This semester I’m looking to delve into the East. Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indian — basically any cuisine that doesn’t involve foie gras, raviolis or hamburgers. Buford is swarming with raunchy hole in the walls, and I want to see what these joints are cooking. I run the risk of trifling stomach aches and awkward mishaps with non-English speakers, but at the end I hope to find diamonds in the rough.
brisket pho (pronounced like the beginning of fu**)
In my quest to discover the secrets of the Orient, I started with pho, Vietnam’s national treasure, at Pho Bac next to Penang. Maybe it’s because I can’t read or speak the language but Vietnamese menus have always challenged me, a roll-a-dex of variations upon variation of dishes which sound the same, have similar ingredients and fall under names which no dignified being would ever try to pronounce.
Searching for the best pho, or the best of any cuisine, calls for an inside man, at the least someone who grew up living and breathing the stuff. For that reason I went with my Vietnamese friend who ordered for the both of us. I asked him what just happened. He said he ordered the special. The special? I didn’t see any “special” on the menu or on a board.
But apparently these mysterious specials exist because in minutes our waiter was balancing two watermelon-sized bowls of soup and a plate of fresh basil, sprouts, cilantro and lemon. We added these into the soup, a squirt of hoisin, a squeeze of Sriracha.
My experience with pho is near non-existant. But with this single bowl I felt closer to it than any other creature on the planet. The deep, aromatic broth provoked the fondest of memories. The fresh herbs and slurpy vermicelli noodles washed away my concerns for school. $6.50. That’s the cost of warm winter memories by the fireplace. Before bracing the winter storm, a milky taro root bubble tea.
Ladies and gentlemen, I heart pho.
4897 Buford Hwy
Chamblee, GA 30341