Pho.. (pronounced, I believe, Fuh, though I’ve always said Foh.) We love pho.
It’s Vietnamese noodle soup. Clear beef broth with pieces of thinly sliced cooked beef, cilantro and sliced onions floating in it, hiding a small mound of rice noodles that you stir up with your chopsticks. It comes with a side plate of bean sprouts, fresh thai basil, jalepeno slices so you can add what you like. I quickly grab a lion’s share of the basil and leave the bean sprouts and peppers for J.
It’s the ultimate customizable soup (even moreso than gazpacho.) The beef combinations can run to 15 to 20 variations. J always gets beef tendon and tripe, sometimes more than one kind (yuck, yuck, and yuck again.) I always get nice lean beef, and maybe meatballs if I know they’re good. Besides the side plate, in good pho places there will be fish sauce, plum sauce and hot sauce to further dress up your noodle soup, all set on the table in a holder which also contains stacks of chopsticks, spoons, and napkins.
It took me a while (and some stained shirts) to figure out how to eat pho. After watching two oriental women at lunch one day, now I scoop up noodles in the chopsticks and pile them into the bowl of the spoon to slurp them down. That gets rid of the dangling noodle ends that splash your shirt if you slurp the noodles right from the chopsticks.
Why has pho come to mind today? Because, since we can’t get it in our neck of the woods, it’s a special treat. Hence, it’s what we had for Valentine’s Day lunch. And, for the friends of ours who are in the DC area, I wish to recommend to you the Pho 89 in Laurel on route 198. It’s in a strip mall west of the Home Depot. It’s the best broth I’ve ever had in a pho shop; we mentioned that to the lady that runs the place and she said (I think) that they don’t use MSG in it, just lots of good bones and brisket. They’ve got other stuff on the menu, I suppose. :-)