Updated 04-10-09. Chef Didier Corlou is one of the well-known Pho authorities that you will likely come across around the web. Chef Corlou is the former executive chef of Hanoi's Sofitel Metropole Hotel. He served at the hotel for more than ten years, during which he established his presence as a French chef with an innate love for Vietnamese cuisine, especially the pho soup noodle. Currently, the 5-star Diamond Awardee French chef runs his own business: the Verticale restaurant, also in Hanoi.
In 2003, Chef Didier Corlou published a booklet regarding a seminar series specifically on the famous Vietnamese cuisine staple, the pho soup noodle. The seminar series was organized by Chef Corlou himself with the cooperation of the European Commission to Vietnam. The seminar series, being specifically centered on the pho dish, is a testimony of the growing popularity of the famous Vietnamese dish, and Chef Corlou's direct and spearheading involvement in the series is proof that the chef is a well-known, highly credible, and well-recognized authority when it comes to Vietnamese pho.
In the booklet, Chef Didier Corlou wrote a feature entitled "Pho's Art," in which he explains the most important and sometimes neglected and taken for granted parts of preparing pho. In the feature, the chef sought to communicate that preparing pho is not like preparing any other meal; in fact, Chef Corlou, with the title alone, considers the act of making pho an art.
The preparation process is also not the only work of art in the matter, as "Pho's Art" further implies. Chef Corlou writes that the mere experience of eating pho in a packed pho shop, mixing in the various ingredients and garnishes, stirring the soup, and finally taking your first spoonful of the broth an art or a "ritual," as he called it. Furthermore, the pho-loving chef advises not to leave fresh pho noodles for more than 5 minutes without eating them. According to him, the pho noodles easily lose texture within 5 minutes.
Chef Corlou also further establishes his knowledge and credibility regarding the subject by explaining how the pho dish made its way into the Vietnam mainstream. The feature explained how pho went from being a breakfast dish to an all-day meal that can be eaten even at lunch and dinner. There is also a summary of pho's history. It is clear from the feature that Chef Didier Corlou, who also dubs pho as the best soup noodle in the world, has informed himself thoroughly on the matter and has immersed himself completely into the world of pho, so who better to trust when it comes to pho recipes?
The booklet also contains the chef's own pho recipe, the one that Chef Didier Corlou himself authored, and also the same one that he serves in his Hanoi-based restaurant. The recipe can serve approximately ten persons. Some of the ingredients are pho noodles, beef bone, beef rump, beef fillet, shallot, old ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, cardamom, lime, spring onion, fresh herbs such as coriander and mint, as well as fresh chilli, salt, and pepper for taste. The procedures have been kept short and simple, making them very easy to follow. Chef Didier Corlou also adds a note for when you prefer to use rare beef or add spuncules or sea worm for added taste. His recipe is probably one of the best-tasting pho recipes you will find on the web.
For a look at Chef Didier Corlou's pho recipe, visit Andrea Nguyen's blog article titled "Pho by Chef Didier Corlou.” There are some interesting discussions on pho there, and the recipe can be found toward the end of the page.
Chef Corlou's Vietnamese Cuisine (or Ma Cuisine du Vietnam in French) is a food-lover's collection item and is sold exclusively at the Sofitel Hanoi. Another book, Corlou's Vietnamese Home Cooking, is more widely available. Both books pay homage to the Vietnamese culinary art that Chef Didier Corlou is obviously very fond of that his passion shines right through.
So you can't buy Ma Cuisine du Vietnam unless you go to Hanoi, but you can definitely purchase Didier Corlou's Vietnamese Cooking (Cooking (Periplus)) at Amazon.com. Visit didiercorlou.com.
All photos courtesy VietNamNet.net, which has lots more images showing Chef Didier Corlou in action.