Pho. That deliciously traditional Vietnamese soup that traces its roots to the French occupation and an appetite to blend the two cultures: the noodle culture of Vietnam and le bouef culture of France. A healthy dish, as well, and one that, in the hyperborean winters of Canada is the perfect comfort food. Or so I’d heard.
Until I moved to Toronto, pho was a completely foreign concoction to me. Here, though, I heard about it non-stop. I don’t know why it was never part of my dining repertoire in Houston since there’s a rather large Vietnamese population there (second only to the hispanic community, I believe), but it could have something to do with it being approximately 957F degrees in Houston ten months a year, and who the hell wants to eat hot soup? Anyway. I’m a typically adventurous eater (bison tongue, anyone?), but just never had pho. So it goes.
In Toronto, I live a short ten minute jaunt from Chinatown although, surprisingly, it’s never been a point of destination por moi. Only the most seasoned Torontonians ventue into the unknown shops with unreadable menus to eat unknown foods. And, also surprisingly, I was freakishly intimidated by the whole damn thing! But for whatever reason, when I got home from work one night this week, I decided that it was going to be the day I would be a pho virgin no longer. So I did what any smart city girl does — I hopped on Yelp, found the best pho place nearest me, and off I went.
I knew what I was going to order — the spring rolls to start and a bowl of pho. Bowls of pho, though, come in sizes — small, medium and large –
and because the bowls were so cheap, at least by Canadian standards, I ordered the large because a) it was my dinner and was just soup and b) I assumed that the bowls were small because of their price. And because sometimes a lady likes to enjoy a big, hot bowl of soup. Or an aperitif. Ahem. But I was so WRONG! When the server brought me the bowl of pho that she was practically wheeling out on a dolly, my eyes popped out of my head and I actually said out loud “oh my God, that’s the biggest bowl of soup I’ve ever seen!”. No wonder she, in all her petiteness, gave me such a funny look when I ordered the large bowl of the well-done flank steak and brisket pho. So, let me give you a visual — think apple-bobbing tin. You know, those giant aluminum tins that we used to use to bob for apples when we were six? Yeah. That’s about the size of my pho bowl. I’ve actually never been as embarassed as I was eating out of that bowl. I barely made even the slightest of dents in the pho, although it was delicious! I specifically picked Pho 88 because I knew they served their pho with cilantro, and any time I can experience the “cilantrofication” of my food, I’m there. I dumped the other accoutrements — fresh Thai basil, bamboo shoots, lime and hot sauce – into the pho and experienced a mouth party like I’d not had in some time.
I’ll definitely have pho again, as it was delicious. I think I’ll try the vegeterian pho next time, though, sans tofu. Pho sho.