Finally found some pho (pronounced fo by some and fuh by others) in Cleveland. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup that comes with any number of accompanying meats. A bowl of steaming pho is always accompanied by a plate of bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, and thinly sliced jalapenos. Diane, Concetta and I vetured to Pho Hoa located at 3030 Superior Avenue. The owner personally visits your table to ensure all is well and to encourage you to eat. He must be part Italian. I had chicken pho and it was pretty tasty. Slightly different than what I am used to but I truly enjoyed it. I did miss the small cream puff that comes with the usual condiments at my local pho joint.
Concetta had the lunch special: asparagus soup, mixed green salad with mango, and a pork bahn mi. Pho Hoa boasts the best bahn mi in Cleveland and has the framed proof on the wall (I’m still looking for all the competition but a vote is a vote). Bahn mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette stuffed with a wide variety of meats or tofu. Add to this julienned daikon, carrots, cucumber, jalapenos, a light schmear of spicy mayo and fresh sprigs of cilantro and you have a bahn mi. All for around $2 (in Seattle). The Pho Hoa bahn mi was tasty enough but I’m partial to the bahn mi in Seattle. For all I know this is simply a regional issue. Perhaps the owner of Pho Hoa is from a different part of Vietnam than the Vietnamese folks in the Little Saigon part of Seattle’s International District; just like New York style pizza is different than Chicago pizza is different than Cleveland pizza. Pizza didn’t originate in these places but each region has its signature style. The Cleveland bahn mi, more specifically the Pho Hoa bahn mi, came only in pork, is smaller, the baguette shaped more like a wide hot dog bun and is smooth on top. A little softer too. The meat was thinly sliced rather than the thicker, roasted or barbecued version of pork bahn mi in Seattle. A Seattle bahn mi baguette is shaped like a football, a little bigger, scored on top, and crunchier on the outside.
Diane had a cabbage salad with pork that was quite delicious. I’m looking for similar recipes online because I’d really love to make this dish at home. We all finished out the meal with bubble tea. Bubble Tea (also commonly known as 'boba tea', 'pearl tea', or some other words I can’t pronounce) first originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. Now it has become an international drink as its popularity continues to grow worldwide. You have to like tapioca, big pearls of it. Bubble tea usually starts with some degree of tea, some element of creaminess (milk, non-dairy creamer), a powdered flavor, chopped up fruit or other tasty bits depending on the flavor you’ve chosen, and something sweet – sugar, syrup, etc. Some places blend up the drink like a smoothie by adding crushed ice, some don’t. Most places offer a few dozen flavors. The tapioca pearls fall to the bottom of the cup and you suck them up through the extra wide straw. You can also get bubble tea from #1 Pho on the next block over from Pho Hoa. So who’s with me next time? We can all head downtown for Vietnamese food!
Thanks to bloggers Jen for her suggestions regarding Vietnamese food and to Mrs. Aitch at Cleveland Love Letter for her help. Visit Mrs. Aitch's blog for informative and informal food reviews of Cleveland grub.