Phở Xào Bò Beef Noodles – 171 of 365

Beef Noodles

I met my friend Sarah at the Highlands Coffee in my apartment tower to collaborate on a magazine article and hunger struck halfway through our project.  This chain found in Hanoi and Saigon offers Starbucks like beverages at half the cost along with a food menu combining western and Vietnamese tastes.  It’s like a quiet little slice of the US or Europe carved out of the surrounding chaos.

Trying to order the phở xào bò, or stir fry noodles and beef, only got me a vacant stare from the waitress.  Asking again hit another wall, and she finally offered, “Not for western man.”  She then swept her hand across the sandwich selections which did not interest me in the least.  Not for western man could mean many things here in Vietnam ranging from they are out of that particular food to I might not like it or she just did not want to be bothered.  Nonetheless, I pressed on and finally secured a vague “ok, ok, ok” that a bowl of it might arrive tableside.

Obviously truth in advertising is a vague concept for what finally plopped down before me  15 long minutes later in no way bore resemblance to the menu’s crystal clear description.  I had expected some broad rice noodles to take a spin in some heart clogging wok grease until their edges crisped up much like a frame holding in a silky smooth interior.  Strips of sweetly marinated beef and crisp vegetables add some depth along with sodium laden nuoc cham and gut wrenching hot sauce in a proper sidewalk creation, but Highland’s rendition is more along the lines of a mild bún thịt nướng.  Yes, I admit to impressing myself that I now know enough about the cuisine to detect a fake.  Maybe they can fool the average westerner dining inside the air conditioned comfort on couches and full size chairs, but not those of us who eat daily deep in the trenches with the locals.

Thin round vermicelli like noodles lacked any tell tale evidence they had made contact with a wok’s searing heat, and they rested coldly and clumped together.  Carrots and crushed peanuts were sprinkled on top of tough beef strips, and I sat there thinking what the hell is this mess as I bit into a grease soaked spring roll.  Aside from shoe leather beef, the taste was decent enough for me to suck down the entire helping.  I can’t say I will ever order the phở xào bò again, but I didn’t dislike it at all.   Maybe the waitress was right…This is “not for western man.”   Next time perhaps I will heed her advice to graze off the western side of the menu instead.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

3 Comments on “Phở Xào Bò Beef Noodles – 171 of 365”

  1. hotelnikkosaigon
    June 4, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    The photo is not Phở Xào Bò. Ít is Bún Thịt Nướng.

    • June 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Highlands Coffee calls this Pho Xao Bo when in reality it is Bun Thit Nuong. That is why I was surprised when I ordered it and this is what arrived. The photo reflects what they mistakenly call it and what was served.

      • June 22, 2012 at 1:29 am #

        From the photo, the meat doesn’t look like it’s been grilled but indeed stir fried. This dish is actually called bún thịt bò xào. It’s very similar to bún thịt nướng but instead of grilled meat (beef in this case), stir fried beef is used. This dish is more common in the home kitchen as stir frying is more convenient and less work (quick and easy) than grilling (putting meat on skewers then prepare the charcoal, etc.). The dish Phở Xào Bò is a complete different dish which involves in stir frying the phở noodle and beef (like Pad Thai).

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