(PICTURE: Yes, that's sweat)
Yesterday Au bragged twice that her father was the best cook in Ho Chi Minh City. Upon hearing this every sensory cell in my body perked up and I demanded she invite me over to her house. Hien and Linh joked that to go over to a girl's house and eat with her family meant that you were going to get married to the girl. Well, that seemed like a small sacrifice to pay for the best food in all of 'Nam. That said, I got Ryan an invite too. I figured I could run faster than him in case Au's Dad demanded a wedding on the spot.
We made plans to eat this morning at 8am at Au's house. Well, last night I found out that we weren't exactly eating at Au's house--we were eating in front of Au's house at her Dad's pho stand. For those novice 'Namers out there I should explain something: Pho is the single biggest dish in Vietnam. It's a noodle soup that can be eaten for breakfast lunch or dinner. Pho is not taken lightly here so much so that it was one of the first vocab words we learned in our Vietnamese Language classes.
To localize it to New York, think about it this way: Say you're a foreigner and arrive in the city and after a few days you meet someone who tells you their Dad makes the greatest pizza in all of the five boroughs. Actually that wouldn't even begin to emphasize the seriousness of pho. You would also have to include all the hot dog vendors in New York. I think you get it, pho is no joke here.
Well, we showed up at the pho stand this morning and were greeted with a giant smile from Au's dad. However, I didn't come for the smile and handshake--I came to be fed. Within a minute bowls of steaming hot pho were placed down in front of us. I grabbed a pair of chopsticks and dug in. Before I came up for air, half my bowl was gone (and half the broth immediately evaporated through my skin and on to my t-shirt). The first words I said were, "Is it okay if I get a second bowl?" Au nodded yes and told her Dad to prepare another. Two minutes later a second bowl was placed in front of me. The pho stand assistant started to take my old bowl away but I quickly snatched it back; there was still some broth left in it. Once I downed the noodle scraps and left over broth, I dove head first into the second bowl. Four minutes later it joined the first bowl at the bottom of my gut.
I think you get the point: THE PHO WAS AMAZING. Yes, amazing (a vocab word I taught in my class today). It was so amazing that I'm writing a letter to Lonely Planet to put the stand in the next edition of the book. For doing this I asked one small favor from Au's Dad--a lifetime of free noodles.