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Vietnamese cuisine is influenced a lot by Chinese cuisine, but it is often paired with many herbs. One of the most well-known foods in Vietnamese cuisine is Pho. It might look simple with rice noodles, soup, and slices of beef, but after having Pho in Vietnam, you will have the chance to experience many kinds of Pho that you don’t see very often. In this guide, we will go through different kinds of Pho and places to eat authentic Pho in Ho Chi Minh City that you would not want to miss when in Vietnam.
To find your authentic Pho, you need to know its origin. It is believed that pho had become an everyday dish for many people in the North since 1954 when the USSR provided aid for Vietnam after the war. There was little meat for the poor at the time, and the French usually took the beef meat to cook dishes and left out bones, so the Vietnamese have learned to use the spare parts to make the great bowl of Pho we know today. The Chinese fried churros usually served with Pho were also a result of the scarcity of food during that time; it was used to fill up the stomach and as an add-in ingredient when there was little meat to eat in the Pho. Pho in the North quickly became popular with people in the South as well, but it added some more Southern touch. People in the South love herbs, and you will see they use herbs in every dish and in Pho too. But the variety of Pho is not only limited to that of the North and the South; there are more variations to this famous beef noodle soup.
The famous Pho we are all familiar with is a bowl of soft, white noodles with fresh juicy beef slices, sprinkled with some green onion on top, bathing in the hot beef soup, and accompanied with aromatic herbs. But in Vietnam, Pho is so much more; it is not only the name of the dish but also the name of the noodle, so there are a lot of dishes made from pho that are as delicious as the typical pho soup.
The variations can be divided geographically or by the way Pho noodle is prepared. There are Northern-style pho and Southern-style pho; in Central Vietnam, the flavor of Pho is not much different but usually served with fewer herbs. Northern-style Pho looks simpler and has less fat, but the taste is delicate. Southern-style Pho is served with many more herbs. The ingredients to make the broth is also different; in the North, to keep the broth clear and aromatic, they stew beef bones for as long as possible with roasted ginger, onion, Chinese chives, pepper, sometimes star anise, cinnamon, cilantro root, and peanut worm for more subtle taste. On the other hand, in the South, besides roasted ginger, onion, and pepper, they add daikon (white radish), dried squid, beef fat, sweet-sour sauce, and sometimes chicken bones are used instead of beef bones. The green, side dish and dipping sauce for Pho are also different. In the North, green onion, white onion, cilantro, lemon, and chili are used for the greens and occasionally accompanied by Chinese fried churros. While in the South, besides the greens you can find in Northern-style Pho, people also like to add Vietnamese rice paddy herbs, sawtooth herbs, peppermint, bean sprouts, and a side dish of chili sauce. You can check out a good recipe for Pho here.
Beef is the most common meat to put in Pho but in the South, and now some places in the North, they put chicken, beef meatballs (bo vien), and poached egg on top. And to be an expert in Pho and to make an impression on your friends, you can choose what kind of beef and how they are done as well, like in a steakhouse.
Some Vietnamese vocabularies you can use on your food tour to enjoy the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City: flank (nam), crunchy flank (ve don), fatty brisket (gau), tendon (gan), tripe (sach), well-done (chin), and rare (tai).
If you are a vegetarian, don’t worry, in Vietnamese cuisine, there are places for you to try vegan Pho as well. A lot of greens are used; different kinds of mushrooms and tofu skin are cooked in the broth to replace the bones and meat.
The way Pho noodle is cooked also varies. The noodle can be bathed in a delicious heavy soup, stir-fried or pan-fried. With stir-fried Pho, the meat used is not only beef but pork and shrimp with stir-fried bok choy, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, and fried shallot. It contains a bit more fat than the Pho noodle soup but is a flavorful dish you should try. Another variation is Pho noodle pan-fried. They may be served with beef soup or stir-fried beef and of course, Vietnamese herbs.
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Ho Chi Minh City is a major economic center in Vietnam; many people from other parts of Vietnam come to the city to look for better opportunities in studying and working. The city has welcomed so many people and their culture that you can easily find foods - especially Pho, of many provinces here. What should you do after hours of sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City? Fill your stomach with the famous Vietnamese food, Pho. Visit the places we recommend below, try them, and let us know if they have one of the best Pho in Ho Chi Minh City.
Speaking of Pho Cao Van, many will remember a 90-year-old old man sitting in a corner to collect money. That is the owner Tran Van Phon. He has been selling Pho from his stalls back in Hanoi and then Saigon. His first shop was opened on Tran Cao Van Street in 1952 and later moved to Mac Dinh Chi Street. Many people consider this to be the closest to authentic pho in Ho Chi Minh City. The soup is delicate, and rich but doesn’t have much fat.
Address: 25 Mac Dinh Chi Street, District 1
Opening hours: 6 AM - 10:30 PM
Price:VND 40,000 - VND 66,000
Pho Tau Bay has been running its business in Saigon since 1954 and quickly became popular with people here. The traditional Northern-style Pho isn’t served with bean sprouts and thick sweet soy sauce, but to accompany the taste of South customers, they now also serve herbs in Southern-style Pho. However, the way the Pho cooked is still that of the North. They are most famous for “to xe lua” which is the largest bowl size here.
