My love for Phở (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) was rooted during my years in Boston, those days I used to frequent Phở Pasteur in Allston, Massachusetts. Believe it or not, there are some really amazing phở restaurants in the US opened by Vietnamese immigrants, however, I always dreamed to try an authentic phở in Vietnam, and that’s exactly what I did when I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon).
After some research and verifying (annoyingly) with locals on the streets and in the hotel, I decided to give Phở Hòa on Pasteur Street a try. As my taxi approached the restaurant, my heartbeat intensified with excitement. We were dropped off in front of Phở Hòa, what appeared to be a typical local noodle joint, slightly upgraded from a hole in the wall (don’t expect any nice decor or service) everything inside was very basic. As we stepped inside the restaurant, everyone looked at us as if we were some alien life-form. While we stood there like lost children in the middle of a dinning room, a waiter hustled us across the room and pointed upstairs. It turns out the restaurant has two floors and they were equally as busy.
We found a big round table with two open seats and squeezed in. Eye contact was exchanged across the table, friendly but guarded. I quickly examined what everyone was eating and order the phở with thinly sliced beef, meatballs, beef flank, brisket and tendon. (Basically the works!)
It didn’t take too long for my phở to arrive. I had to hold back my animal instinct to dive into this beautiful bowl of noodles, because you must put in the extra garnish to make the dish that much better. Every table was served with a big plate filled with fresh basil, sawtooth coriander (it tastes like cilantro), bean sprouts, lime, chili, hoisin (sweet) and chili (Sriracha-like) sauce. I added a bit of everything but with extra basil and chili sauce, and finally I took my first big slurp.
The rice noodle was smooth and not overly soft. The beef broth was delicious. It was lighter than the ones I am used to having in the USA, it’s less salty with less MSG (for sure), but still very flavorful. I usually don’t drink the soup in a noodle soup completely unless it is homemade, but this time I couldn’t help but chug this soup. The combination of sweet, spicy and sour along with the flavors of the meat, herbs and vegetables was wonderful!! It was a mash up of different flavors fighting to be noticed on your taste buds and it kept me wanting more, and that is what I did; I went back to Phở Hòa again the night after.
Note: There are a few Phở Hòa in Ho Chi Minh City, only the one on Pasteur street is the authentic one.
Phở Hòa: 260C Pasteur Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel.:+84-8-3829-7943