Photos by Neena Strichart
by Vicki Paris Goodman
Say “fuh” (not “fo”) and you’ve pretty much got it.
Pho, the classic Vietnamese rice noodle soup, has really grown in popularity over the last few years. Today there are hundreds of restaurants in the southland that specialize in pho.
The soup has a clear broth, lean meat, noodles made of rice, and a “garnish plate” of fresh bean sprouts, basil leaves, sliced hot peppers and lime wedges. Use it all, along with some of the red hot sauce provided, and turn what could be a fairly bland meal-sized bowl of soup noodles into a comfort-food blending of complex flavors and satisfying textures. And it’s healthy, too!
Pho America is one of the more hospitable pho establishments in the area, with a clean and attractive interior décor, ample parking and a super-friendly service staff. The menu is also friendly– user-friendly– with life-saving English descriptions paired with item numbers, pictures and the pronunciation-defying Vietnamese names.
Sam and I ventured over to Pho America on a Friday evening. Wanting something simple and light for dinner, we had come to the right place. We started with crunchy Shrimp Spring Rolls ($3.75). Transparent rice skins are tightly wrapped around crispy shredded vegetables and butterflied shrimp. Sam dipped his spring roll, and I drenched mine, in the savory sweet sauce with chopped peanuts that accompanied the dish. Very good!
For his main course, Sam ordered pho with white-meat chicken strips. The regular-size bowl ($5.75) was plenty. I encouraged him to liberally “dump” the garnishes into the soup. He liked it. Hey, Sammy!
As usual, I went for the bun (pronounced “boohn”), another common offering on pho restaurant menus. Bun is served dry (no broth) and cold with vermicelli noodles, shredded cucumbers, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots and meat. I chose the bun with grilled shrimp ($7.50). I immediately poured the accompanying bowl of sweet fish sauce over the salad-like concoction, with its generous portion of nine shrimp, to get everything “marinating,” just the way I like it. So fresh, so light, so healthy, so tasty!
Pho America lists 29 different beverages on its menu, many of them with boba, the fun tapioca balls called “pearls,” that you slurp up through an extra-wide straw. Sam ordered the Thai iced tea-flavored boba drink ($3.15). It was excellent. I had lovely iced jasmine tea (only $1.25!).
To our delight, upon clearing our table, our waiter surprised us with complimentary desserts. They were dishes of a bright green mixture that tasted a little like rice pudding. The waiter described the confection as warm green beans with coconut milk and seaweed. It was unexpectedly delicious, and we both polished off every drop.
We enjoyed Pho America for its fresh ingredients, great sauces, excellent service and comfortable atmosphere. Next time we visit, I’d like to try one of the rice or pan-fried noodle dishes.
Pho America is located at 1826 Pacific Ave. (just north of PCH) in Long Beach. Open for lunch and dinner. Hours are 10am to 9pm daily. The restaurant offers dine-in, take-out and catering. Phone (562) 218-0204.