Thursday, April 23, 2009
There is a debate among foodistas over the authenticity of Portland's pho, the long-simmered, delicate yet intensely flavored soup of Vietnam. Usually served with vermicelli, rice or egg noodles in a large bowl, it can contain any combination of meat parts (flank, brisket, chicken, tripe, pork blood, you name it) and comes with a platter of seasonings meant to be incorporated in the soup.
Salad rolls (Goi Cuon).
But the key to great pho is the broth, and many a Vietnamese cook has staked his or her reputation on the quality and nuance of their particular version. Not being an aficionado of the preparation, all I know is that nothing tastes better when you've got a cold or just need warming up or, indeed, if you simply want an inexpensive solution for lunch or dinner. The combination of cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander pods, fennel seeds, star anise and cardamom wafts up from the bowl, and suddenly the universe feels like a calmer, more sensible place.
Our favorite used to be a place on Fremont, but, as often happens, when it changed hands the quality wasn't the same. Fortunately we were introduced to Pho Oregon on NE 82nd and it has become our default when we need a pho fix. I've also grown fond of some of their non-pho offerings, particularly the Bun Tom Thit Nurong or vermicelli noodles with char-grilled skewers of shrimp, pork and vegetable, a hearty combination of vegetables and meats that, when the little bowl of dressing is poured over it, becomes like a warm Asian pasta salad.
Curried Coconut Noodle Soup with Chicken (Bun Ga Ca Ri).
Something I'm going to order soon is the bowl of curried coconut milk soup with chicken called Bun Ga Ca Ri. I had a taste of it recently and the slightly sweet, milky broth that infused the vegetables and meat was heavenly. And if you can get your table-mates to share some of the saw-leaf herb called ngo gai that comes with their pho, you'll feel like singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
Details: Pho Oregon, 2518 NE 82nd Ave. Phone 503-262-8816.