7/29/2014 2:45:00 PM Catholics cook and serve authentic Vietnamese cuisine
Catholic Sentinel photos by Jon DeBellis
Antony Nguyen stands next to pots of beef broth.
A bowl of pho just before the broth is poured in.
Jon DeBellis Of the Catholic Sentinel
Antony Nguyen used to be a bookkeeper. Now, he's more of a chemist. Since 1990 his brother, Minh and Nguyen have run several Pho Hung restaurants. Now they have one in Portland and three in Vietnam known as Pho 99. The remarkably clean, bamboo laden restaurants serve traditional Vietnamese fare, but are most known for their pho (pr. 'fuw'); a traditional North Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup.
The soup starts with the building of a beef broth. The kitchen at Pho Hung on 82nd Ave., is filled with tall roiling pots full of the salty brine. The ingredients to the soup's base Nguyen will not part with, but he did say there were many "spices and bones" involved.
"Why give away my secret?" he laughs.
Cooking begins at 5 a.m. every day. The restaurant sells around 300 gallons of soup everyday; on weekends it nears 500 gallons. Customers are also given a plate of fresh basil, bean sprouts, limes and cilantro to add to their soup.
There are several types of pho on the menu, including several with beef tripe and tendons, which to the tame eater sounds tough and chewy, but slow-cooked in a broth at least eight to nine hours, become as tender as the round and flank steak that are also an option.
"We do very well," he says. "The key is the broth. People tell me all the time that my broth is distinctive, unique and that's what keeps them coming back."
Nguyen's restaurant at 3120 SE 82nd Ave., is open seven days a week. He's there every day, rain or shine, cooking up soup for his hungry customers.
Antony, and his wife Catherine Nguyen are both members of Our Lady of Lavang Parish in Northeast Portland. Antony converted to the faith when he fell in love.
He admits his wife is more active in the parish, but he maintains a relationship of stewardship, donating money for annual celebrations like the Freedom Mass to make sure things go off without a hitch.
He feels giving back is not only part of his faith, but a part of his culture.
"Churches have needs and people have needs," said Nguyen. "If I can help, I do."
Nguyen also owns a house behind the restaurant, which he occasionally rents to employees and their families who are trying to get a start.
"I help them out until they can get their own place," says Nguyen. "People helped me out when I started, and now it's my turn to help."