Saturday, August 8, 2009

Train Phở

Across the street from the Ga Nha Trang (Nha Trang train station) is a row of food carts, bánh mi, nước mía, and then 3 phở carts. My favorite is the third, and in my pathetic terrible vietnamese I ask for, "Phở ga." Into a small plastic container go soft rice noodles, young onions sliced longways with most of their tops taken off, little rings of green onions, a squirt of plum sauce, a squirt of sweet chile, a bit of boiled chicken, bean sprouts, and finally, stock. My favorite part of the process is the stock ladeling, the lady swoops the ladel over the top of the steaming pot, scooting the fat, bits of bone and other stock making debris out of the way, then it is one and a half ladels of steaming stock turning the plastic container into a noodle swimming pool. The whole thing is packaged up in a plastic bag with a spoon and wooden chopsticks and back to the train station I run.

I would wager that until you have experienced the incredible-ness of Phở you haven't really experienced vietnam. Though my train phở is always enjoyable it doesn't hold a candle to my favorite the phở from Saigon.

My first night in Saigon I ate phở on a child-sized plastic stool at 2 in the morning. Knees near my ears, two of my passengers by my side, ripping basil off its stem and smothering the whole mess in sweet chile sauce, it is one of those perfect travel memories.
The nice thing about phở for me is that it is a comfort food. I used to go to the Phở lady up the road from my dorms after especially nasty cold rowing practices. My mom introduced me to the place and the lovely Vietnamese lady that ran it. She always gave my brother extra noodles and served us homemade yogurt at the end of the meal. It was where I first got hooked on lemon juice. It was a little slice of Vietnam before I even knew what that meant.

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