Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How Not to Eat Pho

I went to a local Vietnamese restaurant alone yesterday evening. I had never eaten there before and, before I exposed other people to the restaurant, I wanted to try it myself. The restaurant is called Pho Four Seasons and is located on College Street here in Beaumont.

According to Southeast Texas Food and Restaurants , they have wonderful spring rolls. So, I ordered some spring rolls and a bowl of pho (pronounced “fuh?” as though it were a question). The spring rolls were probably the best I’ve ever eaten. The pho, however, should be served with an instruction manual. I’ve eaten at Vietnamese restaurants before but this was the first time I had ordered pho which seemed like the thing to do since the restaurant has pho in its name.

Before I went to the restaurant, I Googled pho to see exactly what pho is. After skimming several articles, I wrongly assumed that pho is simply a sort of noodle soup. This is partially true. It is a broth and it has noodles in it. I ordered the beef variety and I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.

The waiter brought me a Jethro Bodine size bowl filled with broth, beef strips, meatballs, onions, cilantro (I think) and noodles. The pho broth was the color of old dishwater and the beef was an interesting variety of shades of gray. Along with this huge bowl, I was given a side plate with jalapenos, mint (still on a rather large branch), bean sprouts and limes. I was hesitant to add anything because I wanted to experience the pho on its own rather than a Laurie-ized/American-ized/Cajun-ized version.

Besides not knowing how to add my fixings to my pho, I had a coordination problem just trying to eat the stuff. The noodles are very long and all you’re given to work with is a deep Asian spoon and chopsticks. I am chopstick challenged so I fought with the spoon and the noodles and the beef valiantly consuming about one fourth of my pho before I got tired of fooling with it and gave it up for the night.

If I had done more research before going to the restaurant, I would have found out that you are supposed to eat the pho with two hands. With one hand, you scoop up broth and other goodies while picking up the noodles with the chopsticks and gracefully adding them to the broth and goodies on your spoon.

I also found out that I shouldn’t have been afraid that I would taint my pho by mixing in whatever ingredients I thought might be good. According to a couple of websites, pho is like a hamburger or a pizza or even a bowl of gumbo. You’re supposed to garnish it in whatever way you like including using hot sauce, soy sauce and/or hoisin sauce along with the things given to you on the side plate of goodies.

Now, I understand why Anthony Bourdain always has locals with him when he’s trying out a cuisine which is new to him or eating a still beating cobra heart or choking down a recently deceased tree frog. Some things should not be done alone.

Pho Four Seasons
3690 College Street
Beaumont, Texas
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Saturday (10:30 – 9:00)
Sunday (10:30 – 5:00)


cube said...

Sounds like quite the culinary adventure... The Foibles of Foh ;-)

Marinade Dave said...

I love Vietnamese cuisine. there is a section in Orlando that is pretty much all things from there, including lots of restaurants. I've been eating it for years. Sometimes, when I go to a new place, I'll speak a little and the owner will ask me if I was in Vietnam during the war. I always say, I don't want to talk about it.

By the way, try Pho Ap Chao sometime. It's a mixture of seafood on a bed of pan fried noodles. Or the Bo Luc Loc. Sort of a salad with chunks of beef. And yes, that was cilantro in your bowl.

Lorna said...

I do not love Pho. I do love lots of other Vietnamese dishes, but soupy things lost their appeal once I got my sharp teeth

Peter said...

Sounds SLIGHTLY better than the still beating Cobra's heart.

Laurie said...

Cube - It was an adventure!

Dave - I will definitely try those things. Thanks!

Lorna - I love soup and I love noodles so I'll be giving this another try...with lots of hot sauce. :)

Peter - I actually saw Bourdain eat that!

pokerboss said...

At least now I know what's inside when I drive by. Since I am partial to anything served in Jethro portions, I'll give them a try. Soon, since nothing seems to last long in that building. I think I may pack a fork and a real spoon before I go.

Grimm said...

I am the kind of person who does NOT like to try new things. It took my wife forever to get me to try Chinese, and even then I will only do the Chicken & Broccoli dinner.

Of course, that being said, my wife HAS introduced my to many different foods that I thought there would be NO way I would try.

So maybe I could pencil Pho in...around 2042.

Al said...

We have some really nice vietnamese nighbors who make these kick-ass egg roll/spring roll things.

I haven't had lunch yet, damn I'm starved

Sophmom said...

I've never done anything both gracefully and with chopsticks.

Laurie said...

Pokerboss - A fork would have been a tremendous help.

Grimm - Mmmmmm...chicken and broccoli.

Al - I'm really eager to try other things on their menu because the spring rolls were wonderful.

Sophmom - Amen, sister!

gnightgirl said...

I don't think I've had vietnamese food, but I love korean food, tho I can never remember the name of what I choose to eat. I need a picture menu. The proprietor of the place I eat at once couldn't stand the way we were eating our stone bowl stuff, came racing out from behind the counter, grabbed a spoon, and started pouring stuff in and screaming, "no you have to mix it like this!"

I was actually glad for the lesson.

TexasGal said...

This is my FAVORITE Vietnamese dish. Avery and I found a restaurant within walking distance of our apartment that serves really good Pho and spring rolls. I order it "Pho Salad" Style rather than the soup. It comes out dry with a small bowl of the liquidy stuff to pour over the top. I could eat it every day.

Laurie said...

Gnight Girl - I expected someone to run up to me at any moment to tell me I was doing it wrong.

Texas Gal - I definitely need to give it another try.

Susan in St. Paul said...

I can take or leave pho and prefer other Vietnamese food.

There is a big pancake thing you need to know how to eat too, and I really like that a lot.