As some of you know, Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) is my favorite food. Pho reminds me of everything good in life: after-school lunches with Alesha Murko in high school, exploring New York City’s Chinatown, attempting in vain to get my brother and father to enjoy the Than Brothers (the kingpins of the Seattle Pho scene), and Gavin’s infamous allergic reactions to the deadly onions floating through the clear broth. Oh the memories…
Pho Ga in Saigon has been interesting to say the least. Initially, I was pleased by the abundance of white meat and fresh garnishes. The second time, I discovered the skin. The chicken skin that stays attached to the white meat, hanging on by fatty tendons. It looked like, well, boiled, flaccid chicken skin: tan, with small bumps where plumage had once sprung. It added a thick, greasy layer to the broth and tasted foul (no pun intended). One piece actually still had a bit of feather remaining in the follicles.
The last time I had Pho Ga, and finally swore it off, was nearly two weeks ago. We drove down to the Pham and decided to get a bite to eat before we headed to a bar. We chose a modern Pho restaurant with human-size chairs and I ordered my usual. When it came, I noticed how murky the broth was and how soggy the noodles were. The meat was all dark and some were still attached to shards of bone. The amazing amount of skin left an unusually dense fatty layer on top of the broth. Although I dressed my Pho to perfection with Hoisin sauce, chili pepper, bean sprouts and lime, it never quite tasted right. Then I felt it. Mid-bite, a sharp needle pierced my cheek. It was scratching into my gums, making me feel sicker by the second as I realized what it was. Finally I reached into my mouth and pulled it out - a talon. An entire chicken toenail had been residing in my mouth for god only knows how long, possibly through a large portion of my meal. Thank goodness I hadn’t swallowed it, as that would have required medical attention due to major internal bleeding and intestinal problems.
I took the claw out of my mouth silently, without alerting Gavin. I waited until after our meal was finished to tell Gavin of my mini panic-attack and my decision to swear off Pho Ga for the rest of my life.