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1 - Pho 24

Nothing makes me fussy like Pho. Vietnam's national dish, a belchworthy beef broth, belongs in scuzzy shacks, floors littered with broken chopsticks and cheap napkins and NOT the poncey tables of nouvelle cuisine, restaurants with chamber music or the 'ethnic' section of the Hilton breakfast buffet. For this reason I was reluctant to check out Pho 24 at 5 Nguyen Thiep Street in District 1. My Top 10 list of pho joints has remained stalled at a Top 2 after bumping up the belt notches on a mammoth '30 different soup kitchens' soup test over the years. Most pho, in my experience, is average at best.

Both my top 2 are up the road in Hanoi: 13 Lo Duc Street, Hanoi & 2 Le Van Huu Street, Hanoi. These two pho-tastic soup shacks are within 30 seconds walk from each other and are well worth sniffin' out. Devoid of clueless foreign tourists, packed to the rafters with sino-soup slurpers and oozing grubby charm. Long may their paint peel, their floors gather grime and their service snarl.

Pho 24, on the other manicured & moisturised hand, is all uniformed waiters, polished table tops, dimmed lighting, chefs with real chef's hats, china toothpick holders, logo embossed place mats and chopstick holders.

pho24-chef

This is not pho as I know it - there are 9 beef/1 chicken varieties on offer for chrissakes - but prejudices aside, how's the soup? Well... much as it pains me to say it, Pho 24 just brings my list to 7 shy of a Top 10.

pho24-fat-pho.jpg

The thing about Pho 24, I guess, is they've taken a street food and given it respectability, class or maybe just a fancy facade - you choose. But, what they have done is new and a first for Vietnam - at least to my knowledge. (In Saigon, there is also Pho 2000 - more of which later this week) - but it's Pho 24 which, I think, has set the standard for the rest to follow.

Pho is a noodle soup and comes in either its beef variety - Pho bo - or chicken - Pho ga. The chicken variety has been missing from the streets of Vietnam since Asian bird flu struck the region in early 2004, but has started to make a tentative comeback in the last week or two. The beef variety consists of thinly sliced beef and fresh flat noodles, sitting in a steaming stock, heavy of star anise, meaty vapours and sprinkled with spring onions.

pho24-herbs.jpg

In the south the broth often comes with a side of herbs, bean sprouts, chili slivers, half a lemon and maybe sliced raw onions. In the north, many folk, myself included, like to crack a raw egg into the soup. Although Pho is known as a northern dish, the Saigonese have added a certain sophistication to their broth which is missing from the bogstandard raw and alive deal in the north. I am reliably told that the key difference is; the Saigonese regularly skim the fat from the 100l vats the broth cooks in, go easy on the fish sauce - nuoc mam and know how to spice with a gentle touch. I'm far from being an expert, but the southern version does taste 'fancier', even if my base nature has an instinctive preference for Hanoi's basic broth.

Meanwhile, back at Pho 24...

To cut to the chase... I simply cannot find fault with these guys. The key is the soup stock. The steamy beams of aroma rising from a Pho 24 bowl demand immediate devouring. This is the most flavour-filled Pho I have found in Saigon (so far). And so it should be. At 24,000VD a bowl (my Hanoi faves set me back 7,000VD and that's with the added egg) OK-OK- I'm paying for the service, the setting - but still...

pho24-restaurant.jpg

If they could knacker up the furnishings, smash the odd bowl, splinter the chopsticks, add a couple of rats and allow spitting on the floor they might just pip the number one slot. But for now, they is just too posh. The battle lines are drawn. Expect more pho blogs soon. View the business card.

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Comments

Pho blog! Nice! We'll be watching!

Keep 'em peeled Erich Ian. Plenty more goodies in the pipeline.

Cheers

Managed to go to Pho 2000 and Pho Ha (on 75 Nguyen Du - between Pasteur St and Dong Khoi St) on my trip to Saigon last year. Thought the broth at Pho Ha was lighter (more Hanoi style?) compared to Pho 2000. (Report of Saigon trip is posted on e-gullet).

Waiting for more of your pho blogs.

Shiewie - Got my eyes on a tasty looking pho joint - more in a day or two. Thanks for the Nguyen Du recommendation - will defintely call in.

Pho 24 was the first place I went to on my recent trip to Saigon. Had the Pho Dac Biet - Pho Special (i.e. pho with the lot meant for the greedy and indecisive) for VND29,000. The broth was the BEST pho broth that I've ever had ...in Vietnam and elsewhere. Every slurpful was flavour packed. Thank you pieman for the recommendation.

The raw beef slices were good, not the least bit stringy which is a major bonus point for beef pho in Vietnam. Found the beef tendon and brisket tough though - it was struggle to bite through pieces of tendon and brisket. Noticed that the the Vietnamese family at the next table had sensibly stuck to Pho Bo Tai.

Had tried the Pho Dac Biet at Pho 2000 on a previous trip. The broth while good can't quite match up to that at Pho 24 but the brisket and tendon is definitely more tender there.

