Monday, March 08, 2010

Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling

When I was a kid, the ultimate comfort food was Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. If I was sick, or on a cold rainy day – and we had a lot of those in Oregon – she made the soup, with a little milk. Later she introduced me to others – damn, Campbell’s made some good soup. Chicken and rice, split pea, cream of tomato, bean with bacon. Then I graduated to Lipton’s instant chicken noodle soup, which sounds like a step backward, but with an egg beaten in, we were getting closer to some real cooking. When I was in high school mom got more adventurous, making lentil soup from scratch, and black bean soup, and then I married an Italian, and learned about lentils and sausage, pasta e fagioli, ribollita, straciatella … moved to California, discovered menudo, and pozole, and tom ka gai … and, finally, pho.

With pho, we’re back where we started from. Meat and noodles in steaming clear broth. Add a few things I’ve come to love since I was a kid – fresh herbs, freshly squeezed lime, chiles. With a complex broth, a little fish sauce, meats of different textures – steak, flank, tripe – pho is just the greatest. We had a disastrous vacation in Vietnam a few years ago, but we ate some damn fine pho there, pho for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a rainy vacation (that was part of the disaster), but feeling sorry for myself in rainy, raw Nha Trang, pho was a comfort.

We do have cold raw days down here in San Diego, and Sunday was one, so we drove out to our new favorite pho joint, Pho Ca Dao, on El Cajon Boulevard. Years ago we hung out at a place whose name demonstrated the delicious culture clash of California – Pho El Cajon. But they’re gone now, and Pho Ca Dao is it.

Turns out my mom loves pho too. She goes to a pho joint on Sandy Boulevard in Portland, called Pho Oregon. They’ve got some culture clash up there, too, as it turns out.

Pho Ca Dao
5223 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92115