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TLO Restaurant Review: Phő Cuòng

A couple of years ago, I nearly died due to a nasty bout with pneumonia.

When I was in the hospital, my normally long, beautiful tresses of raven-hued Native American hair got all mussed up in a tangled mess of rat king proportions. Unable to comb any of it out, I went in for my first haircut in a year or so. As I slithered into the barber’s chair and began my typical hairstylist rapport, the Vietnamese hairdresser began telling me all her secrets to never getting sick, from rubbing ginger slices on the tongue to kill germs to a special licorice root tea that helps open up the respiratory canals.

But, she told me in a hushed tone as her scissors whittled away lock after lock, that the number one remedy to not only get rid of a cold but to stave future ones off as well was to eat phő and plenty of it. Forget chicken noodle soup. Forget menudo. Forget whatever secret recipe your gran-gran’s got boiling in the stock pot. This trained beautician confided in me that the sure-fire cure-all is phő, at least two extra-large bowls a week, loaded to the brim with sprouts, basil and plenty of those capsaicin-filled peppers.


Since then, I’ve made sure that as soon as flu and cold season starts, I tithe a portion of my paycheck to Phő Cuòng, 3016 N Classen Blvd., wonderfully within walking distance of my house. Sure, other aspects of my health might have gone straight to Hell, but that angelic hairdresser was absolutely right in this regard: since medicating with extra-large bowls of this tantalizing Vietnamese noodle soup, I haven’t had a single sore throat, runny nose, or cold-like illness in two years.

This traditional Vietnamese dish, usually consisting of broth, bánh phở rice noodles and a wide selection of meats and vegetables—all depending on who the chef is and what his proclivities are—is so omnipresent the Metro that it’s impossible to live in especially the Northwest 23rd and Classen area of Oklahoma City and not have spent a sizable portion of your lifetime’s worth of lunches in one of Little Saigon’s phở eateries, each one with their own styles, methods and traits guaranteeing you’ll never get the same taste twice.

But, like I said, my adopted noodle house of choice is Phő Cuòng. Formerly a Long John Silver’s (if I remember correctly), this here joint has always been flavorfully made, fast to the table, frugally priced and, best of all, friendly with the portions. For about $10 you can get a full meal that’ll keep your motor charged well into the evening, especially when it’s needed most as the temps start to drop and your body starts to vapor-lock on you.


While most of the time I like to cut out the foreplay and just dig right in on my usual order, sometimes when I get that feeling and I need some appetizery healing, I absolutely adore munching on their bánh cam ($2.99), these sweet-ish sesame balls filled with red bean paste that I wantonly down like healthier (?) versions of Dunkin’ Munchkins, liberal dips of Sriracha to taste for good measure.

On the coldest of winter days you can’t do better than a scalding large pot of hot tea ($2.00), but one of their specialty drinks I can’t get enough of is the soda sữa hột gà, or egg milk soda ($3.29), with it’s refreshing soda texture mingling with a creamy, milky taste that kind of reminds me those Ramos gin fizz guzzles, if they were endorsed by the American dairy board. It’s an acquired taste that pairs nicely with a fresh bowl of phở, but one I’ve locked down on for a long time now and would like to combine with a horchata someday. Someday…


My usual order is the extra-large bowl—and yes, these bowls are comically huge—Phő Tái, Chín, Gầu, Gân, Sách ($8.99) which is the noodle soup with eye round steak, lean brisket, fat brisket, tendon and tripe because papa needs his stomach linings. In addition to the soup, if they don’t bring it to the table when your order arrives, make sure to request a plate of crunchy bean sprouts, aromatic basil, useless limes and erotically taut jalapeño peppers to truly create a feast, even if it’s just by yourself. Which it usually is. Because no one loves me. And I should’ve died alone on that pneumonia-riddled hospital bed.


Variety is the…how you say…spice of life and sometimes I like to switch it up a bit and try a few other items on the menu—one of my most recent favorites was off their selection of decidedly unsoupy rice vermicelli bowls, the absolutely decadent Bánh Tằm Bì Thịt Nướng ($8.49), featuring tender shredded pork skins and sliced grilled pork with creamy coconut syrup and savory sauce over said vermicelli mingling delightfully with the aforementioned bean sprouts and garden-fresh chopped green lettuce, topped with a tongue-massaging mélange of flavors including peanuts, cilantro, green onions, fried shallots, pickled carrot and diakon strings.

Look: I’m not a doctor. And, to be honest, I don’t think the woman shearing my matted coif at Supercuts was either. But, you know, sometimes in this cray-cray world, the best words of medical advice are the ones passed down from mother to child, master to apprentice or hairstylist to guy with a coupon for a free shampoo.

So, I guess now it’s my turn: an extra-large, decidedly healthy bowl of phở (or a deliciously similar menu item of equal or lesser value) a week might, just might, get you through this season without cough and cold and, if your name is Louis Fowler, life-threatening pneumonia. Give it to your children, give it to your grandparents, give it to yourself. Maybe throw in a few extra peppers, just in case, while you’re at it, son. ¡Cómpralo Ya!


Louis Fowler recently got his mother to try phở. It's kind of a personal achievement for him. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.

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