Shiewie - so happy you managed to try Pho 24 and that it was a hit. I was back there recently and you're right - it's in another league to most pho in Vietnam. I tend to steer clear of the tendon business myself as it can all get bit too aggravating. Actually I also avoid the 'dac biet' stuff whatever restaurant I am in as it's never ever that 'dac biet'. They just double up on somethings or add something, but not really substantial enough to warrant the 'special' label.

Vietnamese cook (chef) needed in Shanghai, China.
Anyone interested contact with me please.

Pho!!!

Kicking good soup of the Gods... kickin' blog!!

Ga' Day!

Pieman - you're absolutely right about the "Dac Biet" label! Growing up, my parents taught me to never fall for that advertising ploy. :)

Chao pho 24,
Toi la mot nguoi thich an pho va dac biet thiach an o quan pho 24. Toi cung la nguoi thich kinh doanh cac mon an, toi co the tro thanh thanh vien cua pho 24 bang cach qui cong ty cho phep mo mot quan pho 24 tai Ha Noi duoc khong?.
Neu duoc toi se co gang dua ten tuoi cua qui vi di xa, tham chi co the toi ca Korea, noi toi da va se song.
Chao than ai
Mr Dai

Mr Dai - Thx for your comments. Now, if anybody can translate, I'd be grateful. I think I get the gist of it, but could be wel wrong ...

Here's my translation:

Hello Pho 24
I like Pho especially Pho 24. I also like the food business, can I open up a branch of Pho 24 in Hanoi? If so, I will make your brand well known, even as far as in Korea where I used to and will live in the future.
Thank you
Mr Dai


(OH MY GOSH. I LOVE YOUR SITE SO MUCH!I'm so homesick now it's Christmas time!!!Miss mommy's food!wah wah!)

Thx very much for the translation Ha. Nowt like home cooked nosh... hop you get some soon. Mr. Dai - head elsewhere for help on commercial matters...

Hi pieman, did you post the pho restaurant in your least to most favorite order? I'm a Vietnamese but I'm not really into pho, I just usually pig out on the vietnamese herbs and veggies and fruits whenever I went back to Saigon (can't find them here) :) But my friend is CRAZY about pho and pho always taste the same to me in Saigon.

Actually Michelle, it's an ongoing search and there is no order. I have blogged 10 pho so far, and not all are hits - only two so far I think - but there's more coming when I get a chance. I really didn't think that when I started this blog that Pho24 would still be my fave, but it is. However, like you, it's not my fave dish in Vietnam. I probably preffered it in Hanoi in the winter as it's a good warmer, although I do have a strong preference for the Saigon style.

Every time going back to VN, I go to a Pho restaurant on Huynh Tan Phat st. Dist 7. It's difficult to describe, but Pho is always "very.. very.. delicious" at this place. I have told some friends to come there. As soon as they tried it, they loved it very much and would like to come there again. I wish to share with you about this place.
Trong may lan ve Viet Nam, lan nao toi cung an o tiem Pho Bac tren duong Huynh Tan Phat Quan 7. Khong the dien ta duoc, to^ Pho o tiem nay luc nao cung ngon cuc ki`. Toi co gioi thieu voi vai nguoi ban. Ai an roi cung me^. Toi muon chia se cung cac ban.

Tran - thx for the tip. I'll make a note of it. Haven't blogged Pho for ages, must get back on it. Cheers.

You should never go to a pho restaurant in Vietnam!! First of all, the pho there is very bad,at least... that's what my mom told me(my mom is a pho expert as far as I know it). And they put like... TONS AND TONS of "bot ngot" also known as ve tsin in it(it's a strong taste emplifier). I'm really serious about this! The reason why some of you guys like it is because of the heavy amount of "bot ngot" they put in your bowl.

btw. your site is pretty cool ^_^

Most of the Pho that I've tried in Hanoi uses too much of 'bot ngot', MSG (monosodium glutamate). A truly great tasting bowl of pho is one where the broth is made purely from natural ingredients and no MSG. Trust me, that's how it should be done.

how 2 make pho video really good!!


http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/272711

Actually, "Three Seasons" is one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants. But it's more Vietnamese food for white people!:-) They are more known for their rolls then their pho! 10 bucks is very steep. You can get an awesome bowl of pho in Silicon Valley for $4.75....Still not Hanoi prices...but a good price here!!

I know pho 24 is one of the most famous brandnames in pho Vietnam. But how can you do to attract more customers ,Can you send me your ads ? Thanhs.

I would like to ask permission for me to use your pho image for my webpage. Thank you.

