I eat pho at LEAST once a week, sometimes twice. There is just something about the warm salty goodness that makes me feel warm and satisfied, definitely my choice of comfort food. Bonus- a definite cure to a nasty hangover.

Pronounced ‘foe’ by most Americans the real pronunciation is fuuuu like the fu part in fudge. Of course it is pronounced in the Vietnamese language as a quick short word with almost the tone of a question at the end.

Pho is a vietnamese noodle soup with a beef or chicken broth base, rice noodles, then meat of choice. The person eating then adds in choice of toppings offered- Vietnamese/thai basil, limes, sriracha (hot sauce), hoisin (sweet) sauce, garlic pepper sauce, jalapenos, and bean sprouts.

More picky and less adventurous eaters will order chicken pho which in my opinion, is like chicken noodle soup without the veggies.

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Chicken pho with hoisin and siracha on the side

The real way to eat pho is by eating it with rare beef. Usually the restaurant will take the rare slices of beef and put it in the broth just before serving. The hot broth then cooks the beef to perfection. Mine and Vit’s favorite way to eat it is to order the rare beef on side. I then squeeze limes all over the beef and add garlic pepper sauce and sriracha.This ‘cooks’ the beef by curing it, sort of ceviche style. I will usually eat a few pieces of the rare beef, sometimes dipping it in hoisin sauce for a sweet and spicy taste or I will put it on my spoon into the broth to cook it lightly until just warm.

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Rare beef with hoisin and siracha on the side

I usually eat the bean sprouts as a “snack” before the pho comes as I don’t like the crunchiness in my soup. I squeeze the limes onto the meat and into the broth and add basil and parsley.

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Toppings for pho

For the more adventurous eater, you can get the ‘pho special’ which, at every place, pretty much includes the same thing- tendon, tripe, meatballs, flank, and other meat ‘parts’. Vit and chop go for more of this while I stick with just the rare beef slices.

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Pho with meatballs, tendon, flank, rare beef

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Pho with rare beef and sauces on the side

All of the above pictures are from pho at Mekong delta. Between Chop, Vit, and I we have been to over a dozen places for pho and this is by far the best. Compared to other places it is more rich and flavorful and the broth is darker. I have been told this is more characteristic of South Vietnam while the other lighter pho is more characteristic of the north. Mekong delta is in Baltimore city on the corner of Saratoga and Liberty and is family run and owned. Luan, the waiter knows us by name and knows exactly what we order every time. His wife and wife’s parents are the chefs and his kids sometimes come in and play on the computer after school. Not only is it delicious, but cheap (about 8 bucks a bowl unless you order extra meat) and gives money to the family rather than a corporation which we can all appreciate.

A close second is pho nam on route 40 in catonsville, but still doesn’t compare to mekong. The portion sizes are larger but the broth is more watered down, still with a good flavor tho if you don’t feel like going to the city. Third would be Pho #1, in the plaza on route 40 next to the Ross/Lowes complex. The rolls are decent here and they serve beer but again, not even comparable to mekong delta. Several times we have had pho in NJ/NY area on the way to CT. The last time we went we were highly disappointed as I think ramen has more flavor than this pho did.

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Pho in NJ with spring rolls and beef on the side

Pho is very filling- I usually can’t finish mine. But, if you think you will need more, most places have delicious spring and summer rolls as well. They are all close to the same- rice paper wrap over rice noodles and chicken, beef or shrimp with herbs packed inside and peanut sauce on the side for dipping. At Mekong we prefer the beef lemongrass rolls and combination rolls (shrimp and chicken) but occasionally if I am in the mood for fried I will get the spring rolls too.
We have had pho at several places in CT, in NYC, NJ, and Vit had pho at his bachelor party several times in Montreal and we still agree- nothing compares to mekong delta. Pho-real it is pho-king delicious and we are pho-natics 🙂


One of these weekend days off we are going to make pho- supposedly it takes 6 hours to simmer. Recipes I have found have cardamom, ginger, coriander, clove, and a key ingredient- star anise all of which we hope to find at h-mart (asian market). Overall the soup seems fairly healthy- with the exception of the high sodium content and you have to wonder how much MSG is put in. Making it ourselves we can control that and make a healthier version so stay tuned!

{May 2, 2011} {Tags: , , , }