I can’t believe I’ve never had pho. What the… heck?
I’m well-traveled, I lived in Asia for years, I have friends from… a lotta different Asian countries, so WHERE’S MY PHO???
Turns out I had to travel back to DC to taste good pho. Or rather, to Linny’s home in dear ol’ Maryland.
Linny is a wonderful woman who has a job she loves, keeps a neat house stocked with everything you’d possibly need to have a wonderful party at a moment’s notice and is a warm, genuine person whom I am thrilled to have as a friend. She also loves the outdoors- she seems at home in a boat, hip deep in a river, camping, whatever. Just my kinda person!
A few weeks ago, before a bunch of us trooped out to Brookside Gardens to photograph the butterflies, Linny invited me and a few others to her home for pho. I could not contain my excitement- I had heard about pho, folks had talked about places where it was good, but it had been described as a winter food and I had resigned myself to waiting many many moons before I could try it. Sure, I could go by myself, but never having had it before I wanted to try it with someone who knew the real, good thing.
Having started cooking on Saturday, the pho was fragrant and rich by the time I got there at noonish on Sunday. I was jittery, having foolishly skipped breakfast in anticipation of a great feast, and when Linny offered a tasting dish I jumped at it.
Asian foods rely on freshness, healthy ingredients, visual presentation and technique. That sounds weird, but trust me. Sukiyaki is Japanese dish comprised of beef and veggies dipped and swished in boiling water or broth until cooked and then eaten.
Pho requires that you swish the meat in boiling broth to cook it, then it is placed in a bowl of noodles the same broth along with with basil and cilantro, sprouts and other greens. The meat is then fished out of the bowl and dipped in sweet soy and chili sauce, put in a spoon with which you’ve scooped up said noodles and broth, and consumed noisily and with relish. Not actual relish, mind you, but the kind of enjoyment you might reserve for good ice cream or a draft amber ale of European extraction.
It was divine. MSG may add flavor, but the absence of it meant that I could taste the fresh herbs and not suffer the headaches that attend most similar meals. And for that I can forgo the stuff happily!
And hour or so later, a few more folks arrived and another bowl of pho was placed in front of me. What riches! We sat and talked and ate and though I’d been looking forward to the butterflies I was almost sad to leave Linny’s.
But then she made mint juleps…
It is so lovely to have friends who love food!
For a rundown on pho and recipes, click here.