As the weather gets colder, my desire for food that warms my belly heats up. And pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup, is delightful when the weather outside is frightful.
Truth be told, I have not always been the biggest Pho fan. Although I think I’m turning into one. After eating at Mai Pho, which opened on Edgewood Road SW in March, I understand now why the soup originated as a breakfast dish in Vietnam. Much like how we start to the day with oatmeal, with mixins that can make the meal bland or sweet depending on taste, pho can be doctored up to suite.
Pho starts with a flavorful broth made from simmering bones, marrow and meats for hours poured over noodles and meat. Delivered to your table in a big steamy bowl, the scents and flavors invade your nose. Then bean sprouts, basil, limes and often hot peppers served with the soup add layers of flavor.
The rich soup is refreshingly simple in its complexity of flavors. It’s not overly filling the way a hearty beef stew can be, and it doesn’t give you a heavy belly like chili. However, pho promises the same comforting satiation that grandma’s chicken noodle soup offers after an afternoon of sledding.
Mai Pho offers more than pho though. Before diving into its extensive menu of noodles, we decided to start simple with an order of spring rolls and crab rangoons, standard on menus of Asian fare. The crab rangoons were little pillows of fried creamy crab meat barely pinched closed. The fresh Vietnamese spring rolls proudly displayed three shrimp through the transparent rice paper and were stuffed with vermicelli noodles, a hint of mint and fresh vegetables.
Like many Asian restaurants, Mai Pho offers many vegetarian options like a lemon grass mix vegetable or tofu and vegetable stir fry. If you have extra time, another dish sure to warm you up is the hot pot. Sometimes called Chinese fondue, this dish is meant to be shared.
With all these choices, don’t let the name fool you. You never know, though, Mai Pho may turn you into a pho fan, too.
- Mai Pho
- 2315 Edgewood Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
- Details: Facebook.com/PhoMaiCr