Phở #1

Beautiful beltway beef broth
By MC SLIM JB  |  January 17, 2008
insideBeefPha©JOELVEAK

The Vietnamese noodle soup phở is a cheap-eats wonder. An extra-large bowl is fresh, light, and healthy, and generally costs under $9. As I don’t have a Jewish grandmother to feed me chicken soup, I crave phở ga (chicken/rice-noodle soup) when I’m under the weather. I find it not only gently fills me up, but bestows a sense of well-being: it’s somehow spiritually as well as physically restorative.

Boston’s best phở joints are in Dorchester, Allston, and Chinatown, but Woburn can hold its head high thanks to Phở #1. This little storefront serves an outstanding phở dac biet (“special phở,” $6.25/small; $6.95/medium; $7.95/large) with thin slices of rare eye-round and well-done brisket, plus bits of intensely beefy tendon and meltingly tender tripe. Beef phở is nothing without a great broth, and Phở #1’s is the real deal: limpid, based on a deeply flavored stock of long-simmered marrow bones with a gentle note of star anise, poured boiling over linguine-width rice noodles. Traditional accompaniments include Thai basil, lime, and mung-bean sprouts; fiery condiments include sriracha pepper sauce and crushed dried chili in oil. Phở ga ($6.25/$6.95/$7.95) is less successful, perhaps taking a broth shortcut with soup base.

A long menu of Vietnamese and Thai dishes is also available, including creditable goi cuong ($3.95) — softened rice-paper wrappers encasing shredded lettuce, rice noodles, and basil, plus pork, shrimp, and/or tofu, with a peanut dipping sauce. Vietnamese iced coffee ($2.75) is memorably fierce: espresso-roast, steel-filtered, and barely sweetened with condensed milk. But when hungry or ailing in the northwestern suburbs, I’ll be most grateful for that comforting beef phở, the equal of any bowl in Boston.

Phở #1, located at 908 Main Street, in Woburn, is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 10 pm, and on Sunday, from 11 am to 9 pm. Call 781.932.4780.

  Topics: On The Cheap , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Ethnic Cuisines,  More more >
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