Chef’s Special Phuong Ho
Rice Paper is located in the Eden Center, a Vietnamese shopping and dining complex in the Seven Corners section of Falls Church and is usually packed. Co-owner Mai Lam and her family hail from Rach Gia, a city on the Gulf of Thailand, deep in the Mekong River Delta. Her mother, Xuan Tran, and cousin Chef Phuong Ho run the kitchen, bringing to the table family recipes and their own take on contemporary Vietnamese cuisine with 120 dishes.
When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
Good cooks within my family like my grandmother, mother and aunts influenced me toward the art of cooking. I started early working with my grandmother, about the age of 12, in her catering business. My families were the source of encouragement and their valued input contributed substantially. Cooking had become my passion and aptitude. I love to experiment, observe, exchange ideas and love to continue to learn new skills. Cooking added a new dimension to my individual personality (even as a hobby) and enables others to appreciate the efforts that go behind a good meal. It’s a natural process, never planned; it’s just a passion to feed people. I love to see how people receive the food and enjoy it.
Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
Apart from my family of good cooks, what really inspired me toward cooking was my grandmother. She had catered for parties and events. She had also opened a small place for people to stop by for meals. It’s very rewarding and enjoying watching people enjoy food.
What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how it’s received?
Pho Ap Chao Do Bien (Fried Rice Noodles w/Seafood). This is the dish served with combo vegetables and seafood with special gravy sauce in the center with crispy noodles surrounding.
What do you do to insure the quality of the food going out to customers?
“It’s the quality, not the quantity!” I would taste my recipe before it is served. To ensure good quality/freshness I constantly use my senses and make sure I am always using fresh ingredients.
If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it, be?
I would love to have meal prepared by Charles Phan. I love reading his cook book. He has had a profound influence on changing the way we view Vietnamese food. He has a very upscale and authentic approach to Vietnamese food. To be honest, the person I would love to have is Chef Gordon Ramsay to prepare me a meal. I would be honored to have someone like him stop by. I watch his show all the time. He makes cooking so fun and simple.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I am sure we all do our best to avoid greasy, ultra-processed fast food items. Inevitably there are times when the reliable taste, convenience, or low prices are too much to resist. I love sweets and have a sentimental attachment to Taco Time.
Written by: Chester Simpson
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