December 25, 2006

All I Want for Christmas is a Good Bowl of Pho?

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwmcloda @ 1:11 am

A bowl of Vietnamese “pho”…. Beef Noodle Soup. I couldn’t have asked for better gift this bright-and-shiny Christmas morning. Just me and my pho.

The ritual of pho preparation is my anchor, a predictable and simple enjoyment to start my day. I love everything about it. Vietnamese is a mono-syllabic language, and ordering is easy: “pho bo, ca fe da“ are the magic words, and the only ones you need.  The girl in pajamas brings to the table a mound of herbs, a tray of condiments, a bowl of soup, an iced coffee and a cold wet towel.

Before the operation begins, you must disinfect the tools. The spoon and chopticks are wiped with square bits of grey paper. This doesn’t remove microscopic germs of course, but everyone is convinced that this works, so it doesn’t matter.

I like to jazz up the beef broth quite a bit. It’s really an artform because you never know the the saltyness of the nuoc mam – fish sauce – or the spicyness of the chili sauce. But with some experience you can learn the subtleties: the oily crushed chilis make an intense broth down to the last drop, while the fresh slices tend to localize and vary the hotness from bite to bite. I always put in a little bit of both because, you see, I like it hot through and through with a few firey bombshells thrown in for good measure.

Then I paint the top with a quick-brown-squirt of bean curd paste – more for color than for taste.

Squeeze in a quarter of lime then brush on top the steamed bean sprouts.

My favorite pho stall offers a little bonus compared to the others – they provide a jar of marinated garlic cloves. I use my chopsticks to fish out about four our five of these little treasures. 

Adding fresh herbs is the final step. This morning, my personal herb tray contains three varieties, but I don’t know their names. All I know is that each one tastes fantastic in its own special way – infused with tasty molecules that only God could have created. Use as many as you’d like in your pho, the girl in pajamas will bring more if you need.  

Mixing it all together with spoon and chopsticks is a joy. While the soup takes the herbs, the chilis take the soup and the pho becomes ONE – More than just the sum of it’s parts, it’s a now masterpiece.

The final step in the process is my savoury satisfaction in every single bite.

A bowl of pho may seem like a trivial thing to celebrate on this Christmas Day. But that’s the point.

It’s not about what’s under the tree this year. Gadgets go obsolete and playthings get old. Let’s enjoy a bowl of pho together and thank God that we already have all that we really need.

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