My first experience with a bowl of the Vietnamese master class soup pho — pronounced “fuh” — was at my first serious girlfriend’s house. Her family is Vietnamese, and I will never forget her mother chopping the bones for her beef stock, throwing in all sorts of exotic spices I couldn’t pronounce and then slaving over her stock for the next 12 hours. She was constantly skimming the top for impurities and adding spices. When I finally took that first bite of succulent ox tail, rice noodles and broth, I was immediately hooked on this soup.
Lucky for us University students, you don’t have to slave over your stove for 12 hours, date a Vietnamese girl or hop on a plane to Vietnam to enjoy one of the world’s most delicious and nutritious bowls of soup.
The new restaurant Moto Pho Co on Main Street makes their homemade pho from scratch daily — and they deliver. Because who wants to try to find parking on Main Street?
Now, what exactly is pho? Let me break it down for you.
Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish served in a large bowl with rice noodles at the bottom, broth made of various Vietnamese herbs and meat on top. The meats range from chicken to various beef cuts to pork meatballs. Don’t worry vegetarians — Moto Pho offers a vegetarian pho option as well, and saying it’s delicious would be an understatement.
Now here is where things start to get fun. Pho is the Optimus Prime of soups. Every bowl of soup can be transformed by the various sides that accompany it — whether it’s Thai basil, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, chili peppers, hoisin sauce or sriracha sauce, each addition lends the dish a new flavor. Pho not only tastes incredible by itself, but the hungry customer can transform his soup into something spicy with peppers or sriracha, add some tang with the lime or make it crunchy with the bean sprouts.
Experimentation yields the best results, and there is really no way to go wrong. I like my soup spicy, so I always go a little heavy-handed on the sriracha — the red chili paste in the big bottle with the rooster on it — and some Thai basil and bean sprouts.
Too many choices? If you’re overwhelmed, ask the staff — they are all experienced in the art of eating pho and will not steer you wrong.
My personal Moto Pho Co favorite is their ox tail. Not only does it bring me back to my first bowl of pho more than two years ago, but the succulent slow-cooked beef melts in your mouth. If you happen to be a little more health conscious, try the all white meat chicken options or the vegetarian option, which is packed full of delicious vegetables including baby bok choy, crimini, enoki and tofu.
There is definitely not a shortage of tasty appetizers to try either. A large bowl of edamame — soy beans — with sea salt, sesame oil and crispy shallots are readily available and brought out quickly. I’d also recommend trying their garden rolls, made with shrimp, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint and scallions, served with a peanut dipping sauce. Their rolls are light, healthy and quite tasty.
Converted from an old Star Hill auto repair shop, the restaurant sits on Main Street, about five minutes from central Grounds. With two large banquet tables, countertop seating and an outside patio, you are sure to be seated quickly and enjoy the bright, open atmosphere.
And, a huge, delicious bowl of soup tastes even sweeter when it’s less than $10. Pho bowls range from $7 to $9 and appetizers from $3 to $4. When everything is made with the care and attention that Moto Pho Co puts into their pho, that is one sweet deal.
Tyler’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.