Edward: In the winter time, there’s nothing better than Vietnamese soup. THIS I BELIEVE.
Also: summer time. And all the times.
Vietnamese soup is best soup!
I think we can agree that colonization is bad, but if you have to have been colonized by any European empire, probably the French would be the way to go. That way, when you finally throw out the foreign invaders, you at least end up with delicious cuisine.
Hannah: I don’t know how we got so lucky here? But Vietnamese is so superior in ABQ.
Edward: Albuquerque is the last place I’d have imagined would have great Vietnamese food, but we have a large Vietnamese community, and that means an abundance of awesome Vietnamese restaurants!
Hannah: Here is where we need one more staff member for WHEW so s/he can research the history of the community! But instead, we’ll just talk about….PHO #1
Edward: NOTE: Internships UNPAID
Vietnamese food is fascinating to me because of the French influence. I mean, look at the crazy Banh Mi — a delicious baguette, filled with things like cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon?
Hannah: And weird meats and pastes! But we didn’t have that at Pho #1. Oh no no!
Edward: The French also popularized beef in Vietnam, so you end up with incredible dishes like Pho, where you have Asian flavors like lemongrass and basil, but with the kind of complex beefy broth like you’d get in French cooking.
Hannah: Korean food also has a lot of beef — is that because it has more grazing land or something?
Edward: Hmm, I dunno — I guess we also need an intern to study Korean cuisine!
If I had to guess though, I’d guess that it was the Western influence in Korea as well — Christian missionaries and later American soldiers.
Hannah: Oh, good point. But that means those mainstay dishes didn’t exist prior to the mid-20C?
ANYWAY off topic!!
Edward: Korea actually was visited by Western missionaries centuries ago!
Hannah: But would they have brought cows with them?
Edward: WE DON’T KNOW
BACK ON TOPIC
Hannah: So, honey, I like those fried “eggrolls” but I don’t think they’re the best thing at Pho #1. At all. What are they called?
Edward: They’re just called “Central Vietnam Egg Rolls.”
Hannah: Molten lava meat?
Hannah: I remember the first time we had them, I scorched the Hades out of my tongue. This time I like them ok, but they seemed sort of superfluous.
Edward: I find them really interesting — I haven’t seen them here (yet) other than at Pho #1. What’s in them — some grilled pork and shrimp, with a little cabbage or green onion?
Hannah: I don’t think there’s anything other than pork in kind of a spicy red sauce. It’s a big chunk of pork rather than a minced filling.
Edward: Wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. So unlike either fresh spring rolls or crisp wonton wrapped fried rolls, the texture is very chewy. The pork is what dominates, but I could swear there’s some shrimp in there as well. At least, that’s what I remember. It’s hard to tell for sure, because after your first bite you’re too busy trying to cool off the second degree burns on the roof of your mouth to think about what you just ate.
Hannah: They’re called Cha Gio I think.
Edward: I really like these guys, though. I care for the chewy exterior, and love the sweetness of the pork.
Hannah: I agree. They’re delicious, but because the rest of the meal is equally-to-more delicious I think they’re unneeded.
Edward: They are needed — BY ME!
Hannah: But look at what you ate! That spicy beef soup!
Edward: True — as delicious as the egg rolls were, they were actually upstaged by the rest of our meal!
First, though — Pho #1 is a pretty casual place, wouldn’t you agree? It’s nice inside, but the vibe is very laid back. There’s a TV on, and almost always some elderly guys hanging out and chatting. Most times, there’s a little kid running around.
Hannah: Yes, and it’s a very large restaurant in my opinion.
Edward: The people who run the place are very friendly. You just sit wherever.
Hannah: Lots of tables, but usually not many people. Which is a shame because the food really good. Yes, super super friendly!!
Edward: Maybe it’s just the times that we go, but I haven’t seen the place really packed like May Cafe.
Hannah: I have a question, though. Since this has come up in a couple places we went to recently. What do you think of mid-range or cheap places that serve water in glass glasses? Is that weird? Or is it just me?
Edward: Huh? You mean as opposed to paper or plastic cups?
Hannah: Yeah, I guess.
Edward: It doesn’t seem weird to me to get glass glasses of water in any sit-down restaurant.
Hannah: It just struck me at Pho #1 and at another place.
Edward: You would get that in a Denny’s or Village Inn for instance.
Hannah: I think the ones at Pho caught my eye because they were very stylish, not institutional.
