Pho, pronounced “fuuh” is the national dish of Vietnam. It’s a highly-flavoured beef broth with noodles, garnished with a selection of fresh herbs and condiments. A typical pho is served with a platter containing slivered red chillis, fresh limes, onion, coriander and mint. The diner is also provided with a selection of condiments including nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce), soy bean paste, chilli sauce and white pepper. The idea is that the diner is able to adjust the dish according to their own taste. It’s usually a breakfast dish, but it is eaten at all hours of the day.


My first pho encounter was at a famous Saigon chain restaurant called Pho 24. It’s founders vision was to take street food indoors, offering diners a clean, air-conditioned environment to experience this great street food. We ordered two large bowls which comes with two types of beef: brisket and fillet, brisket offering lots more flavour and fillet practically melting into the soup. The beef is barely cooked, the chef dipping the meat into a ladle of hot broth, just before serving. This ensure the beef is still tender and slightly rare.


The star of the show is the dish of garnishes. Vietnamese red chillis are seriously hot! Vietnamese mint doesn’t taste like our common or garden mint; rather it tastes a little like liquorice. I exercised no restraint with my choice of garnishes. Everything went in; all the herbs and beansprouts pictured above, some chilli sauce and huge blob of soy bean paste. It was absolutely delicious, I’d recommend you visit Pho 24 if you find yourself in Saigon or Hanoi. Just be careful when you receive the bill; I ate here 3 times in two different cities and every time I ended up with ‘extras’ added to my bill. Not huge amounts, a dollar or two, but enough to irritate me. (I understand that most people in Vietnam earn very little money, but I’m the kind of tourist who’ll gladly tip if I see someone putting some effort into the service. Just don’t steal from me!)


I also visited a place called Pho 2000 near Ben Thanh market whose claim to fame is that they fed no less than Bill Clinton. It’s true, his photo (in fact, several!) is on the wall of the restaurant. The pho here is pretty good too, the broth is stronger and tastier, but the meat was tougher. Somehow this place felt a little more authentic than Pho 24. Nice friendly service.



2 Responses to “Pho”

  1. 1 Val April 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Conor
    I enjoyed your post about pho and thought for a minute I could get proper pho in Ireland, alas not so. I do make it myself but its nothing like the real thing, as you can see here
    I’ve been to Vietnam 4 times and I love it, what an alive country where you can still take your life in your hands as you cross the road to the ben than market, ah happiness, nice blog

  2. 2 Conor April 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Cheers for that Val! I spent about 3 weeks in Vietnam recently and practically lived off the stuff. I found it takes a while to get over the fact that you’re consuming chilli and fish sauce for breakfast, but once you do, it’s addictive. Nothing like pho to kick-start your system in the morning. It certainly beats a bowl of Shreddies…

    I’ve been meaning to pay Wagamama a visit (haven’t been there in a long time) to see how their “Chilli Beef Ramen” stands up to pho. On paper it looks pretty similar, but the flavour of the broth is so important to the pho. I’ll check out your link.

    Don’t get me start on the roads and the motorbikes! 🙂

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