Eric and I had done the unusual -- gotten up early on a Sunday to see the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown, and were tired of standing on the sidewalk freezing our bums off. We decided to take refuge in one of my favorite restaurants -- Pho Pasteur -- and eat hot soup while the parade continued outside.
The waitress set off battery-powered firecrackers and everyone clapped. I sipped my tea and tried to brush my wind-bedraggled hair with my hands as we turned our attention to the menu.
It was not quite ten thirty yet, but we cataloged the numbers of the food we wanted, as all the names of the menu items at Pho Pasteur are written in Vietnamese, so if you do not speak Vietnamese it tends to be less confusing for everyone involved to just give the waiter the number of the menu item. We decided on Number 96 -- a stir fried version of tofu chowfoon that contained some of the nicest fried peppers I have ever eaten -- and Number 90 -- vegetable, vermicelli, and tofu curry soup.
I don't know how many people outside the Boston area know what chowfoon is. It was not sold in Northern Massachusetts, where I grew up, or Western Massachusetts, where Eric grew up, nor in any of the numerous Asian restaurants we have been to in Montreal, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, and London. Chowfoon is a stir fried dish containing large, thick, flat rice noodles that become gluey with depressing rapidity if the cook does not know what he or she is doing. The chef at Pho Pasteur knows what he (or she) is doing.
Number 90 was one of the best soups I've ever had. It was so spicy it cleared my sinuses, but the noodles stayed crisp and the tofu absorbed so much of the curry it became golden inside.
We entered Pho Pasteur freezing and bedraggled, we left warm and well fed. It may have not been typical breakfast food, but it was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had.