Address: 433-435 Ly Thai To Street, District 10
Opening hours: 6 AM - 11 AM
Price: VND 40,000 - VND 61,000
The beef here is also sautéed with spices, so the flavor is richer than the regular rare beef. Like other Pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Pho Bo Phu Gia has a long history of over 30 years, and it has become the locals' favorite place to eat. The Pho noodle here is fresh and stretchy. It is definitely where you can try the typical Northern-style Pho.
Address: 146E Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3
Opening hours: 6 AM - 11 AM and 5 PM - 10 PM
Price: VND 35,000 - VND 55,000
See also: Where to Try the Best pho in Hanoi
Pho Hoa has been opened for about 50 years, but the history of this brand dates back to before 1975 as a family business. This restaurant is located on the street where there were a lot of Pho stores 50 years ago. And it is not only where people can reminisce about the old days but to enjoy delicious Pho. The unique thing about Pho Hoa is that their portion is always full of Pho noodles, beef, and all kinds of herbs. And you can choose whether to add in your Pho the Chinese fried churros that are placed on every table here.
Address: 260C Pasteur Street, District 1
Opening hours: 7 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 40,000 - VND 55,000
Another restaurant that serves Southern-style Pho is Pho Le. The store has opened since 1970 in District 5, where there are a lot of other food stores selling noodles, hu tieu, and dumplings. It is clean and decorated nicely to attract more customers. This is where you can practice your newly learned vocabulary: beef meatballs (bo vien), flank (nam), fatty brisket (gau), and a bowl of fat soup (nuoc beo).
413-415 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5
Opening hours: 6 AM - 1 AM
Price: VND 38,000 - VND 55,000
It has opened since 1975 and is famous for its chicken dishes, from Pho to Mien (clear noodles) and Hu tieu. The chicken here is tender, rich in flavor with shiny golden skin. Each serving is of equal quality, and everyone’s favorite dish at this store must be the tender, juicy chicken thighs.
Address: 14/5 Ky Dong Street, District 3
Opening hours: 5 AM - 12 AM
Price: VND 40,000 - VND 55,000
Pho Chay Nhu is a vegan Pho restaurant that is well-known to not only vegetarians, and Buddhists, but also to celebrities. Many kinds of mushrooms are cooked to tender, and well-seasoned with slices of tofu skin to create texture to the vegan dish. Besides Pho, you can also get to enjoy many Vietnamese vegan foods here like com tam, spring roll, fried spring roll, and fried wonton. If you are a vegetarian, this place would be your paradise because you can try many types of dishes in their vegan style.
Address: 54 Truong Quyen Street, District 3
Opening hours: 6 AM - 10:30 PM
Price: VND 40,000/bowl of vegan pho
Pho kho is Pho noodles served separately from the soup. The meat is usually pork, beef or shredded chicken. Pho kho is the most famous Pho from Gia Lai province. The soup is rich and sweet which comes from the stewed bones. They are served separately so that the unique taste of each ingredient is not blended; you can feel the softness but also a bit stretchy of the pho noodle, the juiciness of the meat, and the sweetness of the soup. After trying the best of each ingredient, you can put them together as a traditional Pho the way you like it.
Address: 92 Phan Xich Long, Binh Thanh District
Opening hours: 6:30 AM - 2 PM and 5 PM - 10 PM
Price: VND 35,000 - VND 55,000
This one is probably the most different variation of Pho; its origin is in Lang Son. The Pho noodle is lightly seasoned and then covered with a sweet and sour sauce made from tamarind. Slices of juicy pork, pounded peanuts, and fried shallot brings a new flavor to the original Pho. Pho Chua Lang Son is a must-try Pho on your food tour in Ho Chi Minh City.
Address: 242/101 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, District 3
Opening hours: 3:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Price: VND 25,000 - VND 39,000
Pho bo sot vang is inspired by French cuisines with stew wine sauce. The beef is stewed in beautiful red wine, bones, butter, and Chinese chive; then, the traditional broth is added to this elegant stew sauce and makes a new rich, and delicate dish. This dish is a perfect combination of Vietnamese cooking and Western cooking you must try to understand more about the variety of Vietnamese cuisine.
Address: 205 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, District 1
Opening hours: 7 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 20,000 - VND 55,000
After trying some of these places, you won’t see Pho the same way again; it’s not only a bowl of white noodles with beef slices. Each Pho variation has its own unique taste, but they are all made from soft white noodle with slices of well-seasoned meat and aromatic herbs; all are combined to make different kinds of rich and flavorful dishes. If you want to taste the best Pho in Ho Chi Minh City with our local guides, request to try these Pho noodles on our fun and private Saigon food tour.
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one bowl of Pho Le can keep you full for the whole day. I've always preferred the southern taste to the northern version of pho, even though the origin of the noodles soup is from the north
Pho does vary significantly between regions to regions in Vietnam, so make sure to have a bowl of Pho every where you go in Vietnam
Pho Hoa is the best place for pho I can think of
I tried MANY of those places in HCMC but the best Pho by a landslide was Pho Quynh. The beef brisket was so tender and good quality and the broth was amazingly rich and delicate.