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Pho real

Photos by Matt Haas

October 2015

The introduction of Vietnamese-style cuisine into the American culinary scene is a relatively recent occurrence ó one prompted by the Vietnam War, when refugees immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. Its popularity has since grown, and restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese dishes like pho (a rich noodle soup) are now present in nearly every major U.S. city.

Realizing its absence in Milwaukee, co-owners Cat Tran and Mark Nielsen opened their Vietnamese-inspired restaurant, Hue, in Bay View in 2010 and a second location in Wauwatosa last year. Tran, whose family immigrated to southern Wisconsin decades ago, says that many of the dishes are inspired by what she ate growing up or her motherís own recipes.

A showcase dish is the beef and meatball pho, which features sirloin steak, brisket, beef meatballs, rice noodles and a homemade beef broth. "How we make our pho is still very traditional," explains Tran. "We simmer the beef bones for 12 to 16 hours and then we add our seasonings to it, like charred onion, ginger and cinnamon. It simmers, very slowly, for another six hours after that, so itís a full 24-hour make." Bean sprouts, fresh jalape-os, lime and Thai basil accompany the dish, allowing diners to customize it to their liking.

Both Tran and Nielsen are committed to making Hue an approachable dining experience, and they encourage staff to share their knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine ó from preparation techniques to dispelling common myths ó with diners. "We act as a conduit to educate the customers, which is something that sets us apart," says Nielsen. "We feel it gives the cuisine a little more integrity and a little more justice."


This story ran in the October 2015 issue of: