Le Ho first learned to cook when she just a kid; helping her mom in the kitchen of their Bac Liêu restaurant in Southern Vietnam. By age 12, she was already organizing the bean sprouts and Thai basil leaves for the pho platters. "I'd help her make extras," she remembers. "I watched. I learned." Now she spends nearly every day at her sons Adam's and Alan's downtown Portland restaurant
(835 SW 2nd Ave.), where she cooks everything from steaming bowls of aromatic noodle soups to tender, herby beef rolls. "I'm there in the kitchen from 9 am to midnight," she says with a laugh. "I joke that it's my house." While she rules the kitchen, Adam tends bar out front, creating wildly innovative cocktails with a Southeast Asian twist. The pair let
tag along on a shopping trip to one of their favorite Asian markets, Southeast Powell Boulevard stalwart
"I use it in
[Vietnamese betel leaf-wrapped beef rolls]. The spice is very finely ground, so you can smell it but not taste [the texture] of it. You mix it with the beef and it smells really good with the
leaves." —Le Ho
"This is what [my] five-spice powder is made of. I put the whole spices in my pho broth. There's no taste if you just use the powder." —Le Ho
âWe never use the dried noodles for our pho. These keep for a week or two in the fridge. You parboil them: My employees just put them in boiling water, count to 10 and take them back out. Then dump them in the bowl with the broth,â Le says. âThin noodles are for pho. Thick noodles are for other soups. Pho is just one noodle soup among many Vietnamese noodle soups,â adds Adam. Le also buys packages of fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil and cilantro (99 cents to $1.99) to garnish Luc Lacâs pho.
"That's the other sauce we use. You don't need a special kind. Just straight-up Kikkoman." —Le Ho
"I could grab them all," Le says delightedly, looking at the rows of brightly colored Vietnamese desserts (often made with glutinous rice and tapioca flours). "This one has black sesame cake, pandan leaf with mung bean, coconut…so good. I don't make these myself. I let somebody else do it."
"There's a Vietnamese snack that's basically green mangoes, fish sauce and sugar. You just eat it. I'm thinking of juicing the mangoes and making a rum cocktail incorporating those snack flavors." —Adam Ho