I’m going to be perfectly honest with all of you for a brief second: my love affair with pho didn't really start until I was living abroad in Paris. I know: strange, right? One would think that in the lap of culinary luxury I would be swimming in buttery croissants and pains au chocolat, soaking in vichyssoise and eating steak et frites till they came out my ears. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to see it), French food was not my cup of tea.
Pho was the perfect remedy for those wet, frigid, bone chilling Parisian days when all you wanted was something to warm your heart and soul without burning a hole in your already meager bank account…which is by no means a small feat in the city of Lights.
I’ll spare the details of my obsession for the Pho Ga (chicken pho) and the Nems (crispy fried egg rolls) from Pho 14 for another time. I want to focus on a different pho…much closer to home, in a little restaurant off of Stockton Blvd. called HL Hot Pot (http://hlhotpot.com/). While their online menu shows only about half of their options, I can promise you that their in-house menu boasts a much wider array of dishes, including a very extensive list of pho varieties.
While the Pho-Ga is a personal favorite of mine, I opted for a beef option this time around, expanding my own culinary horizons while revisiting an old favorite: Pho Duoi Bo, Oxtail Pho. Different from the Pho Ga, the oxtail pho is made with the traditional broth: beef bones, onions, fish sauce, star anise, cloves and other spices. Throw in some noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, and you’re almost ready to go.
In true pho tradition, these glorious bowls of plenty (around $7.00 for a ‘small’ portion) are served with accompanying dishes of more add-ins with which to spice up your soup: sliced hot peppers, sliced yellow onion, cilantro, Thai basil, Hoisin sauce and the ever-important Sriracha.
Add in as much Sriracha, onions and peppers as you want (or don’t) to bring the broth up to your desired level of heat on the Scoville Scale (http://www.scovillescaleforpeppers.com/) and dive into this second edition of a hot pot of love. Only this time make sure to chew on the oxtail bones that are floating around in the broth as well: strong and beefy in flavor, chewy in texture an all around glorious. Lick off the marrowy, fatty goodness off your lips and don't be afraid to pick up the bowl slurp up the broth in a true gesture of contentment. Just try to not get it all over your shirt.
Maybe next time I’ll indulge y’all in some Parisian Style Pho…but go enjoy the stateside one first. You won’t be disappointed.