Pho Hoa @ Ho Chi Minh (aka Saigon)
No visit to Vietnam is ever complete without savouring a steaming hot bowl of Pho. As JSV had recently returned from a foodie outing to Vietnam, I had to ask him for recommendations on where to eat in Ho Chi Minh (a.k.a. HCM/Saigon). He told me to go to Pho Hoa @ 260C Pasteur Street (Viet Name: Duong Pasteur) and sent me a picture similar to the one that I took below of the store front. LB & I walked down Pasteur Street in search of one of the "best" phos in HCM.
When we finally arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find a clean-ish restaurant. The restaurant occupies 2 stories and was packed with locals, tourists and expatriates. It was bustling with activity and we were lucky to get a table on the ground floor close to the action.
There were sides of Fried Dough Fritters (aka. Yew Char Kway/You Tiao/Chinese Breadsticks/Chinese Churros), green bananas, puff pastries (I wonder what's in it), 2 types of leaf-wrapped nems, sliced Mexican Lime (aka Bartender's Lime/Key Lime), blanched beansprouts, sliced chilis and of course, the ubiquitous platter of mixed herbs (comprising Mint Leaves, Sawtooth Coriander Leaves and Thai Basil Leaves).JSV had written the following instructions in his email to me: "Order different cuts of meat and try the Nem on the table - the green leaf package made of marinated cooked pork". I'm too squeamish to try "exotic cuts" of meat, so I ordered a Pho Bo Tai (raw beef slices with rice noodles in soup).
I was curious about the Nem, but there were 2 different types of green leaf packages on the table....which one is he referring to? I looked around and saw that the slim Nem seemed to be the most popular, thus I started unwrapping one to try. I was surprised to see a pale white firm paste in the middle that looked alot like "Otah" (a savoury snack that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Depending on the recipe, it is typically made of fish paste mixed with spices, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed or grilled before serving - this pale mix looked like the unspicy version of Otah). I think this must be the Nem (VND4,000) that JSV was talking about. Though I generally do not enjoy eating pork, this nem was deliciously savoury despite it being served at room-temperature. The texture was firm like a Knackwurst sausage but the colour was akin to that of a Weisswurst sausage.
Here's a picture of my bowl of Pho Bo Tai (Raw beef slices with rice noodles served in soup @ VND26,000). The broth here was one of the clearest and "cleanest-tasting" that I had in HCM. The clearest broth I ever had was at Sofitel Metropole in Hanoibut that's on a different scale because it was served in a culinary school.Back to Pho Hoa's broth in HCM, it was flavoursome and lightly spiced. In addition, the stock must have been skimmed quite regularly to remove the scum (consisting of fat, blood, broken down connective tissue in meat & bones) which makes a broth taste murky when its boiled and incorporated into it. I smothered my bowl with beansprouts, basil leaves, sawtooth coriander leaves and mint leaves. What can I say? I love my greens! The sweet aroma of the herbs and the rich broth wafted to my nostrils. I couldn't wait to dig in!
Here's a closer look at the smooth rice noodles and a spoonful of rice noodles with a dollop of chili sauce, followed by a slice of beef and herbs. This is definitely a MUST-TRY if you happen to visit HCM/Saigon.Pho Hoa 260 Pasteur Street (Duong Pasteur) Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam Tel: +84-8-829-7943