I am (not at all) delighted to introduce a new posting category to my blog, because I have been living in Oxford for one month now and I cannot believe the swill they’re trying to pass off as Asian food here.
I have lost eight pounds (in weight) so far. I have lost over a hundred pounds (in money) trying to find something, anything, that my taste buds recognize as food.
The Sainsbury’s near my dorm is small; there were exactly three kinds of cup noodle available to me, none of which I recognized. It was my own fault for going shopping after the Asian market on Hythe Bridge Road had already closed for the night. I took the gamble out of sheer desperation.
I pretty much know from the get-go that this is going to be a disaster. Claims about “authentic Asian flavours?” Check. Orientalist mumbo-jumbo? Check. Super classy joke about suicide? Got that too!
But I’m dying for pho. The weather in Oxford is so dry that I’ve had a sore throat since the day I arrived. And I came here after having spent most of the last year in Seattle, where there is a pho restaurant on nearly every street.
So I put the kettle on, add my water, wait three minutes and…
Wait. WAIT. THOSE AREN’T EVEN PHO NOODLES. I’VE BEEN LIED TO.
It gets worse. The cup describes this mess as “a fresh tasting noodle dish with beef, soy, garlic and ginger.” I taste none of those things. The broth has exactly one flavor: water. I have to add soy sauce just to wake up my taste buds.
The egg noodles (why did they label this pho) are gummy; I can’t find the advertised beef. Despite the fact that I’ve stirred it thoroughly, all the seasoning has settled; it’s only when I reach the last inch and a half of the meal that I am punched in the mouth with an explosion of salt and mint.
INGREDIENTS: Egg Noodle (62%) (Wheat Flour, Pasteurised Egg, Salt, Colour Beta-Carotene), Sugar, Lactose, Red Pepper, Onion, Yeast Extract, Spring onion, Beef (1.8%), Sweetcorn, Wheat flour, Vegetable oil, Natural Flavour, Dried Soya Sauce (2%), Salt, Spices (Pepper, Ginger (0.4%), Cinnamon, Chilli), Mushroom, Garlic (0.7%), Coriander Leaf, Mint.
You know, I’m not an expert or anything, but just off the top of my head, here are some of the things that actually go into pho: rice noodles, bean sprouts, lime, a broth that actually tastes of something because it was made with some measure of care. None of those things actually made it into this cup.
Is it awful? Yes. Am I gonna finish it anyway? Yes, because I paid two pounds for this ticket on the express bus to Miserytown and I’m a broke scholarship student. But I am not buying it again.