A Tasty Trip to Vietnam
10548 97 Street
Thursday, October 11. A 20 km/h wind howls out of the southeast. Windchill at noon: -8. The coldest day in Edmonton since April. A fitting occasion for phở gà, Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. So my companion and I braved the elements and walked a kilometre into the wind to Xu Hue, at 10548 97 St. We thought this was a new restaurant in the area (mistaking it for the old location of Padmanadi, where there is indeed a new pho restaurant), but has actually been open for around a year and a half.
When we entered through the outer door, we warmed up instantly. A Buddhist altar greeted us: lotus flowers, a cup of coffee, a glass of water, five beautiful fresh oranges, and a fruitcake, among other things, arranged with evident devotion and care.
A waiter promptly seated us and gave us a pot of hot jasmine tea. (“Like drinking flowers,” my companion remarked.) The waiter handed us each a menu so full of choices we’d have to come here twice a week for a year to try them all. Because of the e-coli issue, we were both leery of ordering beef. My companion decided to try the meatball pho anyway. I ordered chicken. The service was friendly and fast.
As it turns out, we needn’t have worried. The meatballs were so thoroughly processed that they could have been faux beef and we would not have been able to tell. Despite their heaviness and gel-like texture, the meatballs had a pleasant taste. (My companion gave me one to try.)
My chicken was a bit stringy but not tough. The noodles were tender and light, but filling. Both soups contained plenty of meat and noodles, and the servings were so big we could only eat half. The broths in both soups appeared to be the same, which we agreed was a good thing. The broths were smooth and flavourful, especially after we added a squeeze of lime, a handful of bean sprouts, and few licorice-like leaves which came with the meal.
We both wondered if the pho would taste as good on a hot summer’s day. Then we decided that since it’ll be cold for the next six months, we’d think about that another time.
We had both recently read Camilla Gibb’s The Beauty of Humanity Movement. Its main character spends his whole life making pho for the people of Hanoi. During the darkest times in that war-ravaged city, he scrounges in stagnant ponds for weeds and snails when he can’t buy supplies; he makes the city’s best pho out of nothing. Our lunch at Xu Hue took us back into the book. We felt as if we’d just visited Vietnam.
And, it only cost us $18.80, for two sit-down lunches and two leftover lunches to go.
We decided we would certainly come again to try some of other menu items, like the avocado and mango smoothies, which looked like they could each be meals by themselves.