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Spotlight: Goat or Sheep Pho The Lunar New Year?


February 19 marked the beginning of Lunar New Year, often mistakenly, or at least incompletely referred to as Chinese New Year. It’s the new year for the Chinese, but other Asian countries observe it as well.

This year is the year of the goat. Or the year of the sheep. It’s a little unclear, actually. It sort of alternates, which may explain why some restaurants that serve mutton, which most of us know as lamb, is really goat, which most of us know as goat.

Anyway, as I said, the Lunar New Year is observed by other Asian countires. The Vietnamese, for example. So if you want to join in the celebration to ring in the new year you have many more options.

Consider Saigon Noodle, a Vietnamese restaurant on the Eastern side of town. It’s a small, family operated restaurant with a welcoming and gracious staff. Like other Vietnamese restaurants, there is a large and potentially confusing menu of typical offerings from the various regions of Vietnam, including the phos of the North.

Don’t let the size of the menu befuddle you. Know that the base of all the soups is a hearty beef broth. The rest of the listings are just mathematical variations of the same basic ingredients. You’ve got your sliced rare eye round meat, flank, brisket, navel, tendon, tripe and meatballs. The meatballs are the very densely packed kind that won’t fall apart in the broth. I can’t attest to the variety of navel. The menu does not feature any goat or sheep, so there’s that.

Each soup is served with a plate of fresh bean sprouts; Asian basil, which is not as sweet as the Italian variety; jalapeno slices; and a wedge of lime. These are yours to add to the soup as you see fitting.

You’ll also find in the bowl plenty of big chewy noodles to slurp up. Be sure not to cut the noodles; that’s considered bad luck, especially during the Lunar New Year.

I enjoyed my pho of thinly sliced steak and meatballs. I also liked my appetizer of summer rolls, which had a bit of shredded pork and shrimp, visible through the translucent wrappers. Delicious with the thick peanut sauce.

Saigon Noodle is a good place to ring in the year of the goat. Or sheep.