A pho is like a warm hug - it's reassuring comfort food on a cold day and a hungover morning. With its mellow flavors, its aromatic broth, it is as soothing and curative as food can get. It is the noodle dish we think of when we think of Vietnamese cuisine. This weekend, on a particularly sunny and hot afternoon, I was introduced to Bun bo Hue at Salvation in Noodles and it was the complete opposite. It wasn't delicate or gentle or calming, it was a bowl of full-blown excitement.
The hot and spicy lemongrass soup had that thrilling heat that didn't dominate but merely complemented the astounding depth of flavors. It was a pork and beef based broth characterized by the distinct citrus-floral notes from the lemongrass, the hot chillies, the sharp lime juice, the sugar, the shrimp paste, and God knows what else. It was salty, sweet, sour and spicy all at once and it was like rave of flavors dancing on my taste buds. It covered tangles of perfectly cooked rice vermicelli that are still al dente instead of the much too prevalent overcooked mush you find in noodle soups. There were thinly sliced beef brisket and pork belly, wonderfully tender and soft. And there was an array of fresh herbs, crunchy beansprouts and crispy shallots generously piled on top. Every slurp was a rush of joy and it's amazingly apt on a hot sunny day as it's as fresh as it gets.
Whilst at the restaurant I also sampled some starters, of which the lamb chops are worth a mention -- charred and soaked with flavors from whatever brilliant secret marinade they use, I find that it's better on its own rather than with the cloyingly sweet dipping sauce it comes with. I don't remember what else I ate, the Bun bo Hue just stole the show. We're approaching summer, pho season is over, with an establishment in Dalston and one to soon open in Finsbury Park, Salvation in Noodles's spicy and wild alternative is incredibly addictive.
Salvation in Noodles
122 Balls Pond Road
020 7254 4534