Finding pho

Seattle warms up with Vietnamese beef soup
Kimberly Brown Seely

"To this day, one of my favorite things for breakfast or lunch is a bowl of steaming pho at tiny Phò Bac restaurant in the International District," says renowned Seattle chef Tom Douglas. "I love the simplicity of it."

Pho (fuh), that fast, fresh, aromatic Vietnamese soup, makes an affordable and soothing meal any day of the year ― but especially now, when Northwest winters turn rainy and raw.

At Phò Bac, it comes in two sizes: small ($5) and large ($6). When you order, a generous bundle of steaming rice noodles is placed in a bowl. The noodles are topped by cuts of beef brisket, layers of thinly sliced fresh raw beef, and a handful of chopped bright green scallion. Just before the pho is served, steaming beef broth is ladled over the ingredients, cooking the rare beef.

Pho generally comes with crisp bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, and lime wedges, which you can add to the broth at whim. The sprouts give a touch of crunch and sweetness, the basil depth. Pho's variations are nearly infinite, giving dedicated diners all the more reason to eat it all the time.

INFO: Phò Bac ($; 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily; 1314 Jackson St.; 206/323-4387); Saigon Restaurant ($; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun; 1916 Pike Place, Ste. 17; 206/448-1089); Vietnam Restaurant ($; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 7040 15th Ave. N.W.; 206/783-4310)