My eagerly awaited, impossible to be duplicated, Top 10 List of Pho, begins with a story describing what bad pho is. Only by comparing bad to good can we come to an understanding of what a perfect bowl is all about.
I was in Albany getting sworn in to practice law in the great state of New York but my mind could not focus on the license interviewer’s question, “Why do you want to practice law here? On the contrary, I was fixated on how soon I could take the next train back to Manhattan where a delicious bowl of pho would be waiting for me- a much deserved reward for passing the NY bar.
My excitement was at a fever pitch as I jumped out of the smelly NY taxicab and arrived in Chinatown. The stench of the taxi driver was replaced by the smell of Beijing Kao Ya(Peking Duck) and the aroma of Chinese noodles soaking in steaming hot water.
A misstep here, a detour there, I eventually found the Yelp renowned pho restaurant.
“One bowl of Pho Tai and an order of spring rolls- shrimp only,” I told the waiter. The spring rolls arrived and I began to stir the peanut sauce with a perfect amount of Siracha. After one bite I found myself back on the beaches of Nha Trang, Vietnam, reminiscing about great days of pho past.
I eagerly awaited the manna of noodles, broth, onions, and fresh cilantro, soon to be delivered from the less than divine but nonetheless health inspected kitchen.
The sprouts and fresh lime, integral components of a perfect bowl arrived, serving as foreplay for my mounting appetite. Shortly thereafter, the pho was served- extra large of course.
The color of the broth- a light brown, the texture of the noodles- Al dente (Vietnamese for perfectly cooked) and the little tiny onions that outlined the bowl made all the days lamenting about taking the bar exam worthwhile.
Quick to dive in, I almost forgot to add the scientifically calculated requisite amount of Siracha and Hoisin sauce to the bowl. Crisis averted, it was time to mix the ingredients and prepare to enter the gates of pho heaven.
What’s this? No flavor! Did I miscalculate my patented combination of Siracha, Hoisin, and lime?
Oh, my fault, I forgot to put in the jalapenos. Mix, mix, mix, the beef now going from its purposefully undercooked pink (the essence of pho tai) to a perfect brown, made me ever more hungry.
OK, let’s try this again; left hand soup spoon, right hand chopsticks.
Chopsticks set down. Let’s try the broth alone.
Chopsticks back in hand. Let’s try the noodles.
Chopsticks down. Spoon down. Back to the spring rolls.
What was I missing. In all my phosperiences, delicious spring rolls all but guaranteed that a mighty bowl of pho was soon to follow.
Hold tight, hold tight, let’s go through the procedure from the top.
Jalapenos: Already covered that.
What could it be? One more mix and this was it, the moment of truth- time to taste again.
Spoon in left, chopsticks in right. Here we go.
New York, home of delicious foods from all over the world had left me bitterly dissaphointed. Well actually, I can eliminate the word ‘bitter’ as the pho had no flavor.
With my new NY law license, I knew the only course of action was to sue the restaurant for monetary damages.
Can I please speak to the manager?
This was not pho. This was fraud.