Pho Basil

I hate the cold. As this winter has reaffirmed the “North” in Northeastern University, I can’t help thinking that I could have gotten into a perfectly good school in Florida.

I ostensibly included this photo to show the exterior of Pho Basil on Mass Ave, but really it’s just an excuse to show how we all feel about Boston right now. Dirt-speckled snow is dotted with trash. A almost-submerged parking meter taunts frustrated drivers. Ah, winter 2015.

But since I can’t fly south or hibernate, I cope as best I can. My strategy is to zip my winter jacket all the way up to my nose, double the hood with a hat underneath, pull the hat down below my eyebrows to expose as little skin as possible, and hide what’s left of my face behind paparazzi-camouflaging sunglasses. When it’s all done I look like a bank robber executing a heist in the Arctic Circle.

So if you spot a puffy black object with a bright red nose walking down Huntington Avenue, it’s probably me. Heads-up: I’m probably grumpy because, winter.

…That is, unless you’ve caught me on the way to or from Pho Basil, a small Vietnamese and Thai restaurant located on Mass Ave in Berklee territory. Nothing cures winter like a bowl of steaming-hot pho.

The interior of Pho Basil.
The interior of Pho Basil.

I first tried Pho Basil a couple years ago when I arrived as a transfer student at Northeastern, after seeing it on the Boston Globe’s list of cheap eats. The location is a quick fifteen-minute walk from Northeastern’s campus.

Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is a Vietnamese noodle soup. Pho Basil offers nineteen (19!) varieties of pho. I haven’t worked my way through them all yet, but this winter is accelerating my pace.

My favorite option at Pho Basil is the tom yum noodle soup, a Thai-style hot-and-sour soup, and according to a waitress, one of the most popular pho options at the restaurant. I order it mildly spicy—I am curious but not adventurous—and this strikes a nice balance of heat for me.

Tom yum noodle soup: Thick udon noodles in a hot-and-sour broth tinged red from Thai chili paste, with shrimp, chicken, tomato, mushroom, scallion, cilantro, lime juice and Thai herbs. My favorite cure for winter, utilizing both spice and hot broth to warm you twice over. 
Pho Ga
Pho ga: chicken noodle soup! Bite-size shredded chicken pieces with thin rice noodles in a rich chicken broth, topped with onion and herbs, with a healthy heap of bean sprouts on the side.
Chan chua: Diner’s choice of chicken, shrimp, catfish or salmon—I opt for the catfish—in a sweet-and-sour tamarind broth with pineapple chunks, tomato, celery, bean sprout, and a side of white rice. While most pho on the menu are savory, this one is rather sweet.

Sometimes I switch it up from pho and order some other Thai noodle staples: pad Thai, and the spicy basil “drunken noodles.”

Pad Thai, the famous Thai dish with thin rice noodles with egg, scallions, bean sprout and chopped peanuts.
Pad kee mao, known as “drunken noodles.” Wide, flat rice noodles stir-fried with mixed vegetables and egg in a spicy basil sauce. Definitely the spiciest dish I’ve had at Pho Basil, but pleasantly, not overwhelming.

Usually I stick with ice water at restaurants to keep my dining costs low. Occasionally I splurge. I have a soft spot even in my winter-frozen heart for cool and creamy Thai bubble tea.

Thai iced tea: Thai black tea on ice, topped with half-and-half.
Behold, the Thai bubble tea (i.e. “Thai iced tea 2.0”). The tea is blended into an almost slushy consistency, with tapioca “bubbles” hiding at the bottom. Bubble tea is so much fun.
Jasmine limeade! I have to admit the jasmine flavor didn’t come through strong for me, but I still love the drink. Limeade > lemonade, amirite?

For the most part during this cold winter, I have opted to stay on Northeastern’s campus for my weekday lunches to avoid walking anywhere in the cold. But I have made regular exceptions for the walk to Pho Basil, which should tell you something about my commitment to the food and student-friendly prices.

INFORMATION as of March 2015

Website // Delivery via Foodler

Address & Phone
177A Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 262-5377

Pho Basil on Urbanspoon

One thought on “Pho Basil

  1. Dear TGWAB–Wow! Makes me want to move to Boston in spite of its “snirt” (dirty snow). Have a second bowl and think of me! M. Youngquist, Milwaukee

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