree on is that it came from China. However, in Japan, it has evolved based on different regions’ tastes – in Hiroshima, they’re famous for a shoyu soup base, flavoured with fish stock, while in Kyushu, they’re known for tonkotsu ramen, which uses a pork broth. – Takeda
According to culinary experts, pho first appeared around the late 19th century in northern Vietnam, close to Hanoi. After World War II, when pho wended its way south, it evolved to include a profusion of fresh herbs and bean sprouts, as well as fish sauce and the thick, aromatic Chinese hoisin sauce to flavour the broth. – Le
What are the ingredients that make it so great?
What’s special about tonkotsu ramen is the broth, which is rich, creamy and full of flavour. The stock is simmered for at least eight hours to bring out the essence of the ingredients, especially the pork and chicken bones and collagen, which are boiled over a high heat to ensure a rich umami flavour. Each bowl is topped with tender chashu (stewed pork) and ajitsuke tamago (seasoned egg). Different noodles are used to complement the types of broth. For tonkotsu ramen, thin noodles are used as they offer an easier bite and are less heavy. – Takeda
The beauty of pho comes from how calm and unassuming it is. There is no fancy decoration, or captivating toppings. A good pho usually comes with spring onions atop an opaque broth with cuts of boiled beef. It may look ordinary but every sip brings a light yet fragrantly addictive taste of umami. Apart from using spices like star anise and cinnamon, beef bones are a must. A secret ingredient is a marine worm called sa sung (Sipuncula or peanut worms). It is said that the best pho must use these worms, but they’re now an expensive, hard-to-find delicacy. – Le
Where is the best place to try this dish and why?
Slurp your way through Kyushu island, which has the best tonkotsu ramen, with cities such as Fukuoka, Okawa and Kumamoto each providing distinctive and delicious tonkotsu ramen experiences. – Takeda
The family-run Pho Viet Beo (8 Ly Tu Trong, Danang) serves delicious bowls of pho, while Pho Hoang (23 Pasteur, Danang) is a trendy new restaurant where the pho comes with thin breadsticks for dipping. – Le
Illustration by Priscilla Wong
This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine