Authentic Vietnamese soups and more
by Andrew Sprague
Some folks like to say that one of the most appealing aspects of living in a northern climate is the change in seasons. I’ve probably said it myself, maybe as recently as yesterday. And when people say it, most imagine the majesty of the fall, the beautiful change in colours, the relief from the summer’s heat, and sweaters. Some still imagine a cold, stormy night, a cozy fire, a hot alcoholic beverage, and a furry animal of some kind curled at your feet. I picture a hot summer day at the beach, a cold beer, body surfing, and my family playing around me. No one—not a soul—pictures three degrees in a cold north wind, on a mid April afternoon, in the drizzle, with your car stuck up to the axels in a rut halfway up your crappy, muddy driveway. No. That’s the one miserable season no one talks about. Spring on the Island! It’s good for very few things. One thing it is good for is pho.
There wasn’t much pho around for a very long time. Now there’s lots of pho and we stand to benefit. It’s a big bowl of Vietnamese soup, but it’s so much more. It’s a delicious, gut warming, hunger satisfying bowl of noodles, veggies, broth and meat, if meat’s your thing. It is just the thing to ease the misery of a cold, wet spring day. And according to a recent, unscientific poll, Pho Hung on Queen Street in Charlottetown is the best place to grab a bowl on the Island. For many, Pho Hung is home to their favourite meal.
My brother-in-law Brian and I popped in for lunch on a beautiful, 15 degree spring day. One of those days that make you just love the change in seasons we get in northern climates. I asked the waitress which of the eight phos on the menu was most popular and she figured it was P1 Pho Tai; rice noodles with medium rare beef. It just so happens that’s what Brian gets just about every time. He’s a regular and he was very surprised by how few people were in the restaurant. It must have been the weather.
Turned out the weather had absolutely no effect on the quality of the pho. For one, it’s a big bowl of soup and who doesn’t love a big bowl of soup? The ample scallions, onions and peppers added a nice snap to each bite. The beef was cooked perfectly and so tender you could take it apart with chopsticks. A typical pho broth is seasoned with fish sauce, onions, ginger, star anise, cloves and cinnamon among others. The cloves really stood out in this batch but not because it overpowered the dish. A milligram more cloves than you need can dominate, or even ruin a good meal, so I always appreciate tasting it in a pho without being overpowered. I also added a few good shots of sriracha to spice it up a little more. Simply put, it was an absolutely delicious meal and cheap to boot. Two beers, two phos, and a side of salad rolls came out to $32. That’s a good deal by any standard.
The quality and the price at Pho Hung have made it an Island favourite in a relatively short time. It’s a great spot for a meal no matter the weather.
—What is your favourite Island restaurant meal? Each month, Andrew Sprague heads out to eat based on your recommendation. Post it using #TryThisAndrew on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.