I recently found out that my husband doesn’t particularly care for soup as a full meal, which is too bad for him because I like it during the fall and winter months. Hot broth (or a cream base), packed with veggies or meat or noodles, sometimes even potatoes — the possibilities for soup are endless. It’s comforting, it heats you right up, and it’s one of the most convenient meals you can make that has basically all your necessary food groups. I also really love Asian food; it’s probably not coincidental since I am, after all, Asian, but Americanized Chinese take-out makes me inextricably happy.
This is where the B family comes in:
Mrs. B has a number of Vietnamese siblings and one day I was lucky enough to be invited for lunch at one of their homes. Unfortunately this is the one Best Thing you can’t actually get yourself, unless you befriend them yourself, which is a possibility because look at how friendly they are! I’d never had Phở before and wasn’t entirely sure what it was. My experience with Vietnamese food was non-existent; I’d had some Korean at different adoptee gatherings, Japanese or Thai in restaurants, and Panda Express which I’ve been told is not very authentic, which is disappointing to say the least. I figured it would be too spicy for my liking because I am actually a very wussy Asian when it comes to spice in general, but I didn’t want to be rude and turn down a homemade meal in someone’s home.
Oh, how glad I am that I didn’t. When I picked up my bowl, it was halfway full of rice vermicelli and the most thinly sliced beef I’d ever seen. And it was raw. I started feeling nervous when they told me to hand over my bowl for the broth and it was so boiling hot that the beef immediately began to cook. We sat down at a large family table with plates filled with Thai basil, sliced peppers, bean sprouts, and bottles of Sriracha and Hoisin. I love interactive meals, so I immediately dug in and tried a little bit of everything.
The minute that hot broth hits your tongue, it explodes with flavor. It’s hot and oily and comforting. The meat is tender, flavorful, and you keep going back for more till your bowl is completely empty. My favorite part is how personalized it can get — if you add more Thai basil you get an herbacious, minty quality; if you add more hoisin it becomes a little sweeter, and we all know what happens if you add more Sriracha. The bean sprouts are a little crunchy, the noodles are supple and soft, and it all comes together in a hearty bowl of perfection. In fact, I’m fairly certain I could eat a bowl of Phở at least once a week. If you become friends with this lovely, warm-hearted family, you need to stop by for a bowl.
*Phở photo found here