Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

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Vietnam Food Guide: The quest for the ultimate best Pho Bo in Vietnam! Best Pho in Ho Chi Minh and best Pho in Hanoi.

There’s nothing that represents Vietnamese food more than the iconic Pho Bo, an aromatic beef soup, the thin slices of beef, the silky thin rice noodles and the fresh herbs you add to enhance the flavour. Having enjoyed so much Pho is other countries, I was really excited to finally savour pho from where it came from! Before I visited Vietnam, I made a point to research where are the best places to have Pho so I could personally experienced it while introducing it into one article where my readers can also follow my quest for the ultimate Pho Bo! So here are the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City and best pho in Hanoi!

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh Pho (Saigon) pho is the one we are more used to seeing in other countries, which is a beef broth, usually mix in with other ingredients like dried squid and seasonings to give it a flavoursome broth. Another special trait of Saigon Pho is the amount of condiments on the side for you to enjoy your Pho, usually in the form of basil, beam sprouts, rice paddy herb, sawtooth herb, lime, chili sauce and hoisin sauce. This is something that is not common with Hanoi Pho, which you will see more later in this post. After trying numerous places – ranging from mediocre pho to good ones – I’ve narrowed down my three favourite Pho in Ho Chi Minh to the three. Pho Le, Pho Anh and Pho Hoa Pasteur.

Pho Le

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Pho Le wasn’t in my original list of Pho to try but I walked past it while trying to locate Mi Sui Cao, a famous Wonton mee place in District 3. I noticed the restaurant was packed with the locals and using my gut feeling that if the locals like it, it must be good.

 

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What will arrive on your table as soon as you order is this mountain of herbs and bean sprouts. Quite a sight really!

 

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More lime and chilies for you to spice up your broth.

 

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Glorious beef slices ~~ to enjoy – of course you add in lots of the herbs to add flavour and texture ~~ with a squeeze of lime and chilies to add some kick to it. The beef slices are tender while the broth is a little more on the sweeter side.

 

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Pho Le, 413-415 Nguyen Trai is the branch I went to. Easily found using google map. Type in Pho Le or 413 Nguyen Trai.

 

Pho Anh

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Pho Anh was another Pho establishment that wasn’t mentioned much in my research but was recommended by a local. You will see them in their blue uniforms and again – place packed full of people.

 

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The herbs at Pho Anh is served on a basket ~~ different from the mountainous herbs at Pho Le.

 

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They are more generous with the beef slices in Pho Anh. I personally prefer the beef at Pho Le and more choices in terms of the herbs. It’s still a very good bowl of Pho compared to other Pho places I’ve tried in Ho Chi Minh.

Pho Anh, 8-10A Ky Dong, W.9, District 3

 

Pho Hoa Pasteur

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Pho Hoa Pasteur is the one that get’s the most reviews and recommendations from my research and it’s also the easiest to visit if you are staying at district 1. Pho Hoa has a long history of being run by the same family and its secret recipe is passed down from generation to generation. I see more tourists in this place than any other Pho establishments I’ve visited in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

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The herbs and other side condiments (not free) such as the quay which is charkueh or fried dough to dip with the soup.

 

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The Hoisin sauce and Chili sauce that you add to your soup ~~ this is the most familiar type of Pho we’ve grown accustomed to eating in many parts of the world.

 

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In terms of the overall Pho experience, Pho Hoa gets my vote for my favourite Pho in Ho Chi Minh. The broth is still on the sweeter side and the rice noodles are thin and silky to slurp up. Beef wise I still prefer Pho Le, but overall taste this is my favourite in Ho Chi Minh.

Pho Hoa Pasteur is located at 260C Pasteur Street, District 1.

 

Pho Phu Vuong

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Picture taken from foody.vn

In my instagram, someone commented and said that the best pho in Ho Chi Minh belongs to Pho Phu Vuong – and upon research through social media and from blogger Eating Saigon. Pho Phu Vuong does receive rave reviews. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to visit this place – considering also the traffic and it’s an actual 19 minutes drive from district 1 where most tourists stay. I regret to say I haven’t tried this place yet. Perhaps you can continue my foodie adventures and give this a try if you have the time. You can actually google map “Pho Phu Vuong” or just the address which is 339 Le Van Sy, Tan Binh District.

 

Hanoi

For some history of Pho, most argued that it originated from Hanoi while purists say it originates from Nam Dinh which is just 50 miles away from Hanoi. Pho is different in Hanoi compared to Ho Chi Minh, the broth tends to be clearer while there’s no need for condiments of herbs to be added to the soup. Those who tasted Pho overseas might be wondering where’s all the extra herbs needed for the soup but let me assure you – you won’t miss the herbs when you tasted the ones in Hanoi. I hope I won’t offend anyone by saying I prefer the Pho in Hanoi compared to Ho Chi Minh as I prefer the broth here which is less sweet and has a more cleaner taste. I did the same thing in Hanoi by trying out many recommended Pho places – and was disappointed with some of them especially a very famous one but I will not post them here. My three favourites in Hanoi were Pho Thin, Pho Vui and Pho Gia Truyen.

Pho Vui

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Pho Vui is an interesting place as it looks more like a butchery rather than a pho store. You can see lots of raw meat hanging there – and the boss slicing the beef while you are slurping your bowl of pho.

 

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I sat right next to the action – watching the boss slicing the beef with his knife skills

 

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Would you look at the size of that hunk of meat! *drools*

 

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It’s quite a hearty portion of beef slices in this bowl of Pho and I quite enjoyed it.

 

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There was an article online that rated Pho Vui quite low and criticized the consistency of the cuts of meats as well as hygiene but my personal experience is a positive one and I really enjoyed this bowl of pho. Enjoy at night with a nice glass of Hanoi Beer!

