A few weeks ago one of my friends took me to try pho. I’d never had it before because I’ve struggled to find a vegetarian-friendly version. The piles of sprouts and rice noodles always seems to swim in a bowl of meat broth. I was telling her how in Vietnam you can order pho chay, essentially vegetarian pho. How I was thrilled to discover the keyword that would unlock my ability to find vegetarian dishes during my upcoming trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
Then she blew my mind. She always ordered vegetarian pho at her favorite place right down the street. Naturally, we had to go get it for lunch right then and I’ve been craving it ever since. I went back for lunch again last weekend.
Pho Nom Nom sits on the side of Rockville Pike across from Wintergreen Plaza. As the sign suggests they also serve Banh Mi (delicious Vietnamese sandwiches on French bread). The sandwiches weren’t listed on the menu but I saw others eating them, so they are an option.
There are only a few tables, but we had no problem grabbing a seat upon arrival. A server immediately took our order and set down a plate of toppings for the pho we ordered.
For appetizers, Karen, Zach and my sister ordered crispy rolls with chicken and I got the Gỏi Cuốn Chay, basically a fresh spring roll with tofu.
Before long, our steaming bowls arrived. The vegetarian pho comes with a vegetable broth, onions, broccoli, baby corn, carrots, rice noodles and big chunks of fried tofu. They are so big you could easily order a small and share if you get appetizers too.
Now comes the fun part, topping the soup. I tear off a ton of basil and stir it in, sprinkle a generous helping of sprouts on top and a squeeze of lime. For spice I like to add one slice of jalapeno and a few drops of sriracha. Once everything is piled on I stir it up.
Get the sprouts to the bottom so they can warm up a little bit. The easiest way to do this is to fish a pile of hot noodles from the bottom of the bowl to the top, pushing everything else down in the process.
There’s also fish sauce and chilies seated on every table if you want to add more flavor and spice.
This is the perfect lunch when your stomach is rumbling after a long hike, a supposed cure all for everything from stuffy noses to hangovers and hands down delicious.