A blustery Paris day in March can feel colder than a frosty one in January. The days are brighter, the temperatures higher, but the wind is biting and persistent. What better way to warm up than with a big bowl of steaming beef noodle soup in the Vietnamese district of the 13th arrondissement?
The only sign of spring this Easter weekend in Paris is the bright yellow chickens and their chocolate eggs displayed in the windows of the chocolateries. The shelves of the patisseries groan with even more cakes, pastries and cookies than usual, as the French get ready to celebrate – as they do with every holiday – with food.
The sun teases with a brief appearance every now and again, just to remind us of how glorious it could be if it were to come out to stay. But while the thermometer refuses to budge, and the wind continues to bite, head to Pho 14 for a fill of fresh, hot Vietnamese food, guaranteed to bring the warmth back into your bones.
We had looked up where to go for tasty, cheap Vietnamese food in Paris. Google Maps lead us to a corner of the 13th arrondissement, packed with exactly the type of place we were looking for. But which one to choose? From experience, I know that these places can be a hit or a miss. The pho could be light and aromatic, or oily and sludgy-looking(one of the worst I’ve been to is the Hanoi Bike Shop in Glasgow which, for some reason is popular, but I found the food to be flavourless and bland). Aware of this, we did a bit of research and narrowed it down to two places based on the online reviews. L’Indochine promised the best ban xeo (fried prawn pancakes). Then there was Pho 14—top of the list of most food bloggers and pitched as the number one place for pho. Time Out warns that you need to look beyond the cheap furniture and grumpy faces of the waiters, but we received a warm welcome when we walked into the busy restaurant, packed with slurping diners. The menu has pictures, which is quite helpful as it’s difficult to figure out what the difference is between the various fried starters and soups.
We chose a plate of five pork spring rolls to share. They arrived hot from the fryer, deliciously crunchy and generously stuffed with the pork filling, along with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. Then, to follow, we had what we had come for, the famous pho soup. The fragrant broth concealed a liberal helping of rice noodles and thinly sliced beef. The herbs, beansprouts and spices come on the side so you can season it as you like it. Be careful with the Thai chilies. Two tiny slices are enough to give a nice heat to an entire bowl of soup, add a third and you have a real fiery kick. The beef was delicious dipped in the accompanying plummy sauce.
A large bowl of pho will set you back €8.50 and set you up for the day. We left Pho 14 feeling warm, satisfied and ready to face the wind once more.