Monday, February 22, 2010

Pho Redux: What Do I Want In My Bowl?

Could I ask a basic question?  What am I looking for when I search out great pho?

I recently posted about Pho 89 in Laurel and made plans to try Pho Saigon 54 after reading good reviews.  People added spectacular comments about Saigon 54 and other places like Pho Nam on Rte 40 in Catonsville, Pho Real in Burtonsville or Pho Hiep Hoa in Wheaton.

We are going to warm ourselves with some Vietnamese soup, especially because I read a recent Chowhound string about pho that talked up Pho Saigon in Catonsville.  We know that An Loi in Columbia isn't the last word on Vietnamese food, and that string has some nice distinctions between the pho from different regions of Vietnam.  It made me wonder what I should be looking for -- what flavors, what garnishes, what makes a great pho -- other than just soup that I think tastes good.


momomom said...

Wow, no comments? I want really nice garnishes of cilantro and Thai basil, sprouts that are crisp with no brown edges, generous wedges of lime, some sliced jalapennos, sriracha and hunan sauce bottles. I want HOT broth that is meaty but not greasy. I want all dente rice noodles nested in a circle. I want various meat options even though I always get the plain round steak. I want the spoon and the chopsticks must be nice...not break apart wooden ones. I like an option with vegetables instead of meat. I like fast service ... that seems the norm for pho. Predictable and always the same over and over again.

Maryland McKennas said...

Pho broth needs to be a nice rich clear beef broth. Needs to have lime versus lemon. Needs to have culantro herbs along with Thai basil. Culantro is not misspelled. It is NOT cilantro. Culantro has a long slender leaf with saw-tooth edges. I have not found a place in MD that serves pho with culantro. The herb is available because I see it at Lotte and H-Mart.

An Loi is no longer own by Vietnamese people. The owners are Korean. The wait-staff are for the most part still Vietnamese. The kitchen staff are Hispanic. Only in HoCo do we have 3 ethnic groups involved in one restaurant.