The Wall Street Journal newspaper in mid-October published a review of a foreign journalist about pho – a unique feature that cannot be ignored in Vietnamese culinary culture. The article is a meticulous review of the author about the taste of Pho (rice noodle soup) from the North to the South of Vietnam.
What is Pho?
This “monopoly” dish of Vietnam has very simple ingredients: just rice noodles with broth, few slices of meat (usually beef) on top, few slices of onion, vegetable, bean sprout, and few slices of lemon and chili. But Pho brings people a great flavor that is difficult to describe, as a result of elaborate and picky preparation.
The origin of Pho is a mystery, its name may have its origin in French “pot au feu” (Pho and “feu” both are pronounced “FUH”.) Another explanation, Pho broth came from Nam Dinh, or another assumption that Pho may come from China.
But regardless of where Pho comes from, “the spiritual home” of Pho is Hanoi. When the northern city was in the thick of the night or when the sun was shining brightly, many of the vendors roamed all the streets by their bicycles with countless baskets of garlic, chili or lemon. Hanoi people eat Pho all day, no matter whether morning, noon or night, the rice noodle shops are still full of smoke and people.
“Pho is a specialty of Hanoi,” as the Vietnamese writer Thach Lam wrote in the 1940s, and that special thing has not changed much from the old days. “It’s not the reason that only Hanoi has Pho, but because only in Hanoi Pho is delicious.”
Of course, in the south of the country, in the modern city of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) also have Pho, and Pho here has a lot of differences. I realized there was a fierce competition between two regions: North and South.
My fascination with Pho started in a very faraway place from Vietnam, Cambridge, Mass. Pho was introduced in the United States in late 1990, when the chef Didi Emmons opened the Pho Republique shop in Central Square. My dinner was so great that I asked for a part-time job in this restaurant’s kitchen.
3 most famous Pho restaurants in Hanoi
Pho “passed to many generations”: Pho Thin restaurant
This restaurant is located next to Hoan Kiem Lake, a place of peace, where countless Hanoians do exercise in the morning. This shop is quite small and dark; table was made of stainless steel dining, and wooden chairs. The soup has ginger smell, Pho get full absorption of flavor without crush. Formed in 1949, today, Pho Thin shop is run by the founder’s eldest son, maintaining a strict cooking recipe of the family.
Address: 61 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hanoi.
Perennial Pho: Pho Bat Dan restaurant
The highlight at this “many generations” shop is the dark brown soup which is heated in a large pot. This shop is always crowded with the long line of cars. Inside the shop, a chef with a skilled knife quickly put fillet into the bowl. Pho here is characterized by northern pho, with very little vegetables; instead of spices are chili sauce and garlic vinegar to emphasize the good taste of soup. Let’s come here early, as they only serve until 10 am.
Address: 49 Bat Dan Street, Hanoi.
Pho for those who like beef: Pho Vui restaurant
If all tables are full of guests, you can seat outside the sidewalk in the Old Quarter with white walls and stainless steel dining tables. The beef here is so great and fresh as it is in the butcher’s shop. The broth is very simple, pure and sweet.
Address: 25 Hang Giay, Hanoi
5 most famous Pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City
The most popular shop: Pho Le Restaurant
This is the long-lasting rice noodles shop with excellent quality formed in the China Town of District 5. The streets and sidewalks here are full of pedestrians, traders and traffic vehicle. The big beef clots are the highlight of this Pho shop which is known as one of the best Pho shop in Ho Chi Minh City.
Address: 413- 415 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
So full of Pho bowl: Pho Hoa Pasteur Restaurant
The architecture of this Pho shop looks like the style of the renaissance, and this is expanding day by day. Let’s try a special offer, a large bowl of rice noodle soup, cow stomach, beef tenderloin, and beef tendon. You can order more pork sausage wrapped with banana leaves. The soup is very good with bone marrow of cow. It is a big banquet just in a bowl of pho.
Address: 260C Pasteur, Ho Chi Minh City
“Pho for the President”: Pho 2000 Restaurant
This was a place where Bill Clinton stopped and enjoyed Vietnamese pho in 2000. Although seafood combined with pho is a weird thing, but it is a main dish here. This restaurant also serves a few dishes as in McDonald’s. Clinton enjoyed Pho here during his time in Vietnam to strengthen the reconciliation between Vietnam and America.
Address: 1-3 Phan Chu Trinh Street.
“Pho for drivers”: Pho Tau Bay Restaurant
The favorite Pho shop address for drivers is in District 10, rice noodle soup here is a combination of beef loin and stewed ribs. During peak hours, almost guest eat Pho in this shop. Every day, the shop consumes about 200 kg of beef.
Address: 433-435 Ly Thai To Street, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City
A new famous place: Pho Khong Ten Restaurant
At lunchtime, Pho Khong Ten shop in a university campus serves rice noodle soup with rare beef (raw beef is cooked with hot broth in the bowl). You can order the beef after 5 pm but do not stay long there because this area is rented by another store at that time. Pho here is better than many other shops. Alternatively, you can also order a glass of fresh sugarcane juice at nearby shop.
Address: 7 Nguyen Thai Binh, Ho Chi Minh City