Pho… Now, unlike cupcakes, this is one trend I am absolutely on board with and can see lasting quite some time. Pho itself of course has been around for a long time, but the number of Pho inspired restaurants that have popped up in cities all around the country has definitely increased in the last few years. Boasting names like 9021Pho, Pho Sure, and Pho is for Lovers (my old favorite spot to get the Dahlicious soup in Dallas), it’s hard to not be enticed by the playful and inviting titles. For those of you who have not had Pho, it is a traditional Vietnamese soup. I have mentioned before that I am a soup enthusiast through and through, but I will say that even from a very young age, Asian noodle soups have been at the absolute top of my list. Growing up my mom would take me occasionally to this food market, the Emeryville Public Market with all types of interesting stands, and despite my love of Indian food and Thai food, I always went to the same vendor serving up piping hot wonton soup in a HUGE bowl full of big thick rice noodles. This is one of those dishes that I haven’t had in years but can picture the taste of, as if I were eating it right now. YUM! But enough about noodle soups in general, let's break down this Pho thing. So Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup but can come with a few variations. The most typical and classic version of Pho includes incredibly hot flavorful broth full of scallions, rice noodles, little beef meatballs, and thinly sliced raw beef (the raw beef cooks instantly in the steaming broth). On the side, you are usually given a small plate piled high with sprouts, thai basil, and lime wedges (at my place in Dallas they also gave sliced jalapenos which I absolutely adored). When the soup comes I take in a big wiff of the savory aroma then go right for dumping in all of the toppings. I also tend to add a squeeze of Sriracha for a little extra heat.
Since moving from Dallas to Chicago, I have done about 84 million google searches on Pho places in my neighborhood and much to my dismay there seem to be none. Nevertheless I decided that Thursday night would be the night I made the trek a few neighborhoods just North of where I live in search of that special soup. I found a spot that looked fun and cute called Pho & I. The area it is in could be considered Lakeview/Boystown (which by the way I totally fell in love with the neighborhood and will be making many trips back now that I know how easy it is to hop on the Brown/Purple line to get there!). Anyways, I got to the El stop and walked the 6 or so blocks to Pho & I. When I sat down I looked at the menu even though I knew what I was there for, and noticed a little cucumber salad that also sparked my interest. I ended up ordering the cucumeber salad as well as a bowl of the Pho Ga. Pho Ga is Pho, but with cooked pulled chicken instead of beef. I do love both but on a warmer summer eve where soup is already questionable I decided to go with the slightly lighter option.
First the waitress brought me that side plate I mentioned before, piled high with all of the crunchy sprouts, juicy lime wedges, and pungent basil leaves to dump in my Pho.
|Sprouts, thai basil, lime|
|Sriracha, hoisin, etc|
Next came the salad. Half-moon serrated slices of cucumbers swimming in a clear, sweet and tangy dressing with shaved carrots and finely sliced red onion. It was a Dahlicious little side salad which I continued to eat along with the Pho for an occasional break from the heat of the soup.
|With the toppings!|
Now on a beautiful night with time to wander a new neighborhood, delightfully full of Pho, I just had to stop at a little ice cream shop and try what seemed to be a signature flavor, Merlot & Dark Chocolate Chip, atop a warm waffle cone.
|Merlot & Dark Choc Chip Ice Cream|