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Pho kho Gia Lai, a Central Highlands delicacy offers a fantastic new take on beef pho

Pho kho Gia Lai is a variety of the staple Vietnamese dish from the central region

"I spent a long time trying to bring this dish to Saigon and still make sure it would retain the flavor of my hometown," said Quang Huy, owner of pho kho Gia Lai in Binh Thanh District.

The term Gia Lai refers to a Central Highlands province of Vietnam and, while the endless battle rages between acolytes of northern pho (clear broth, no added extras) and southern pho (greens galore, clouded broth), pho kho Gia Lai offers an intriguing alternative.

It shares a number of common characteristics with its southern and northern neighbors.

Pho kho Gia Lai also primarily consists of meat, rice noodles and savory broth. Gia Lai noodles are somewhat chewier than the polar varieties.

It is a dish with both pork meat and beef.

Unlike northern pho, both pork and beef bones are simmered over a small flame for five to seven hours to create the broth. The dish itself is typically accompanied by tender beef, thinly sliced and briefly cooked in the broth.

The pork meat is minced or chopped, and placed on top of a bowl of steaming noodles, and sprinkled with fried shallots.

Like southern pho, pho kho Gia Lai comes with fresh greens and bean sprouts.

But the dish is served a bit differently.

Central diners receive a bowl of chopped meat over noodles and a separate dish of meat swimming in broth.

Here in Ho Chi Minh City, a squeeze-bottle of hoisin sauce (a savory, dark, ketchupy condiment derived from soy beans, sweet potatoes and wheat) is usually within hands reach and is typically used to dip the beef in.

In the Central Highlands, the hoisin sauce is indispensable.

It's usually tossed directly in with the noodles along with a spritz of chili oil and lemon juice. If you're feeling like a true

Highlander, add some thin chili slices to give the meal a real kick.

A bowl of pho kho Gia Lai is VND25,000 to 30,000.

Pho kho Gia Lai is available at the following places in Ho Chi Minh City:

* 288 No Trang Long Street, Binh Thanh District

* 194 Dang Van Ngu Street, Phu Nhuan District

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