Fall is the perfect time to slow down and savor the last days of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s. Way out in Meridian Township, fields are turning yellow, farmers are pulling in the last of their harvests, and Pho 777 is serving up perfectly spiced Vietnamese soups to fortify diners against the coming cold.
I’ve been going to Pho 777 pretty regularly since I first stumbled upon it after a trip out to the Meridian Farmers Market last year. This November will be its first anniversary, and every time I dine in, the place is sparkling clean, with plenty of seating and friendly waitstaff.
As a suburban white woman, I first tried Vietnamese food in my early 20s. I can still remember when one of my friends said, “I just had this amazing thing! We have to go eat it right now. It’s indescribable, it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s called a banh mi.” He pronounced it “ban,” rhyming with “Ann.”
Although interested, I was initially skeptical about how good a baguette sandwich could really be. But as he watched me take that first fateful bite, and my face turned from shock to surprise, and then from delight to wonder, it was clear that I would become a lifelong lover of Vietnamese food.
Since then, I’ve been a very lazy connoisseur, and I am especially uncertain when it comes to meat. I mean, I trust enough to eat it. But this week, I’ve decided to talk tripe as we walk through my favorite pho (so far) in Greater Lansing.
It’s the first pho dish on the menu, aptly titled P1 or Pho 777 Special, promising beef bone broth with rice noodles, rare steak, brisket, Vietnamese beef meatballs, tripe and shank. All of the restaurant’s soups are served with a generous side of vegetables, including bean sprouts, cilantro, basil and peppers.
Most of the meats are easy to identify. The meatballs are not greasy, the rare steak is thinly sliced and ready to be submerged in hot broth, and those little white strings of tripe are floating around, just waiting to be chewed up. Beef tripe is the lining of a cow’s stomach. It doesn’t pack a punch of flavor, but it’s high in protein, low in calories and boasts plenty of vitamins like iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium. It’s also rich in vitamin B12. Only one caution: It’s high in cholesterol. Cultures around the world eat tripe, typically in spiced soups and stews, and it’s often combined with more zesty foods.
The ratio of meat, noodles and vegetables is especially important in pho, and Pho 777 provides generous, balanced servings of everything. Just a few bites of tripe will help nourish your soul — and your probable anemia — as we head into this colder season and the second year of a lovely local restaurant.
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