Last Updated on 2 years by Tam Le Van
Pho is one of the most well-known Vietnamese dishes and traditionally recognized as the national food. In reality, almost every tourist coming to Vietnam love trying it at least one time. Moreover, it also becomes a successful culinary export worldwide. Nowadays, Pho restaurants appear broadly in Singapore, England, USA… So what is Pho?
Basically Pho itself is a kind of hot rice noodle soup with rich broth, topped with meat pieces and added flavour by sauces and lime juice. Yes, pretty simple! However, its preparation process, ingredients and variations are completely opposite. Vietnamese likes eating Pho for breakfast and think less of it for having lunch as well as dinner. Family cooking gets usually preffered in these meals.
Hoi An boasts of greatly atmospheric, diverse culture coupled with an amazing cuisine inventory including Pho. In this article, HOIAN LIFE shares the experiences and thoughts to help you for the where to eat the best Pho in Hoi An.
See also Hoi An’s local food specialties to know other delicacies in town, best places to try them and guided tours.
Stories about Pho noodle soup
There are many guesses about Pho origin across Vietnam. Someone says that it derives from previously existed noodle soup of Chinese namely Nguu Nhuc Phan. Introduction of this food into the country may happen during their occupation period. Historically, it lasted a thousand years resulting strong cultural interchanges. Cuisine is not an exception. Vietnamese Pho shares some similarities to Chinese noodle soup but had adaptions in the ingredient as well as way of cooking. Over time, it’s developed and leaves signatures not overlapped to any others.
Every Vietnamese agrees that its birthplace is in Northern region. In detail, Ha Noi and Nam Dinh are two cities where the most well-known Pho stores base.
Why is it called Pho? In 19th century, a large weaving factory was built in Nam Dinh. At the same time, vendors also appeared to sell noodles for its workers and French by night. They carried the hot soup pot plus ingredients on their shoulders. In the dark, the fire from these stalls is only thing French possibly identify. They called ‘feu’ (fire in French) for the noodle after that. Time flies, this invocation becomes popular and is converted into Pho in Vietnamese. Nowadays, the name ‘Pho’ presents in Cambridge dictionary globally.
Well-known 30 years-old Pho store on Hang Chieu Street at Hanoi
Original Pho often composes of fine rice noodles, delicious soup and pieces of juicy meat (beef or chicken). Excellent Pho definitely has a close-knit relationship with qualitied noodles. Numerous reputable stores produce it on-site to remain the best values. Particularly, traditional noodle makers use fresh raw rice rather than the flour. Their smooth milk is slowly poured over cloth surface placing on the mouth of one hot water pot. In order to steam fully, this layer is covered tightly by a lid during few minutes. It it gently picked and cut into noodle shape then.
From here, only need to put the noodles in a rich nutrient soup cooked from pork bones and spices to enjoy. Anywhere lime and chilli are served with, but in case of side vegetables, it depends. At Ha Noi, may be not while it always accompanied in Ho Chi Minh city and Hoi An.
Together with the broth, fine rice noodles also play very important role to make a decicious Pho
The most popular dishes are Pho Bò (beef Pho) and Pho Gà (chicken Pho). Among them, basically you can see beef noodle soup on any menus. According to different ways of cooking beef, it has main types: Pho Bò Tái (thinly sliced rare beef), Pho Bò Nạm (well-cooked brisket), Pho Bò Kho (stewed beef with vegetables) and Pho Bò Viên (meatball). Several locations have its reputation not by these types. For instance, Pho Thin in Ha Noi is famous for stir-fried beef.
Base on a general recipe, Vietnamese living in different regions tailors their own style. Somewhere it’s originated from specific weather characteristics like daily high temperature or flooding in the rainy season. While at some places, the main reason is just regional habit. There are three major Pho styles: the North, Hoi An (the Centre) and the South.
Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant gets busy in Singapore
This is the earliest style all over the country. Meaning that its concept gets the most authentic Vietnamese Pho. Both of Ha Noi and Nam Dinh residents fully believe that the best broth makes the best Pho!
First of all, it must be uncloudy and prepared from beef bones and spices including grilled white onion, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, cardamom pods and coriander seeds. They’re carefully-selected from local markets and then slow-cooked altogether for hours. The process takes about 6-10 hours on average. This tells us why local people commonly start working from the mid-night. Moreover, the main seasoning is the salt, so the broth tastes more salty than Hoi An and Southern styles.
In previous decades, Sá Sùng (the peanut worm) was an irreplaceable flavour to Pho. Due to its very high cost, plenty of stores stopped combining it today.
Besides, the additions also should be noted. Quẩy (a doughnut stick) is one of the most favourite side dishes that shredded and added into the soup. Even somebody will come to another place if without it. Interestingly, we will not see the doughnut again in other regions. Secondly, green vegetables are ordinarily not available while lime slices and ground chilli are must-have.
Hoi An style (Central style)
Differentiate to its brother in the North, Hoianese uses dried rice noodles instead. This usage has various advantages adapting perfectly to Hoi An distinct weather. In the wet season, the city is frequently flooded in many days causing a high unavailability of fresh noodles. Therefore, locals start out to sun dry them in the summer and preserve for cooking at home during the flood. Comparing to the original version, Pho Hoi An gets much more flexible.