BUN BO HUE DONG BA
dia chi: 110a nguyen du , phuong ben thanh , q1 , thanh pho ho chi minh
tel: 08-9125742 - 08-9024306
fax: 08-8239672
email:hcmdongba2001@yahoo.com.vn
website:www.bunbohuedongba.com
BUN BO HUE DONG BA
dac biet co cha cua
* cac loai banh hue : banh beo , banh loc , banh nam , banh it
* banh canh ca loc cha cua
mo cua : 6:00 - 22:30
khuon vien rong thoang mat , giu xe mien phi , giao hang tan noi goi so dien thoai : 08-9125742 - 08-8239672
RAT HAN HANH DUOC PHUC VU QUI KHACH

BUN BO HUE DONG BA
110a nguyen du st , ben thanh ward ,district 1 , ho chi minh city
tel: 08-9125742 - 08-9024306
fax: 08-8239672
email:hcmdongba2001@yahoo.com.vn
website:www.dongbahuebeefnoodlesoup.com
special in bun bo hue anh other hue traditional foods large rooms nice service
open time : 6:00 - 22:30

You just took me on a fantastic stroll down memory lane. Pho 24 had just opened up next door to the hotel I was staying at (Duxton) on Nguyen Hue Street maybe two years ago. It was a tiny but gleaming shop that would have almost any pho restaurant in Orange County's Little Saigon beat in style and presentation. I was dubious but also thankful that I didn't have to venture far to grab some pho and found it to be one of the tastiest bowls I've had.

God, the way you write about Vietnamese food is sexy. Thank you.

i just wanna fix something on above comment, if you are vietnamese like me, you would realize a difference between MSG taste and a real bone cocked taste from the soup when you try it, MSG actually brings you a very instally sweet taste, a real bone soup would have a little bloody smell,not deep sweet and the sweet taste is not gonna stay on your tonge for a while..as fas i experienced it,just my opinion about Pho

bah! looks pretty, but sparse and not steamy/sweaty/edible like real phở

I have an office in a building adjacent to the Pho 24 kitchens located at 67 Hai Ba Trung - where all the food for Pho 24 branches is prepared.

The food served in the branches is generally reheated food and therefore less than optimum.

Being able to view the kitchens has persuaded me never to eat at Pho 24 as the kitchens are overwhelmed with rats - who also infest adjacent buildings.

They do kill the rats periodically - the restaurant at 67 HBT uses air freshener to try to hide the smell of decomposing dead rat bodies.

Furthermore, the noodles shipped out to the branches are cooked THE EVENING BEFORE and left standing, in plastic bags, on shelving located on the second floor of the restaurant in the stair well.

Food preparation staff smoke whilst the food is cooked in the kitchen. Furthermore, the kitchen facilities are are used for washing clothes which is hung out to dry near the food area. I have pictures of these (many of rats) to prove my points.

Furthermore, prices at Pho 24 are generally well above average, too.

Pho 24 also supplies foodstuffs to smaller restaurants at a 10% discount according to invoices I have seen on the motorcycle food carriers that block the sidewalk.

If people want a FRESH cooked pho, in a decent setting, PHO 2000 offers a prepared whilst-you-wait selection, including vegetarian dishes, at LOWER prices than Pho 24.

In case anyone questions my interests please note I have NO interest in restaurants other than eating! Also I find the rats somewhat distracting as I work in my office and watch their antics on Pho 24's Hai Ba Trung facility.

The Pho 24 franchise in Hue has closed through lack of business which is a pity. It prepared all pho fresh as you ordered.

Nice post. I\'ll return.t

Hi all & Pho 24, I saw in Singapore TV on PHO 24 & will one day visit to particularly eat 5 bowls of your famous pho. By the way, can someone teach me how to cook this famous nutritious dish which I have fell in love since I was a student in Melbourne in 1986 and was first inroduced when I frequently visited Springvale, the suburb we called the 'Little Saigon of Victoria'. Besides, eating pho, I also like the broken rice, mini springrolls, and the pho with chicken strips plus many other delicious dishes. Looking forward to a kind soul or many kind souls to help me with this yummylicious recipe.

Had my first Pho 24 today. Straight up beef with no extras. Shrubbery added by the fist full. Loved it and didn't even care that people might stare when I picked up the bowl to slurp some more of that gorgeous broth.

Glad it's still good... but do keep your eyes open for the we stalls around town. In retrospect, they're often very good.

I just discovered your blog today. I am sooo in love with it. You are such a good and witty writer. This will be my guide when I go back to Vietnam for visit (though last time I went there I managed to gain 10 kilos just by wandering through Ha Noi streets). I must say there are tons of Vietnamese restaurants here where I live (Toronto), but damn, the taste is so inferior to "the real deals" from my memories.

I disagree strongly (that Sai Gon pho is average at best)! I know you're no longer in Viet Nam now, but if you have a chance to visit, stop by pho Cao Kỳ (that's the "street name" for it - I actually don't know the official name; apparently it's been there since before 1975, and Nguyễn Cao Kỳ was a famous general of the Ngo Dinh Diem gov) on Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa street. It's fantastic. You might OD on cinnamon, but their beef pho is the best. Another one is pho Thanh Cảnh on Nguyễn Tri Phương (i think? the one that leads to Trần Hưng Đạo street, near chợ Bến Thành). So, so flavorful. But then again, I've never really had pho in Ha Noi (long time ago I had pho ga (chicken) on the street in HN and saw the lady put 2 tbps of MSG in...), and my family (who are from HN) all said that HN pho is **obviously** better...

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