Phở = Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
aka my family's favorite comfort food.
No, we're not Vietnamese, or even Asian for that matter, but we certainly know a good thing when we see it. Or in this case, when we smell and taste it.
We're regulars at a local Salem Phở restaurant, where we basically fill up on soup and salad. Frank orders Phở (the soup), which always comes with bean sprouts, sliced limes, sliced jalapenos, and lots of fresh basil on the side.Rachel and I usually order Bún. Bún is a salad - with noodles under the lettuce. Sometimes the lettuce is blended with chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, or mint. The Bún is usually topped with grilled meat, egg rolls, pickled carrot/daikon radish, bean sprouts, and served with Nước mắm (a sweet fish sauce, used as salad dressing) on the side.
Yesterday we had an appointment up in Portland, and afterwards we zig-zagged across downtown looking for a place to have lunch. We argued over burgers, Greek gyros, Indian food, shopping mall food courts and Voodoo Doughnuts, then backtracked to our starting point to eat at a place called "Toast and Phở."
Weird name, but it turns out Phở is a traditional Vietnamese breakfast (can you imagine a big steaming bowl of beef soup for breakfast every morning? I love it, but no. I couldn't do that for breakfast.) In the mornings they serve traditional American breakfast, Bún and some rice dishes for lunch, and Phở all day long.
We walk in and inhale. Smells like Phở: rich beef broth, star anise, basil, grilled meat... Yum.
The lady (one of the owners?) walks up to us and asks, "Family of three?"
"Welcome home! Right this way..."
Welcome home? I've never heard of that greeting at a restaurant before.
A departing customer smiled at us and chuckled. He must have been surprised when he was welcomed home, too.
Welcome home. It stuck in my mind.
We looked at the menu out of habit, but were ready to order before we even parked the car.
"One Phở and two Bún please. Also two salad rolls and a pot of green tea please."
(Don't even get me started with the salad rolls. I don't have enough time to tell you how much we love them. Especially from Toast and Pho - where they lace the rolls with fresh basil AND fresh mint leaves. Holy moley. I will tell you about these amazing things another time - for now I'll just say that they're addicting. Rachel and I dream about them at night.)
She was absolutely right. As we dug into our favorite comfort foods, we were at home... in this new restaurant.