Caucasian Asian: Pho 888

Sarah Margolin, Staff Writer

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The first time that I tried Pho (pronounced fuh) was in Boston at a restaurant called Pho Basil. Pho is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup. By the time we got to the restaurant, there was a line outside the door and into the street. After about 30 minutes we were seated at a small two-person table. The restaurant itself was not very large with rows of small tables crammed together.

Most Pho has a base of beef broth mixed with various spices and onions. The noodles are usually thin, white and chewy. For the meat on top, the most common seems to be thin slices of rare steak or small, seasoned meatballs. There are other various types of pho with different meat and vegetables, but beef is the most well-known.

The day after we got back to Iowa, I went for pho at Pho 888, a Vietnamese restaurant near downtown. The outside of the  restaurant may seem  rundown and it is not in the best neighborhood. The inside of the restaurant is more open and light from the large windows in the front. There are small and large tables in the scattered throughout the middle of the restaurant with rows of booths on the walls. The atmosphere of the restaurant though  is completely different from the quality of the food they serve.

At Pho 888 I tried the Pho Xe Lua. The bowl itself was huge and filled with steaming broth and noodles. The meat was thinly sliced and swimming around in the broth along with the green onions that were chopped on top.

The pho arrived extremely quickly, especially considering the fact that the restaurant had most of the tables filled. The portion size of all the bowls of Pho are huge, and well worth the price considering all of them are under $8.

They way that I learned to eat pho is to always add Sriracha and Hoisin sauce, mix using the chopsticks, and test the broth to see if more is needed. In my case, I add a dash of Sriracha and a squirt of Hoisin and a little goes a long way. On the side is usually a plate with bean sprouts and thai basil. I have yet to try the addition of the basil, but the people that I went out to eat with tear it up and add it to their pho. The bean sprouts add an extra crunch to the dish but pho is just fine without them.

Just like with Pho Basil, Pho 888 is pretty amazing.The broth itself isn’t too salty and has good depth from all the spices added, usually a mixture of coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The noodles are chewy and delicious, and the thin cuts of steak soak up all the flavor from the broth.

To end the meal, my friend and I ordered an avocado bubble tea ($2.99). The bubble tea that we ordered was the kind like a smoothie that has no tea actually in it, but still has the tapioca bubbles at the bottom. As weird as it sounds to have a sweet avocado smoothie, it really is good. There is a richness that is added as a result of the avocado, and because they have a mild flavor overall, with the addition of sugar, they are easily turned into something sweet.

All in all, I am very happy to have started to venture into Vietnamese cuisine. Before, I always pictured pho as a glorified chicken soup, now I know that is not the case. Pho itself is on a whole other level, and that is especially true with the pho at Pho 888.

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