Raw bits of shaved beef, cooked in broth before your eyes. I first tasted Vietnamese phở in the 1980s. when my family and I came to the left coast from the Canadian prairies, though I learned about Vietnam's popular street food while reading about the country's culture and politics years before during the American War.
At its simplest, phở is a noodle soup made of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and either chicken or beef. Historically, people in the south of Vietnam ate it for breakfast and sometimes lunch, whereas those from the north tended to eat it anytime of the day. In Canada, phở is usually consumed for lunch, and often dinner too.
Along West 41st, in Kerrisdale, is a local favourite spot for phở, called Phở Tan. It's a small place and the decor, like many Vietnamese restaurants, is somewhat kitschy. Service is prompt and friendly. The usual Vietnamese dishes are available but it's the Phở Tai I come for, as do hundreds of others, and it's excellent.
Phở Tan is a small restaurant and during the prime lunch hours it fills up. Dishes come out quickly so wait times, inside by the door, or outside, are relatively brief.
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.