There are some days that can only be cured by a bowl of soup, particularly one that is a step above instant chicken noodles. We happened to have one of those off days recently thanks to a sudden shift in the weather, but fortunately, we found ourselves within walking distance of Pho Bac, another Vietnamese restaurant that serves just what the doctor ordered.
Pho refers to a number of Vietnamese noodle soup recipes, usually made with a mix of rice noodles, meat, and an assortment of herbs. The restaurant Pho Bac serves up chicken, beef, and seafood soups, as well as variations such as pho with egg noodles, or with mixed seafood. Other dishes available here include salad noodles, and house specialties such as Vietnamese crepe and chao tom (shrimp on cane with rice wrapper).
Since Lee and I were feeling under the weather, we chose to have two different bowls of pho: mi ga or chicken pho with egg noodles, and bun ca or pho with fish and rice noodles. Both orders of pho were served with small dishes of bean sprouts and basil leaves that we could add to our soups according to our respective tastes. No other strong spices or condiments were necessary for our meal.
In my past experiences eating chicken pho, I have found that much of the flavour comes from the spices in the broth. However Pho Bac’s mi ga also derives its taste from the egg noodles themselves, which lend a certain heartiness to an otherwise mild dish. In contrast, the bun ca also features small cubes of tofu and a hint of chili, giving a little extra kick to the soup. These interesting soup dishes were not only tasty but also very filling. In fact I daresay that the pho in this restaurant is large enough to serve as an afternoon snack for two or three.
In some ways, food is medicine in itself, if only for its giving the body what it needs to boost its natural immune defences. And while pho is definitely not a cure-all, it does fit the bill for those ‘off’ days when a little warm soup is all that one needs to get back in fighting form. Fortunately Pho Bac is found at a number of locations, ready to serve the hungry, peckish, or peaky diner needing that extra bit of heartiness to get on.
The Food Score: 4/5. For some diners, the pho may be too mild in flavour; in fact we could hardly taste the spice in the bun ca. However on the whole, one definitely gets value for one’s money in this restaurant. This is where one can find comfort food without breaking the bank.
Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5. The particular branch we were at was rather cramped, and difficult for diners to move around in. However the staff was helpful and attentive, and the food was served as promptly as possible.
GERD Score: 4/5. Considering that even the globules of spice in the pho didn’t set me off that much, it’s definitely heartburn friendly to an extent. But it has to be said that considering the size of the pho itself, it’s not meant for a single person with GERD. Only upside to that is, more to share.
Epilepsy Score: 4/5. The trouble with soup in general is that one isn’t always sure what goes in the stock. So sensitive diners may need to pass on the pho, or at least inquire what ingredients were used. Herbs and spices may not agree with some people or interfere with their medications, so it’s also best to inquire about these before ordering.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. If one is looking for soul food on a bad day, this is worth a visit. After all, good food in itself is therapeutic, and a good bowl of pho from here fits the bill.