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Don’t pho around


Photo: Mark Hancock

It can be soul-soothing to savor a big bowl of rich broth flecked with scallions and mounds of snow-white rice noodles. Meat choices abound with choices that range from brisket to tripe.

Load your bowl with crispy bean sprouts, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, rip some green basil and toss it it with some crunchy, raw jalapeño. It’s a delight for all five senses as well as for the belly.

Beef broth flavored with star anise, ginger, onion, coriander, fennel and clove is at the essence of most pho found here. It’s not uncommon for one shop to have 20 or more varieties based on different cuts of beef — and yes, that includes tendon.

The broth typically arrives tasting fairly conventional, but customers can customize it with saw-leaf herb and other side garnishments which are stirred in and allowed to steep a few minutes — it becomes Asian ambrosia.

Pho is basically the Vietnamese national dish dating back to the late 19th century. Recipes vary from region to region and among families.

Pho Lien Hoa, 901 NW 23rd St., is popular with large Vietnamese families, hipsters and the occasional fashionista wearing impossibly high heels and a leopard-print skirt.

Pho Cuong, 3016 N. Classen Blvd., is in a teal-colored building that is a favorite of informed pho connoisseurs throughout the metro.

This is the only place many will go for pho, and owner-operator Duy Tran succinctly explained why.

“Here, we make everything from scratch, and I’m the one actually doing the cooking,” he said. “It’s all family recipes customized a little for American culture. I’m here from the time we open until closing and then after everybody leaves until 2 or 3 in the morning.”

You can taste that dedication and love in every fragrant bowl of pho that comes out of Tran’s busy kitchen.

His secret for good pho is right there on the menu: “Long hours of simmering beef bones.”

Pho B&B Vietnamese Cuisine, 1615 S. I-35 Service Road, Moore, is known for the P5 bowl of pho with the most supremely tender brisket and flavorful garnish plate in the metro. Despite hip-hop playing on the sound system, it’s easy to imagine you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, not a strip mall next to a big box store.

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