Additionally, it’s also served with pickled papaya slices, been sprouts and herbs. For local people, each of these vegetables has specific standards. They should be taken from Tra Que village where farmers produce the highest quality one. Size of nearly every herbs is generally smaller than same type in other places. But their wealth of essential oil makes Hoi An local food very tasty, healthy and easily recognizable nationwide. Most commonly used herbs are mint and sweet basil. Furthermore, too ripe or young papayas will not preferred. The nicest selections belong to fully developed, white and totally un-diseased fruits. Then pickled in vinegar with garlic plus red chilli. Combination of its little sourness, spiciness and freshness absolutely balances out the rich soup when eat.
As an international trading town in the past, Hoi An received several Chinese influences including the chilli paste. However, people here do not copy all. They mix with peanuts, dried shrimps, pork and spices that open the door to a new recipe. Thus, possibly find the best Pho in Hoi An by Hoianese great creativities.
Southern style Pho also is called as ‘Pho Sai Gon’ because it appeared firstly in Sai Gon (former name of Ho Chi Minh city). At that time, it was sold by the hawkers only. They walked along main streets with all equipment. Today, lots of stores or even a Pho street are opened, so we may not see the scene anymore.
The biggest difference to Nothern style, Pho Sai Gon has a much sweeter taste. Basically it’s influenced by regional habit of adding sugar into the food. Not only in case of Pho, you will easily identify local dishes here and others by this feature. In addition to, boiling bean sprouts, herbs, lime and chilli also are provided. The types of herb often include sweet basil, coriander and green lettuce. While diners just need to take vegetables from the dish in Hoi An, people here have to use hands to pick herb leaves off when eat. As South Vietnam is hot all year round, so it keeps the greens long-lived in the heat.
Pho Chua (Sour Pho Noodle)
Gia Lai-styled Pho noodle soup
Best places to eat Pho in Hoi An
Sen Viet-The best Northern style Pho
|Location: 11 Tran Cao Van Street
|Opening time: 6:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m daily
A newly established restaurant aims to bring the nearest standards of Northern style Pho to both locals and travellers. It’s a relatively perfect eating place for who try in the first time. In our latest experience, the noodle was completely fresh and soft mingling with little salty broth. Overall color is also exactly simple to its siblings in Ha Noi. It costed 30.000 VND (1.3 USD). If do not travel anywhere in the North, you should come here to give a try to authentic Northern style Pho.
Because Sen Viet’s location distances from populated tourist spots, it becomes a frequent breakfast mecca of many local people. After eating, they move to nearby cafeteria for morning coffee before a workday. As a culture explorer, plan to experience this very classic combo of Vietnamese.
|Location: 04 La Hoi Street
|Opening time: 6:30 a.m to 6 p.m daily
Pho Lien is our second recommendation for the best Pho in Hoi An due to of its long establishment, excellent flavour and authenticity. Many local people share that it may be the earliest Pho brand within the city. Started out by Mr.Lien with a small business on Le Loi Street, unluckily it’s closed recently. Over time, a chain of 14 stores is set up gradually by his family proving the quality and broad support of eaters alike.
If would like to experience the most authentic Hoi An Pho, come to this place. Its way of cooking follows exactly traditional standards. Unlike lots of places in town, it tries to limit to the additions of touristy element. What else are we waiting for local specialty?
The pricing starts from 35.000 VND (1.5 USD) and will be increased basing on your extra requirements. Further, location of the eatery is immediately next to Nguyen Hoang night market that very convenient for shopping, sampling diverse street foods or partying. Taking note of closing time, it’s at 6 p.m. Plan carefully your all things to do before and after it.
|Location: 51/7 Phan Chau Trinh Street
|Opening time: 7 a.m to 12 p.m daily
This family-run restaurant situates in a alleyway leading to three main streets of Hoi An (Phan Chau Trinh, Le Loi vs Tran Phu). It opens from seven in the morning until the noon time. On the weekend, it may close sooner. If plan to eat Pho within the ancient town area, Tung’s store provides one of the best Pho in Hoi An.
Look at the left-hand side of the main gate when arrive, there is a blue color sign with store name ‘Pho Tung’. Go straight ahead til the end of house yard and you will see some sets of inox table and stool then. You just need to tell the owners for your order. They’re really friendly and able to understand basic English.
Since established after Vietnam war, Pho Tung has supplied rare beef noodle soup only. The price is 25.000 VND (1.1 USD). Year to year, its exceptional taste convinces so many people that contribute to make the restaurant turns into a must-come food mecca in Hoi An.
Pho Xua Restaurant
|Location: 35 Phan Chau Trinh Street.
|Opening time: 10 a.m to 9 p.m daily.
Another eatery offering the best Pho in Hoi An is Pho Xua. It is a locally-owned business and busy at almost the operation time but services are still good. Occasionally, lots of diners have to stand in a long line waiting for the service in the evening. Together with two above mentioned stores, they create a golden-triangle of Pho where absolutely easily find your favourite.
Pho Xua not only remains the general recipe and fundamental flavors of Pho Hoi An, but also combines star anise, cloves and cinnamon into the beef broth making it unique in town. There are two different sizes for a Pho here: medium and large. It costs 40.000 VND (1.7 USD) and 55.000 VND (2.4 USD) respectively.
In contrast to Pho Lien and Pho Tung, the restaurant provides a collection of Vietnamese foods ranging from Hoi An specialties to vegetarian dishes. Meaning that you have more choices for lunch/dinner beside must-try Pho. Table service is available as well, therefore it will be great if travel with family or a group of friends.