There is something mysteriously seductive about pho (pronounced fuh) . The entire experience; seeking a good and preferably shady, non-English speaking establishment hopefully in a strip mall. The anticipation of waiting for your bowl of hot, soothing, spicy goodness being brought to your table. The first sip of the concentrated broth before you customize your pho to your specific taste. It’s a true, hands-on experience.
So what is pho? It’s a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà). The soup includes rice noodles (which are made from rice flour), and is often served with Asian basil, cilantro, thinly sliced green onion, lime, bean sprouts, and a spicy sliced pepper of varying varities depending upon where one is dinning. The great thing about pho is the dinner can totally customize their pho by adding unlimited combinations of the above ingredients which are brought on a side plate. In addition to that, there are usually spicy chili sauces, fish sauce, and hoisin sauce (think Chinese BBQ sauce) available as well. The dish dates back to the 1920s where the first restaurant opened in the city of Hanoi.
I’ve had many varieties of this dish all over the world, and have tried it at almost all the places in DC and Northern Virginia. In my opinion, the best pho in the DC area can be found at Pho Golden Cow in Falls Church, Virginia.
What makes it the best? For starters, it meets the first two qualifications of good ethnic (meaning non-American) food: it’s in a strip mall and is generally packed with patrons of Asian decent. Apart from that, the pho is absolutely amazing. The broth is rich, a perfect golden color, and based on the taste, it’s likely been brewing for three hundred years in a pot in the back. It’s perfectly concentrated with the right balance of salt and depth. I prefer the Phở Tái Gân which comes with rice noodles and thinly sliced round-eye steak with beef tendon (tubular, gelatinous connective tissue packed with intense beef flavor and great textural contrast). The side plate has the traditional basil, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and sliced jalapeno. I shred the herbs, squeeze the lime, grab a few sliced peppers, and add a hand full of bean sprouts at the beginning to soften them up in the hot broth. I then add Sriracha (spicy/sweet chili pepper sauce) and fish sauce. Stir and enjoy. Not to mention a large bowl at Pho Golden Cow is only about $7.00.
Trust me on this one, it’s most definitely worth the drive.
Where: Pho Golden Cow, 3537 S Jefferson St, Falls Church, VA. Website.