Ten years ago while ordering a large hot and sour soup, I noticed the manager was eating a really tasty looking soup with noodles, sliced meat and vegetables and said, "I want what she's having."
"Oh no, we can't do that because it's not on the menu. That's something we do just for our staff." The soup was Pho Dac Biet and I soon learned how rare it was in Huntsville. Until Saigon opened, you had to have friends to find Pho in Huntsville.
Pho is a beef soup with rice-noodles, celantro, chives, and a side dish of fresh bean sprouts, basil, jalepano slices, and lime. The soup needs nothing; the magic of Pho is achieved by adding only as much of the side dish as needed. If you are new to Pho, take a small taste of everything and add what you want:
There are a dozen different Pho styles with different mixes of meats. The meats are thinly sliced, soup cuts with a lot of flavor that work great in Pho. By the way, Pho can be eaten with chopsticks but it is something first tried wearing a shirt that hides food stains:
The Vietnamese also enjoy iced coffee which like Pho, is a do-it-yourself beverage completed at the table. It comes in a short glass often seeping the coffee over a layer of sweetened condensed milk and a glass of ice. The coffee is mixed with the milk and poured over the ice making something like a coffee shake but not as sweet.
An engineer, I like do-it-yourself and Pho and iced coffee lets me tinker at the table to my hearts delight. It tastes good too.