Out of six meals in Ho Chi Minh City, two had me tucking into big bowls of Pho – rice noodles in beef broth has got to be the first thing most people think about when talking about Vietnamese cuisine. One was at Pho 24, a chain which sells tourists mediocre rice noodles. I had this out of convenience on the first day i arrived in Ho Chi Minh. The other was at Pho Hua at Pasteur Road which came highly recommended by my fellow foodie friends and colleagues.
Interior of Pho Hoa; Many more Vietnamese than tourists is always a good sign
I was lucky to be driven in comfort to the stall during lunch. I suspect though if you hopped onto any taxi and said to the driver Pho Hua (pronounced “Fer Hua”) and mimed eating noodles, they’ll get you there. In this heat, trust me, you don’t really want to trek the entire Pasteur Road to get to Pho Hoa. On the way, my Taiwanese colleague who has been filling me in on the HCMC’s culture, tells me the boss of Pho Hua “赚大钱了！搬去美国了!” – which essentially means the owner made it rich and moved to the USA. Impressive for a man who only has only two branches in Vietnam selling these huge steamy bowls of noodles.
Plates of puffs, doughsticks and other meats; Pay for what you eat
Being in HCMC is abit like stepping back in time a few decades. Save for the big LCD TV hanging high up on the wall acting like a CCTV for the second floor, entering Pho Hoa is no different. The stall is dimly lit, the floor is grimy and the posters kinda make me think of communist China. Above the TV hangs a huge taxidermy of a cow’s head. There are plates of puffs, doughsticks, meats wrapped in pandan leaves and bunches of semi-riped bananas at every table. My colleague got me to try one of the pandan packages containing what she called “ham”. It tasted pretty normal, abit like those white otah sticks of fishmeat in SG.
What my colleague called “ham”; it was a tad sourish
My colleague took the liberty of ordering the beef Pho complete with all sorts of cow’s innards for me. The steamy huge bowl came with a side of raw vegetables – saw-tooth corriander, beansprouts, mint leaves – and wedges of lime. I threw in loads of mint just cause I love it. I think the saw-tooth coriander might be a bit fibrous and tough but I threw some in nonetheless. I took a first sip of the broth and it was just full of goodness! It was light, clear and yet packed with flavor. I loved it! All the beef parts were tender and thinly sliced, though I mus say some bits were pretty fatty. There were also these semi-translucent crunchy bits which I’m guessing was beef stomach? Or ear? Mmm. The rice noodles were just slightly below the Italian al dente standard but I guess that’s just how some of us Asians like it.
Beef Pho with all the glorious innards
The bowl of noodles plus a fresh young coconut juice cost about 8USD, I think (my colleague treated!). Its not cheap by HCMC standards but it was a really huge bowl which I couldn’t finish. I did down most of the soup though! I’m not in a hurry to revisit Ho Chi Minh, but if I do, I would definitely head back to Pho Hua. None of the Phos in SG comes even close to this.
260 Pasteur Street (Duong Pasteur)
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)