In the realm of brothy goodness, there are countless cultures and cuisines constantly vying for the top spot—but it’s the vast array of delicious soups and noodle dishes that makes Vietnamese cooking stand out. “Vietnamese food includes lots of different soups,” Jimmy Ly, chef/owner at Madame Vo in Manhattan’s East Village—and self-proclaimed hypebeast—tells VICE. “It’s very typical to have a broth dish at every meal, including breakfast.” At Madame Vo, (the best Vietnamese spot in the city, IMO) Ly is known for his signature 24-hour simmered beef pho—but he also does incredible vegan pho, bun bo Hue, stir fries, wings, banh xeo (a type of Vietnamese crêpe), and other dishes that make venturing out during even the most sweltering of NYC summers absolutely worth it.
As a Queens native, Ly started out helping his parents run their banh mi shop in Chinatown, learning how to recreate the flavors he’d grown up eating. In 2017, he and his wife Yen Vo (after whom the restaurant is named) opened Madame Vo’s doors. The rest is history—and a particularly successful history, at that. Ly’s Instagram is studded with big-name celebs who’ve stopped by the restaurant, from Bowen Yang and Simu Liu to Brian Baumgartner, Phillip Lim, and Twaydabae, to name a few. But no matter how many A-listers walk through its doors, sitting down at Madame Vo always feels like home.
We spoke with Ly ahead of the release of his debut cookbook, Madame Vo, written with Dan Q. Dao. Ly shared his favorite kitchen tools that he uses on the reg—from enameled-steel stock pots to Chinese cleavers—as well as a few pieces of style gear he’s been rocking lately, so you can recreate some of his delicious dishes at home and look good doing it.
Le Creuset Enameled-Steel Stock Pot
This is one of Ly’s go-to pieces of cookware for broths and stocks. Besides being one of the coolest-looking things in your kitchen, this Le Creuset Enameled-Steel Stock Pot heats up quickly for rapid boiling. It also has a durable, stain-resistant enamel finish, and features both easy-grip handles and a heat-resistant knob.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Shallow Fry Pan, 11-inch
The enameled cast-iron construction on this fry pan by Le Creuset ensures even heat retention, which is what you want for sautéing and even searing. “There are so many Vietnamese dishes you can make with just one fry pan,” Ly says. “From fried tofu and egg rolls to banh xeo, this cast-iron pan is what I use at home to replicate some of our bangers on the menu.” And bangers, they certainly are.
Open Kitchen by Williams Sonoma Strainer Set
“The key to making good pho is the right combination of spices, which typically include star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom,” Ly explains. At Madame Vo, Ly and his team toast these spices and cook them directly in the broth—rather than use a cheesecloth, which he says sometimes mutes the flavors. “I use this strainer to scoop out all my floating spices. And, it’s also great for straining the many different kinds of Vietnamese noodles we use, including rice stick noodles, egg noodles, and tapioca noodles.”
Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Savory Half-Sheet Roasting Set
No matter what kind of food you usually make at home, you’re gonna need some sheet pans at some point. “This roasting set is great for so many different Vietnamese barbecue dishes, like thit nuong (pork),” Ly explains, “but we use it mostly to cook the bones we use in our pho broth. This allows for much more flavor to come out of the bones.” This sheet pan set also comes with a roasting rack, which helps ensure consistent cooking and avoid burnt or soggy bottoms.
Instant Vortex Large Air Fryer Oven Combo
We’re long-time air fryer fans (we’ve put them to the test once or twice before), and so is Ly. “My wife Yen and I stay pretty busy running Madame Vo,” he says, “so at home, we like to use the air fryer to make snacks for our two sons.” The Instant Vortex has a four-in-one functionality, so you can fry, broil, roast and reheat, and a non-stick, dishwasher-safe basket and tray that makes clean-up a breeze. It’s also 15% off right now.
One of Ly’s favorite frozen foods to use in the air fryer are the spring rolls from Ai Vy. “They were one of the first legit Vietnamese-owned brands to ship nationally,” he says. “They’re also all-natural, so they’re great for the kids too.”
Huge Chinese Chef Knife Kitchen Cleaver from Asian Chefs, 9"
If there’s one thing you should invest in to make prepping ingredients quicker, easier, and more fun, it’s a solid knife. “You don’t need a fancy or expensive knife to get the job done,” Ly says. “When I helped my parents run their restaurant in Chinatown, this is what everyone used—if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!” At just under 40 bucks, this cleaver is a steal, and the large, flat blade can double as a bench scraper for handling ingredients.
Barista One-Touch Cappuccino Super Automatic Espresso Machine
For legit espresso without the hassle, Ly loves this automatic espresso machine, which he says “gets us up and going first thing in the morning.” Ly and his team serve traditional Vietnamese coffee at Madame Vo, but when he’s not at the restaurant, he likes to stop by % Arabica in Dumbo to grab some on-the-go joe.
Son Fish Sauce
If you aren’t already on the fish sauce train, you’re missing out. While a heavy-handed approach can definitely impart some delicious salty, fishy flavor to your food, a lighter touch can help elevate all sorts of dishes with deep umami flavor. However, not all fish sauce is created equal. “Son Fish Sauce is one of my personal favorites in the premium fish sauce category,” Ly says. “Their sauce is 100% natural, one-year-aged anchovy that comes from a fourth-generation producer in Vietnam. It’s the real deal.”
While taking the time to make deeply flavored, homemade broth is 100% worth it—something Ly knows better than most—he isn’t shy about popping a few stock cubes into his dishes. “No Vietnamese kitchen is complete without chicken bouillon,” he explains. “We use it to add a savory kick to marinades, soups, and more.”
Aimé Leon Dore x New Era Yankees Denim Hat
“I love Aimé Leon Dore because they’re New York-born like me,” Ly says. “This denim hat lets me rep my city whether I’m in the kitchen or out-and-about.”
Crest Crewneck Sweatshirt
“As a chef, I like to wear clothes that make me feel confident yet comfortable,” Ly explains. “This sweatshirt works for most of the year, and can be dressed up or down.”
Nike Air Force 1 '07
“I’m a big sneakerhead,” Ly explains, “but on a regular day, the classic AF-1’s are always a solid option.” (He’s not the only fan of classic white sneaks.)
Now get cooking, and don’t bother us—we’re too busy slurping.
Madame Vo is located at 212 E 10th St, New York, NY and open daily from 12-10 p.m.
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