When I'm feeling sorry for myself, I often seek comfort in a big bowl of soup. And for maximum solace, little beats Vietnamese pho, those meal-sized portions of aromatic broth, packed with noodles, veggies and meat.
I've long meant to stop in Me Lyng, where I knew behind a generically Asian, windowless exterior, was a Vietnamese kitchen. Actually, Me Lyng has an oddly bifurcated menu, split almost evenly between Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. The menu's text betrays that trendy Southeast Asian cuisine is still unfamiliar to many diners: Pho xao is enthusiastically described thusly, "If you like Chinese-style lo mein, this is even better"; spring rolls less helpfully ("an appetizer like no other"); and pho is, of course, "the most famous noodle entrée in Vietnam."
I need no further introduction, and ordered pho bo, or beef noodle soup. The soup arrived, quite curiously, with a side plate of steamed rice, and the requisite Vietnamese condiments of hoisin and chili sauces. (These are not kept at the table with the Chinese add-ins.) There was no accompanying lime, fresh herbs or bean sprouts, as one often gets with pho. (The menu promised an "abundant supply of home-grown Vietnamese vegetables" -- so perhaps it's the winter season?)
Nonetheless, I'm not one of those soup purists committed to a required list of ingredients. The beauty -- and some would say the purpose -- of soup is its endless variations and its ability to absorb a wide variety of ingredients. In my travels, I've had phos ranging from a mere broth with a few sad noodles to a stew-like, empty-the-fridge cornucopia.
Me Lyng's pho stuck to the basics -- a fragrant broth, diced green onions, strips of soft beef, a substantial amount of rice noodles and half a large white onion, loosely sliced. (This onion was too raw for me, even dining alone, and piled up on my untouched plate of rice.) But there was nothing wrong with the soup's fundamentals: It was well seasoned, piping hot and filling, providing the boost I needed.
My fortune cookie counseled: "A dose of adversity is often as needful as a dose of medicine." Indeed. Rejuvenated, I took the leftover rice and onions to-go. In these days of New Adversity, they can go in a soup.
213 W. Eighth Ave., West Homestead