Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pho vs. Ramen: It's a noodz showdown!

Hi guys! Happy Saturday. We made it through the week!

Hopefully you missed me yesterday. I certainly felt a strange void going to bed without a post last night. I challenged myself to a post a day for the month of November, just to get a groove going. Last night, though, I was too busy stuffing my face with Vietnamese magic, better known as Pho. I gave you guys my Scandal night and I'm still recovering from that one. So, I had to be selfish last night. 

While I so delicately (and I use the term delicately very loosely) slurped my warm, brothy goodness, I was inspired. I hear people constantly comparing traditional Japanese Ramen to Vietnamese Pho, and since I promised not to be a downer anymore this week, I decided why not share my thoughts on the battling, brothy bowls instead of my emo twenty-something anxieties.

Alright, so first, let me give a brief description of each dish instead of just assuming that everyone is up on their Asian noodle knowledge.

** I am not ashamed to say that the definitions below are a little bit of me and a loooooota bit of our good girlfriend, Wikipedia. Thanks, Wiki girl! ;) **

Japanese Ramen: a noodle soup consisting of wheat noodles and served in a meat based broth (though sometimes a fish broth is used). Often times it is flavored with a soy sauce or miso and includes toppings like pork, dried seaweed, green onions and more. There are multiple variations based on region.

My Salt Ramen from last weekend from Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Hts., IL. YUM!
Vietnamese Pho: a noodle soup consisting of rice noodles (for my gluten intolerant friends), a broth, which I am going to assume is meat based. Served with toppings like basil, bean sprouts, jalapeños and more (I usually drown mine in Sriracha), and is usually served with varying types of beef, or chicken. Also a dish with many variations.

My Pho from last night from Pho Viet in Chicago, IL. Also, YUM!

I will admit, going into my Ramen experience already deciding that I was partial to Pho, was shocking because when I took my first sip and was immediately convinced that Ramen was my new favorite dish of all time, I was left bewildered and confused. In retrospect, I was ravenous having not eaten since about 7am and had recently completed a full workout. So, that was not a fair assessment. BUT, it was love at first sip with Ramen. When I first tried Pho, I was a tad skeptical. I am going to blame that on naiveté. I was a little too ambitious with my first order, getting any and all possible ingredients. SCARY STUFF, people. So as a little tip for you first time Pho-ers. Go easy if you have an aversion to interesting textures (tendon and tripe...not for Ness). I think its safe to start out with the flank steak, brisket, and meatballs, and then experiement a little more each time.

So back to the showdown at hand. After last night, I remembered why I love Pho so much, and it was actually a little difficult for me to choose which of these dishes I think is better. As far as taste goes, they are both outstanding! Rich in flavor, versatile in texture, and comforting like a nice bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup from your grandma's kitchen. So since those vague charactersitics were so similar I had to dig a little deeper. I am going to compare them using three categories which are most important to me: 


It is my non trained food critic opinion that Ramen is the prettier dish. It just is. Look at my picture. I mean, do you see the little white oval fish cake with the pink swirl that I am not even sure is a fish cake, but I am going to assume is a fish cake because that was in the description when I ordered and if it isn't a fish cake I ate something completely foreign?! I mean they even took the time to put all my beautifully thin cuts of pork on the same side of the bowl. So, I will definitely say that the Japanese are more concerned with the presentation of their noodle soup. While, Pho is still an attractive dish, partially because I know the amazing flavors that are to follow, and partially because of the greenery sprinkled throughout, it doesn't have a pink swirly, so it doesn't win this time. Sorry, Pho!


Without getting too pretentious and technical, because I am no health professional, I am going to go ahead and say that Pho wins this race. Ramen is definitely saltier than Pho. You can expect your rings to fit a liiiittle tighter on those fingers after housing a bowl of Ramen. The sodium intake is real, y'all. Ramen also has, from my experience, a thicker broth...dare I say it's a tad..creamy? (just decided the word creamy is not my favorite and I'll try to never use it again) But, we all know thicker broth means more calories. One of the hardest decisions of my life is when I have to choose the vegetable lentil soup over the cream of broccoli or baked potato soup. With Ramen though, it is by no means as creamy (ugh I used it in the same paragraph. I FAIL!) as those soups mentioned. I don't think the Japanese are heavy cream crazed like we Americans and you won't find heavy cream in this dish. So, EAT THE RAMEN. But yeah, Pho is lighter with a little more green, and you can opt for Chicken, while Ramen is more so "go pork, or go home".


Okay, see, this is where things get tricky for me and why I will never be able to live out my dream of being a judge on Iron Chef: America. If something tastes good, it's just good. Like, how can one amazing thing taste better than the other amazing thing. Let me tell you, both of these dishes are AMAZING. Ramen is rich, salty and comforting and Pho is rich, less salty and you guessed it...comforting. Man, I'm not very good at this....Pho is more filling for me, and I am going to give credit to the rice noodles for that one. Those babies expand in your stomach and you feel like you won't eat again until next week. The pork in the Ramen is delicious, but each bite leaves me feeling a little more guilty than the last because it's as fatty as can be. Like, you can see the fat. I feel a little less devious consuming my thin flank steak and sometimes chicken if I opt for the other white meat. I love the slightly thicker consistency of the Ramen broth, but it's definitely not something I could imagine myself eating more than once a week. Pho, though, hook me up to an IV and I am good Pho-evaaaa! The fun of chewing and slurping the noodles, mixed with the cool crunchiness of the bean sprouts, and the mysterious texture of the meatballs. It's a party in my mouth. Ramen, I love you....

But, I think Pho is my overall winner. I'm THAT girl who usually goes for the lighter option of any dish. So, while Pho being the less fattening of the two does make me feel great, It isn't my main reason for choosing it. I love how rich Pho is without being too heavy. I love that I feel comforted and like I could nurse a cold or dare I say...hangover (hangs head in shame). I would NEVER try Ramen on a hungover stomach. Too much going on, in my opinion. But yeah, before I get too caught up in rambling, and because I'm getting hungry writing this, I'm gonna wrap it up. Pho Pho-eva! Pho Pho-natic! I <3 Pho. PHO!

Try both! They are BOTH impeccable, adventurous dishes, and it is a disservice to you and your stomach to not experience them at least once. 

Leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite is!

Muah! Enjoy your weekend.

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