November 17, 2011

What the Phở?!

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life, but 5 months into our ridiculously long winters I am reduced to a whimpering, huddled mass next to the radiator.  Determined to toughen my spirit against the impending cold, I decided that I would develop a plan of attack to carry me through this frosty season. There’s nothing quite like having a belly full of hot phở to subdue our beastly Minnesota winter, and I am now fortunate enough to have at least a dozen Vietnamese restaurants just steps from my new digs on Eat Street.

What is Phở ?

Phở (pronounced “fuh”) is a traditional Vietnamese soup that consists mainly of broth, rice noodles and meat. The broth has been flavored with beef bones, star anise, cinnamon, charred onion and ginger, coriander, fennel, fish sauce and clove.  Served on the side of every bowl of phở are limes, Thai basil, bean sprouts, and peppers. Phở is then topped off with scallions, white onion and cilantro. There are a ton of variations of phở with different meats, but my personal favorite is phở tai: rare, thinly sliced beef with noodles. To ensure the beef is extra tender, I order it on the side and add it upon arrival so it doesn’t cook too much. (Rare meat-lovers: TRY THIS!)

The contenders

In order to decide where I’d spend my phở-filled afternoons, I tried four Vietnamese restaurants on Eat Street, all which claim to have the “Best Phở in town!” I chose to rate my phở on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “Blegh!”, 10 being “Inject it into my veins!”

Here’s the run-down:

Ph  79 – 2529 Nicollet Avenue 

I loved the mixture of thick and thin rice noodles, and the meat was phenomenal (or should I say….phở-nomenal?)  It had a nice sweet aroma, but the normally subtle anise and cinnamon flavors were a bit over-powering.  Overall, great soup – 7

Jasmine 26 – 8 East 26th Street 

Outstanding! I particularly loved this phở because of all of the cilantro flavor in each bite.  The noodles aren’t cooked too much so they have a firmer texture, which is a great juxtaposition in a brothy soup. The only downfall: I didn’t even get a hint of cinnamon or ginger, which would have taken this phở to the next level – 8.5

Quang Restaurant – 2719 Nicollet Avenue 

This is a fairly popular joint that I have heard nothing but good reviews about. Multiple people have told me that their phở is the best in the city.  I was thoroughly disappointed. The broth was bland and oily, and the meat was mediocre.  It didn’t live up to the hype – 5

Ph Tàu Bay – 2837 Nicollet Avenue 

This may be the best-kept secret in Minneapolis. It’s easy to miss, but so worth the search.  The broth is flavored perfectly with an amazing blend of meat, ginger and onions.  Each bite delivers a delicious, tender piece of meat intertwined in a bundle of rice noodles. I  this phở  – 9


Where should I try next?


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