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Know Your Noodles When it Comes to Asian Bowls of Goodness

Kara Kimbrough

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I’ve been open about my obsession with soup. I could easily eat soup every day of the week with one caveat: someone else would have to make it. As much as I love and in fact, do make soup quite often, it’s a time-consuming chore if done right. Boiling the liquid, braising the meat (if it’s meat-based), adding vegetables at just the right moment and then watching the stockpot to make sure hot bubbling liquid doesn’t boil over can’t be hastily done at the end of a long day. As a result, I’m always searching for restaurants with homemade (not shipped from a warehouse in a can) soups.

I’ll recommend a few places further down, but first, a new favorite soup that’s been around awhile but has only recently hit my radar is worth a mention. Originating in Vietnam, pho (pronounced fuh) is a light, flavorful soup composed of clear flavorful broth, thin slices of beef, a combination of spices and my favorite part, flat rice noodles. If nice noodles are hard to find, fettuccini, linguini and angel hair pasta are acceptable substitutions.

Pho (not to be confunsed with ramen bowls, which are made with bone broth, pork and wheat noodles) is a versatile soup that can be made with either beef or chicken for protein or omitted altogether for a vegetarian version. Despite its simplicity, pho is usually adorned with some type of greenery. Regular toppings are sprigs of cilantro, mint leaves, bean sprouts and slices of lemon or lime. Crispy wonton strips are my topping of choice.

The best thing about pho? It’s a light, “clean” soup; the perfect antidote if you’re suffering from any type of ailment or are simply in need of a healthy meal.

Pho is easy to make, but if you’re like someone else to do the cooking, a few restaurants around the state to enjoy it include:
* Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant in Flowood
* Pho Huong Vietnamese in Jackson
* Pho Saigon Vietnamese in Hattiesburg
* D’Iberville’s Henry’s Bakery and Cake
* Kim Long in Biloxi

If you recommend other pho places around the state, drop me an email and I’ll include them in a future column.

And, there are many restaurants around the state that still take the time to make their own soup, gumbo and chili. A few that come to mind, along with their specialties:
* Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi - gumbo
* The Strawberry Café in Madison – cream of crab soup
* Primos Café (Ridgeland, Madison and Flowood) - vegetable soup
* Harvey’s (Tupelo, Starkville and Columbus) - chili
* Snackbar in Oxford’s French onion soup
* Broma’s Deli in Brookhaven and McComb – homemade broccoli and cheese and spicy chili
* Scranton’s in Pascagoula – crab and loaded potato soups

If I’ve missed any that deserve a mention, let me know and I’ll include it down the road.

If you haven’t sampled pho and want to make it at home, email me and I’ll send an easy-to-make recipe. While it’s simple, the recipe is a little too lengthy to add here, so I’m including a new vegetable beef soup recipe given to me by a friend. With a spicier broth, it take plain ol’ vegetable to an entirely new level.

Spicy Vegetable Beef Soup
1 pound ground chuck (or leftover roast or steak slices)
1 medium onion, diced
1 (24-ounce) jar pasta sauce
1 can beef broth
1 cup water
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 potatoes, sliced and cubed (or 2 cups country-style hash browns)
1 package frozen mixed vegetables
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the beef and onion in a large nonstick skillet. When beef is no longer pink, drain off grease and transfer the beef/onion mixture to a 6-quart Crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and stir together. Cover and cook on low or 6 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

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