By Marvin Nitta
Special to Frolic Hawaii
Marvin Nitta is the editor of the semi-popular junk food blog The Impulsive Buy (www.theimpulsivebuy.com) and co-host of the semi-popular junk food podcast The Nosh Show (www.thenoshshow.com). His favorite cereal is Lucky Charms, he thinks Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles is the greatest potato chip ever, and he would like to see Cookie ’n’ Cream Twix make a comeback. Join him as he tastes the latest local snacks on store shelves.
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7-Eleven’s Pho is the Best Pho You Can Get From A Convenience Store. Although, to be honest, it wins that made-up title because it’s probably the only pho you can get from a convenience store.
The bowl weighs in at a pound and a quarter, and, at first glance, it looks like there isn’t any broth. But the green strip that holds down the bowl’s lid assures everyone that no additional liquid is necessary. Heat it up in a microwave oven for two minutes and when it comes out, the clear broth will appear.
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The soup comes topped with red onions, green onions, limp basil leaves, and slices of beef. The meat isn’t served raw, like at restaurants, but offering cooked meat is the obvious choice because if there’s one thing that sounds sketchier than pho found at a convenience store it’s raw meat from a convenience store.
But 7-Eleven’s Pho isn’t sketchy. It’s surprisingly good for something that’s half the price of what you get in a restaurant. Although, the serving size is smaller and it doesn’t come with pho staples, like bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, and lime wedges.
The most important component of any pho is the broth and this one uses dried beef stock, beef fat, and fish sauce. They create a pleasant tasting soup that's flavorful enough that it doesn’t need any sauce. But if you like it spicy or want more flavor, you’ll have to add your own sriracha or whatever sauce you like to put in your pho.
I was afraid the thin rice noodles would come out overcooked after 120 seconds in the microwave, but they still have some chew to them. The onions add the only pleasing colors to the soup. The red ones also provide the crunchy texture that usually comes from bean sprouts. Both onions enhance the soup’s flavor and aromatics, but not as much as the sad-looking, but nice-smelling basil leaves.
Unfortunately, the beef tastes cheap and it’s my least favorite part of the soup (there’s also a chicken version). While fine cuts of meat aren't expected in a convenience store meal, it would’ve been nice if the slices didn’t have a few inedible sinew pieces.
7-Eleven’s Pho will never find itself on “Best of” lists like the convenient store’s Spam musubi. It’s not the best pho you’ll ever have, but for $4.59 and two minutes of waiting, it’s worth the price and your time, if you don’t have much of either.