By Nicole Na
The Vietnamese dish pho (pronounced “fuh”) is more than just soup. With its intensely aromatic broth, rafts of chewy rice noodles, tender cuts of meat and mounds of greenery, pho is an inexpensive, filling meal in a bowl.
The Vietnamese restaurants closest to campus tend to serve up insipid and salty versions of the soup. Upon a friend’s suggestion, I journeyed out to Super Pho on Lancaster Drive to find a better bowl of noodles and satisfy that ever-present pho craving.
Located in a pothole-ridden strip mall, Super Pho’s tiled floors, bright lighting and condiment-laden booths make it more welcoming than other hole-in-the-wall and mom-and-pop cousins. Like many other pho eateries, the aroma of pho permeates the air – and will permeate your clothes by the end of the night.
One wall is dominated by a bamboo tiki-esque bar, which serves up decent, if not fabulous, bubble tea/boba ($3.95). Pick from 30 flavors and receive a sweet and filling drink laced with chewy tapioca balls and sealed by an anime character-emblazoned lid.
Super Pho’s list of entrees is extensive and maybe a little intimidating, with almost every combination of meat, noodles and rice imaginable (and a separate vegetarian menu, for herbivorous patrons).
My dining companions and I were here for the pho, though, and ordered two bowls of beef pho ($6.95 each). I went the extra-adventurous route and asked for meatballs, flank, fatty brisket, tendon and tripe, because life is made better by the occasional serving of cow stomach lining. I also ordered grilled pork salad rolls ($3.95) for good measure.
The rolls’ vermicelli filling made them nicely spongy, while lettuce provided crunch and balanced the flavorful, salty pork. These were especially tasty doused in the included peanut sauce.
Our pho itself was deeply savory and perfumed by spices, with subtle coriander, cinnamon, clove and cardamom taking a backseat to the strong star anise flavor present. The array of proteins was diverse – tender brisket, gelatinous tendon and snappy tripe were all cooked nicely. The addition of hoisin and Sriracha sauces and accompanying pile of basil and bean sprouts made for a parade of unique and satisfying spoonfuls. A hefty helping of noodles ensured that my stomach was filled to capacity.
My only quibbles were the disconcertingly rubbery meatballs and the overwhelming allotment of onions.
We wrapped up dinner with a triple order of bubble tea, which we happily slurped on our way home.
I like to think of pho as the ultimate college student’s food. It’s cheap, delicious, filling and will likely leave you with plenty of leftovers best enjoyed on a groggy weekend morning. If that appeals to you, and you have access to a car, make the 10-minute drive over to Super Pho.
Great Asian food is hard to come by in Salem, and great pho even harder, but Super Pho can definitely satisfy your Vietnamese-inclined gastronomic needs.