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Pho Saigon is located at 1815 N. Martin Luther King Hwy. The location's contact number is 337-656-2531.

Pho Saigon is located at 1815 N. Martin Luther King Hwy. The location's contact number is 337-656-2531.

Pho Saigon latest chapter in Lake Area's growing Vietnamese food scene

Last Modified: Friday, November 07, 2014 4:12 PM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

In a perfect world, pho would be on the menu in every restaurant on the planet. I can imagine it. A picture of it would be sandwiched between Big Macs and double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s. Chili’s would offer it half-priced at lunch. Subway would package it with a $5 footlong and you could even get it with your pancakes at Ihop. That’s the world I want to live in — a world where everything is beautiful and right and the pho is never ending.

Then again, that’s my dream. It may not be yours. What I’m going to do in this food review is try to convince you to see pho the same way I do — as a super food that should eventually take over the world.

Pho is a Vietnamese creation that exists somewhere between a soup and a noodle dish. Normally served with fresh herbs and lean meats, the focus of the dish is its stock. It is aromatic, full-flavored and cooks have been known to take hours, even days crafting a full-bodied stock. Pho is a comfort food, for the most part, with the ability to turn rainy mornings into sunny afternoons. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but its tendency to turn frowns upside down is legitimate. In Vietnam, it isn’t unusual to see people starting their day with a bowl of pho and a cup of black coffee. Pho can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch or even a midnight snack, if prepared the right way.

Lake Charles may not have the biggest Vietnamese food scene in the world, but it definitely has one. And it’s growing. The newest place is Pho Saigon, located right off of Martin Luther King Highway. The building looks new. The dining area is spotless. And the kitchen is still being broken in. Then there’s the food. The life-changing, taste bud euphoria-inducing food. I went Tuesday afternoon to experience the kitchen’s masterpieces firsthand.

I ordered the Saigon Special Mix, or pho dae biet, from the beef noodle soup section of the menu. It came with the classic white noodles, beef flank, filet mignon, meatballs tendon and tripe. It was also served with bean sprouts, lime, basil, jalapenos and sircacha and hoisin sauce.

The flavors in pho are so complex that it’s hard to know where to start. Every thinly sliced shred of meat in the dish was deliciously uncomplicated. The complimentary items dressing the dish were fresh, flavorful and perfectly balanced. The star of the dish was the stock, which was rich, aromatic, spicy, sweet and sour all at the same time. The first couple of bites were almost jarring to my senses. It hit every taste bud I had, making the pho’s flavor profile a beautiful contradiction.

I also ordered the Saigon house fried rice, or com chien Saigon, which was made with white rice, pork meat, shrimp, chicken, dried carrots, diced peas, and a unique base sauce. The dish was light, fresh and almost as complicated flavor-wise as the pho. The vegetables added unique taste, solely because of how fresh they were. The house fried rice was $8.99 and the pho was $9.99, making the total around $20. It’s a solid price considering how Pho Saigon doesn’t go easy on the portion sizes.

So, have I convinced you of how great life could be with pho as the backbone of the culinary world? Imagine being at Taco Bell and being able to get a bowl of hot pho with that burrito. Or being able to pair it with that steak from Texas Roadhouse and a hot cup of black coffee. Too crazy, you say? Maybe you’re right. Well, let’s just start small. Go visit Pho Saigon soon and then we can have this conversation again. You’ll side with me next time around.

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