Núi Vừa ý Phở
Mount Pleasant Pot-au-Phở
Western tweed scholars and irritating “foodie” epicures alike maintain that the etymology of Phở can be traced to the iconic, non-partisan, French dirty-water beef “pot-au-feu“. Low cost cartilaginous cuts of beef are slowly left to simmer on the corner of the stove for days on end, renewed with water, meat and vegetables as needed; a carnivorous proxy to a bread baker’s starter. The French, who have a sweet spot for beef and colonizing swampy parts of the world from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries, introduced pot-au-feu to the Vietnamese, in addition to goldfish, flip-flops (which they previously introduced to the Egyptian trailer park community in the 15th century BC), novelty prophylactics and Jerry Lewis.
The Vietnamese took a liking to the soup and French soldiers are alleged to have been heard crying “feu!” (fire) whilst pointing to the steaming bowls of broth and wood fire below -both allegories to the syphilitic burning in their sweaty, mischievous linen trousers. Scorching cases of crotch-rot sped up France’s exit from Indochina but they left the “feu” behind, both as a nourishing broth and cootie contaminated prostitutes and toilet seats, the later of which would be America’s downfall in both the Vietnam war and failure to popularize the STD sounding “Beenee Weenee” in the Eastern hemisphere.
As snow fell on Nation’s capital this week, short-ribs were simmering (after a proper blanching) with warm spices and vegetable aromatics. Lemongrass should have been in there, but I forgot to buy it and couldn’t be bothered to ride through the snow again. Forgot the fuckin’ lime too. Lemons would have to suffice. A spoonful of fermented chili paste, some of that squid brand fish sauce, some vinegar, vegetables glazed tender in olive oil (should have used the beef fat) with lemon zest and segments. Then some bánh phở (rice noodles), broccoli, the picked short-rib meat, scallions and “ăn ngon miệng nhé!”
A couple slurps of the broth and I thought “it’s not fantastic and it’s not like some homeless grandparents crapped in a bowl. It’s Alright.” Needed more of the beef fat for richness but the noodles were absolutely delicious, though they sucked up most of the broth. If you are going to drink a case of beer before something important to do and gym-mat-filling inspired injera is not readily available, eat a pack of rice noodles and you’ll be sober as a judge by lunchtime. A 2.0 version will be assembled shortly, with beef neck, the missing lemongrass, pretzels, marshmallow Fluff, herbs and more liquid.