The Ba Bar Phở Report: Introducing Hand-cut Noodles

Pho Hanoi

The last time we reported on the state of the phở in Seattle, we presented our argument for spending $10 or more on a bowl soup. While a few folks still consider this idea controversial, we think the majority of people are on board with paying a little more for quality ingredients, and we now sell around 200 bowls a day. Funny enough, the point that caused the most stir in our previous report wasn’t the cost, but the admission that we do add a touch of MSG to the broth. No apologies.

Handcut Noodle

Cutting fresh rice noodles at Ba Bar.

But that’s old news! And we’re here to talk about what’s new for phở in 2016: For Ba Bar, it’s hand-cut noodles! That’s right, as of today, we will be using only fresh, hand-cut rice noodles instead of the usual dried stick noodles you normally find in phở. It’s a lot of extra labor for us to prepare these noodles, but it’s going to improve your soup in several different ways.

Cutting Noodles

Chef Kenny likes a big knife for the job.

First, the noodles themselves: The texture is velvety and the non-uniform cuts make for a much more interesting mouthfeel. (Yes, we said “mouthfeel”). They are softer, fresher, and tastier. Another huge benefit is to the broth: When you stick dried noodles into a soup, they will expand and leach starch into the broth causing dilution. This alters the flavor quite a bit. If you’ve ever left a half-eaten bowl of phở out on the counter and come back in an hour or so, you will see a sad mess of swollen noodles and much less broth. This doesn’t happen with fresh, hand-cut noodles. They are already cooked and they retain the same silky consistency throughout your meal. But best of all, they’re damn tasty! If you’ve enjoyed hand-cut pasta with your ragu in the past, there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy hand-cut rice noodles in your phở.

Compare Noodles

Eric compares the hand-cut noodles to dried noodles.

Stop by Ba Bar and try our hand-cut noodles with any of our standard phở offerings. And, if you like your soups a bit spicier, we highly recommend the Phở Hà Nội. We’ve been running this one as a special for some time now and it’s been very popular. In northern Vietnam there is a lack of fresh lime and spicy herbs, so Phở Hà Nội came about by using vinegar and pickled bird’s eye chiles instead—with fresh ginger chopped right into the beef. We garnish it with plenty of cilantro and bean sprouts, and serve it with a savory Chinese donut. Phở Hà Nội is lighter—but much spicier than traditional phở. If you like it hot, this one is for you. If you are spice adverse, you should probably stick to the regular phở, as we have no way to throttle the heat.

Pho Hanoi

Phở Hà Nội is spicy and delicious!

We have plans for more phở varieties in the coming months, so keep an eye out for the next installment of The Ba Bar Phở Report. Cheers!

Phở Tái Nạm

Ba Bar’s Phở Tái Nạm with fresh, hand-cut rice noodle.

Photography from Geoffrey Smith

Posted on Apr 13th, 2016 in Pho, Soup Rants

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