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Twice-Told Tale

Homecooked on the Menu

Tessa Guerra
(Above) As simple as it may seem, the origination of the name “pho” is actually more complicated and uncertain than most may think. It is debated that the name actually stems from French vocabulary, as “feu” in French means fire, and this word is used in the name of a French beef stew called “pot-au-feu.” As well as Pho, this is also a dish consisting of broth, beef, and vegetables. Seeing as the French colonized Vietnam starting in the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, the theory isn’t completely unbelievable. Other people argue that the name “pho” came from the name of a different brothy dish that Cantonese street vendors sold in Vietnam called “nguu nhục phấn,” which means, “Beef with rice noodles.” It is thought that the name became more and more shortened and simplified over time, at one point turning in to “phấn”, and eventually resulting in the simple name of “pho.”

Orlando, Florida, offers a variety of different types of cuisine. The Asian food scene is notable and very prominent in Downtown Orlando. The street of Colonial Drive alone offers many tasty options ranging from Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean to Chinese. Using the insights of authentic Asian food experts (my boyfriend’s Vietnamese parents), who know many of these restaurants’ owners, as well as the authentic ingredients and proper cooking methods, I discovered and explored three restaurants on Colonial Drive to get an authentic taste of Asia. 

Thai House is an unsuspecting restaurant that offers some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. The servers were very helpful in assisting me and my family with which foods to order. Within 15 minutes, a beautiful layout of the food we ordered was presented on our table, and the aromas danced in our noses. We ordered the Sweet and Sour Fish, Thai House Duck, and Chu Chee Prawns. The fish was a deep-fried, crispy, red snapper with a very compatible sweet and sour sauce made of pineapple, bell pepper, onion, cucumber, carrot, baby corn, and tomato. The salty, crispy layer complemented the soft, fluffy meat of the fish, and when combined with the sweet and sour sauce, it created a pleasurable explosion of texture and flavor in my mouth. The duck, on the other hand, was boneless and served with pineapple, onion, mushroom, snow peas, and other vegetables in a brandy sauce. The starchiness of the veggies in contrast to the smooth duck enhanced one another’s flavors and made me excited for the next bite. 

Interestingly, chopsticks and knives are not traditionally typically used in Thailand. The use of knives for eating is seen as aggressive and unnecessary. Instead, it is common for the left hand to use the backside of the fork to push food onto the spoon. It is also customary to provide more dishes than guests at the table. These are some of the common Thai traditions that Thai House upholds to maintain an authentic Thai environment. 

Pho Huong Lan is a hole-in-the-wall, but popular pho restaurant among locals. Off the bat, the service was friendly and helpful. The host greeted me with a smile and thanked me for coming after she seated me at the table. About five or so minutes after ordering a medium bowl of “Phở Tái Dạp,” (your basic broth, steak, rice noodles, and greens), I was presented with a fresh, decent-sized, steaming bowl of pho. The broth was rich and savory, and each sip felt nourishing. The noodles were easy to slurp, and the bean sprouts added a delightful crunch that added a texture I appreciated. The meat was also hearty and satisfying. Each element of the dish worked in harmony to create a rich, craveable, and filling meal that doesn’t leave guests hungry for more. 

What is different about Pho Huong Lan is that they make their broth using the bones of the meat to extract and achieve an organic flavor. This is how it is traditionally prepared. However, many restaurants often take shortcuts by using seasoning packets to simulate the genuine taste of the bone-brewed broth, which of course does not compare. For $14, I left with a full belly and a smile on my face. 

Lam’s Garden has been an established authentic Chinese restaurant since 1975, making it the oldest Chinese restaurant in town. Lam’s Garden offers both an American-Chinese menu and a genuine traditional Chinese menu, which a lot of Chinese places do not do. This is so that they can satisfy all types of customers: Those who lean towards traditional style foods, and those who appreciate the modern Chinese-American takes on classic dishes. The traditional Chinese menu offers a taste of real, fresh Chinese-style food. Off the traditional Chinese menu, my family and I ordered the Chop Suey, Orange Flavored Beef, and Seven Stars Elegant Dinner for 2. The Chop Suey contained plenty of vegetables, including shredded napa cabbage, celery, onion, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and mushrooms with our choice of either shrimp, chicken, roast pork, and beef. The variety of all of the tasty vegetables was particularly nice because of the freshness that it added to the plate. The chicken was cooked just right, as it was juicy and easy to chew. 

The Orange Flavored Beef was probably my favorite. It had nicely sized pieces of battered and fried, crispy flank steak. It was cooked with orange rind and peppers. Personally, I had never tried anything like this, and I must admit, it was surprisingly delightful. I enjoyed the flavor of the meat more than I anticipated and would definitely order it again. Finally, I tried the Seven Stars Elegant Dinner for 2. This dish had sizeable chunks of lobster, chicken, and roast pork sauteed with mushrooms, baby corn, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and 

Chinese vegetables surrounded by seven pieces of butterfly shrimp. The flavors in this dish were very powerful yet all worked in harmony with each other. 

Nowadays, it is hard to find restaurants in Orlando that adhere to the traditional ways of Asian, or really any culture’s, cooking style. Pho Huong Lan, Thai House, and Lam’s Garden are three refreshingly authentic restaurants that work hard to serve the real deal. From original methods used, to cultural customs upheld, Asian food is even better when discovering the restaurants that infuse the true essence of their culture into the dishes.

(Above) Pho Huong Lan serves both pho and Bún bò Huế. Bún bò Huế, aslo known as bún bò, is another Vietnamese brothy, rice noodle dish that typicaly has a variety of meats such as sliced beef, cha lụa, and often times, pork knuckles. Pho Houng Lan offers the meal with various types and combinations of meats ranging from beef shank and ox tail to beef flank and beef tongue! (Tessa Guerra)
(Above) Lam’s Garden is a family-owned establishment. Lam’s Garden is most widely known for its dim sum. Dim sum consists of various types of dumplings, steamed buns, and rice noodle rolls that can include numerous meats, commonly beef, chicken, and prawns. (Tessa Guerra)
(Above) Thai House has 4.6 stars on Google. Their busiest hours are typically around 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. throughout every day of the week, but especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Although Thai House offers splendid dishes with all different types of meat cooked to perfection, Thai House welcomes all types of diners, offering plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes, such as their Thai Spring Rolls and Vegetable and Tofu Soup. (Tessa Guerra)
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Tessa Guerra
Tessa Guerra, Staff
Tessa Guerra is staff member of Lake Highland Preparatory School's Upper School Newspaper Twice-Told Tale. Also, she participates as a member of the Crafts of Service Club at Lake Highland, run by Emily Cypher. Tessa has been a student at Lake Highland for going on six years. Her hobbies include reading, volunteering, and hanging out with friends. As it is Tessa's first year in newspaper, she looks forward to continuing working with Ms. Ginger Bryant and the rest of the team.

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