Four Great Pho Joints in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
There are few Asian foods with identities as closely tied to their home country than Pho, the Vietnamese national dish made with rice noodles, meat, and broth seasoned with various types of herbs and spices. Not bad for a dish that only originated in the early 20th century. The dish has gone through various iterations since then, and is now available on every street corner in every village in the country. Which, obviously, is great news.
The first thing to keep in mind is that westerners have butchered the name – it’s no pronounced fow but actually fuhh. Remember that – if one can’t even make an honest attempt at the name of a dish, they’re forbidden from eating it (Smiling Albino rule #28).
While wandering around HCMC looking at temples and drinking strong coffee, we’ve sampled all types of pho, from crowded restaurants to single-chef food stalls. Most of the time it’s simply about the noodles, but there are other things to consider – atmosphere, crowd, and overall look of the place, too. So while no two tastes, moods, days, or personal tastes are ever alike, here are four places you’ll never have to work hard to convince us to go back to.
413-414 Nguyen Trai Street P.7,Q5
One of the more popular places in the city to pull up a stool, the giant neon sign over the door doesn’t just say Pho Le, it screams PHO LE! You know you’ve found a good place, too, when the crowd oozes out on the sidewalk and even into the street. Many of the ingredients are made by hand, and it’s what keeps people coming back for more, locals and tourists alike.
323 Pham Ngu Lao
There are a few locations of this Saigon mainstay, but we love the (very) bright yellow building just across from Pham Ngu Lao Park. Cheap and known for its large portion sizes and long open hours, the decor isn’t much but the food is pretty awesome. Load your pho up with veggies too, like fresh basil and lots of bean sprouts, to bring out the taste. We usually finish things off with banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich using French bread), which are also really good.
Ben Thanh Market
Bến Thành, Quận 1
One of the city’s biggest and most popular markets is, no surprise, a great place to try some local food. Talented chefs whip up thousands of bowls of pho every day to feed hungry shoppers, and as it’s a tourist hotspot, many of the menus are in English. There are a lot of dishes to choose from – some of them largely unknown to tourists – but stick with the pho and you can’t go wrong.
Phở Thanh Bình
18B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
Just a few blocks away from the Saigon Zoo, this is the place we head to when we want some upscale noodles. Hefty portions and really tender beef make every trip worthwhile, not to mention piles of veggies for garnish and some great side dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Prices here are more expensive than almost anywhere else, and if you asked them why they’d likely say it was because their noodles are the best in Vietnam. But, there’s an (unsubstantiated) rumor that if you get sick from eating here, they’ll pay your medical bills. It’s hard to argue with that.
Vietnam: North, South and the Middle