Comfort me with pho on a rainy day

November 8, 2011

After a long day yesterday I was actually afraid that I might miss mushroom club. I can't even tell you how sad that would have made me. I don't even know that I could explain it to myself.

In any case, I did make it. Not only was it wonderful to be surrounded with good, smart people—talking about something that might help save the world—but I learned that next month's meeting is the annual potluck.

Afterwards, I was starving, not having had a chance to eat since lunch, which is fairly common among friends who work in the business of food.

My dear friend Cathy suggested we go to Tank—or more correctly, Phở Xe Tăng. Which could not have been any more perfect, on a cold, rainy night.

As it was late, we split an extra large bowl of their warming, fragrant pho—and quite frankly because you could lose yourself in the extra large bowl. Worse fates could be had. Cathy ordered the thinly sliced beef on the side, so we could dip à la hotpot, then dab into a waiting saucer of lime juice sequinned with salt and pepper.

We also knew we wanted the fresh spring rolls, a tender reminder of warm days past and yet to come. They're served with a creamy hoisin and peanut butter sauce, crowned with crunchy, crushed peanuts. To borrow from James Beard, I believe that if I ever had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there was enough of that hoisin peanut sauce around.

With fresh spring rolls, the Chinese in me demands its counterpart: fried spring rolls—served with a bright fish sauce dipping sauce, full of crisp daikon and carrot threads.

Once I was home, I read about the history of pho to lull myself to imminent sleep. Like a fairytale I'd forgotten, I remembered that pho was not only Vietnamese, but influenced by French and Chinese cuisines as well. That what I've only known of pho, here and in Paris, is a further evolution, changed by place and time, but forever and always a comfort.