Edward: I’d generally expect plastic/paper cups in a place that was more fast food or takeout oriented.
It’s too bad we didn’t get a photo of the water glasses at Pho #1 to illustrate, but do you remember what they looked like?
Hannah: Yes, they had a multi-shades of blue graphical pattern on them.
Edward: Oh, OK, I remember that. Yes, stylish!
Pho #1 is pretty nicely decorated in general.
Hannah: And clean, including the restrooms, which…that’s all we have to say about that….
Hannah: I got a noodle bowl, and it was a DOOZY!
Edward: Vermicelli, with grilled pork, grilled shrimp and egg roll?
Hannah: Yes — and peanuts
and bean sprouts
and that nice sauce.
Honey, the online menu doesn’t seem to be the place we went…it has a ton of sushi?
Edward: That menu is…highly questionable?
But we’ve had some form of this vermicelli dish at…Cafe Da Lat, May Cafe, and Viet Taste if I’m not mistaken.
Hannah: Yes of course, a vermicelli bowl is standard. I just was checking if it was called grilled pork or not, and found that weirdo menu.
Edward: I’m just saying that this is a dish we order often.
Hannah: It’s my go-to if I don’t feel like soup.
Edward: How does this rank with the other places?
Hannah: Oh, very high. The toppings were so amazingly good. Fresh, clean, flavorful! And abundant!!
Edward: I like that the grilled pork and shrimp really taste grilled — nice and smoky! And the shrimp are well-cooked, nice and tender.
Hannah: Honestly, the pork was really my favorite. Sometimes in this dish the meat can be a bit…scant. But this was large
pieces slices and it lasted through all the noodles, which is a feat!
Edward: Yeah, I’m used to generous portions in Vietnamese restaurants, but Pho #1 definitely is generous with the good stuff!
Hannah: But my dish was simple, clean, nice flavors, what is expected from that noodle bowl. What about yours!? It looks so……complicated!
Edward: Mine was very much not simple!
I had the Bun Bo Hue — Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup.
Not drawing a direct comparison here, but more in terms of feeling, I think the difference between Pho and Hue soup is like between Vegetable Beef Barley and Texas Style Chili. One I like for its simplicity and clean flavors, the other for rich, pungent craziness.
Hannah: Oh, yeah, the pig blood cubes! A very different soup from Pho.
Edward: The broth in Bun Bo Hue is pretty in-your-face compared to Pho, I think — very strong with lemongrass, and beefy, with I think shrimp paste and/or fish sauce.
Hannah: And, (furiously researching) from a different area in Vietnam — Central!
Edward: Pork hock…and yeah, that crazy pig blood cubes! So there’s also this odd (for a palate like mine that’s unfamiliar with these flavors) blood flavor to the soup, that contrary to what you might think is actually very pleasant, although it does take a bit of adjustment if you’re not used to it.
Hannah: I think the most interesting thing was how the blood cubes themselves were pretty flavorless.
Edward: The herbs are also different from Pho — you get the bean sprouts and lime and all that, but also some mint and perilla.
Hannah: Did you like it?
Edward: Yeah, the blood cubes were a little off-putting to me, because of the texture — kind of gummy — and it seems like the flavor all goes into the soup, because I couldn’t really taste much from them. So I admit I didn’t bother with them.
Hannah: Right, all the flavor went into the soup (that was the rest of my thought, but I got distracted)!
Edward: Oh, also, the noodles are different from in Pho — larger and round.
I really liked this soup. I won’t say I like it better or worse than Pho, because they’re both great for their own reasons, but when I want something really earthy and a little spicy-sweet I would definitely go for this.
Hannah: A good soup for colder weather or when you’re feeling ill?
Edward: I would put this up there with the Banana Beef Stew at Cafe Da Lat for sure.
Yeah, absolutely a great cold weather soup because of the spiciness, and I think also good for a cold because of all the good stuff that’s in it!
We just had a quick lunch on this visit, so we didn’t try more than just the three dishes. I would love to go back and try some other things.
Hannah: Yes I agree, this place should definitely go into our rotation!
Edward: Although this is one of those places where it’s hard to branch out and try new things, because the things you like there are so damn good.
Hannah: Right..that happens at Vietnamese places for me. It’s like you get X dish at one place, and y dish at another place…always.
Well, we ate well at Pho #1 and I would like to eat well there again!
Hannah: #1 Value!