Phở Real came about during a 6-week jaunt in Europe in the middle of winter. It was minus-degrees cold and we were desperately seeking our comfort food – the sweet clear elixir phở. Unlucky for us, we weren’t in the proverbial Kansas anymore and it was frustratingly difficult to find a decent (or any) bowl of steaming hot Asian noodle soup as we moved from London to Reykavik, Paris, Berlin and Warsaw.
Back in Australia, phở is available in abundance especially close to our home suburb of West Melbourne, which is down the road from Footscray. Salivating at the thought, we decided there on a snowy street corner in Berlin as we were entering the first Vietnamese place we’d seen in weeks that whether its the easily found beef variety, the slightly less common chicken variety, or the harder to find but let’s not discount it vegetarian, we wanted to catalogue it all! We wanted to discover the best of the best, the classic bowl and those who like to side-step tradition, because nobody should miss out on a steaming bowl of phở!
Slurping the first nourishing noodles we’d had in weeks, we came up with a scale to benchmark all future phởs from that point on: 5 points for each criteria out of a total of 20 points.
Stock – how tasty is the stock? Is the flavour deep and rich? Is it clear and without impurities? Can you taste a hint of the bountiful spices: star anise, cardamom, clove etc? Does it stand up on its own or are condiments a necessity?
Inside – the quality of the cuts of meat, is there too much fat? For vegetarian phở what other ingredients are used? Tofu, mock meat etc. Besides the meat or meat replacements what else is there?
On the side – the garnishes. What comes with the phở? Bean sprouts, basil, mint, chilli? How fresh are they? Is the chilli hot or is it a placebo?
Extras – since some aspects of a great bowl of phở don’t warrant a category of their own, this is where single points are allocated for the following 5 things: noodles, condiments, ambience, tea (often served free) and the ‘will-we-be-back’ factor.
We’ll be posting regular reviews, so stay posted. We would also love to hear of new places or any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org