Pho Vui, 25 Hang Giay. Open at night

Pho Thin by the Hoan Kiem Lake

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On my research – there’s two Pho Thin’s – one at Lo Duc which is quite far and another one jus by the Hoan Kiem Lake. Despite having the same name, they both serve different types of Pho – the one in Lo Duc street stir fries the beef first before adding to the rice noodles, then laden with broth, which gives it a very different taste to traditional Hanoi Pho. I prefer the one by Hoan Kiem lake which opens very early in the morning.

 

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A very down to earth bowl of goodness. You can never fault Pho Thin’s gorgeous flavours and texture of the meat. This is my 2nd favourite Pho in the whole of Vietnam.

Pho Thin, 61 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem only opens in the morning.

 

Pho Gia Truyen

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Imagine at 6am in the cold Hanoi winter morning, you walked towards the restaurant, hungry for pho and then you realize there’s about 20 more local Vietnamese having the same idea as you. It’s amazing to see such a long queue so early in the morning and its no surprise that many hailed this place as having the best pho in Vietnam.

 

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Pots of delicious broth kept piping hot for the pho ~~ *drools*

 

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The beef is freshly sliced and then added to your delicious pho!

 

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This is in my opinion – the best Pho I’ve tasted in Vietnam. The soup has just the right amount of sweetness and the beef slices tender and delicious. If you visit Hanoi and failed to have a bowl of this pho – you’ve failed your trip in Hanoi and committed a serious #foodcrime! Die die also must wake up early just to eat this bowl of heaven! You hear me?!

Pho Gia Truyen, 49 Bat Dan, Hanoi – go there around 6am. They should close around 9am or earlier if they finished.

 

Special Mention: Madame Hien

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Madame Hien restaurant is a classy establishment with great ambience and good wine list to match with the upscale Vietnamese food they serve but they do serve quite a good bowl of Pho. One interesting must try is their version of Foie Gras Pho, which is pretty unique and delicious. It’s around 178,000 vnd ++ so one bowl can easily get you five bowls of pho elsewhere but that is around 10-12 sgd for a gourmet style of Pho you probably won’t get anywhere else!

Madame Hien, 15 Cham Cam, Hanoi

 

My final conclusion is that I generally prefer the pho from Hanoi rather than Ho Chi Minh in terms of quality of broth and the beef. It is also important to note that I really enjoyed the one I had in Melbourne, Australia which can boast better quality beef than the ones served in Vietnam. My friend who has visited Paris has even claimed that the Pho in Paris is even better. I can say Pho in Vietnam is generally better tasting than the ones I’ve had in others parts of Asia but the ones from Melbourne can definitely give Vietnam a run for its Pho. The Pho places listed here are based on my preferences and might not suit yours but hey – I dare say that 90 percent of diners would agree that Gia Truyen from Hanoi has the best Pho in Vietnam. Stay tuned for more Vietnam write-ups!

Ho Chi Minh City

Pho Le, 413-415 Nguyen Trai, District 3

Pho Anh, 8-10A Ky Dong, W.9, District 3

Pho Hoa Pasteur, 260C Pasteur Street, District 1

Pho Phu Vuong, 339 Le Van Sy, Tan Binh District.

 

Hanoi

Pho Vui, 25 Hang Giay. Hanoi

Pho Thin, 61 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem

Pho Gia Truyen, 49 Bat Dan, Hanoi

Madame Hien, 15 Cham Cam, Hanoi

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Brunei Restaurants: Pepper Lunch

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I’ve seen the Pepper Lunch franchise many times when I was in my travels and I’ve never tried it because it’s always fully packed with customers waiting outside or queuing. When I heard news of Pepper Lunch opening in Brunei and they asked me to come over to try out the food ~ I was excited! Finally I can see why Pepper Lunch is so popular internationally! Fun Fact: Brunei is the 211th branch in the Asia Pacific Region for Pepper Lunch!

 

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So what is Pepper Lunch? Pepper Lunch is a DIY fast service concept, with more than 200 outlets in Japan and Asia. Pepper Lunch was created in 1994 by chef and inventor Kunio Ichinose, who invented a method using hot metal plates that are heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 Celsius) by an electromagnetic cooker.

 

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The raw meat with vegetables and/or rice are then placed on the plates, where they cook in front of the customer. The meat can be eaten rare or well done, depending on the customer's preference. The meal is then mixed with a choice of either the special honey brown sauce (Amakuchi) or garlic soy sauce (Karakuchi).

 

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The Hot Plate remains hot at approximately 80°C for more than 20 minutes. According to Pepper Lunch, meat that is grilled at this temperature range remains tender and juicy. The hot plate also keeps food warm for a longer time such that customers can enjoy the full flavour of the dish.

 

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Howard Hii, the Managing Director of Universal Food and Beverages that own the Pepper Lunch franchise in Brunei, told us that even these beautiful brick tiles are imported to Japan, to adhere to the standards of the franchise. Quality assurance is very important to Pepper Lunch.

 

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Now the main focus is of course – on what is on the menu ~~ the main agenda of every foodie ~~ here’s the signature dish of Pepper Lunch! The Beef Pepper Rice – which comes in normal or jumbo sizes. Tender beef slices – served with Japanese rice, crunchy corn and their freshly ground black pepper! You will start to feel hungry as soon as you hear the sizzling sound as it approaches your table!

 

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You let the beef slices cook on the hot plate – while you add your sauces – turn the beef slices around to your desired doneness and then mix with the pepper rice. Naturally I love my beef slightly medium rare!

 

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The hotplate keeps the food warm while you are enjoying your meal! Awesome! You gotta love the peppery kick of this dish!

 

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Be sure to add these sauces to make it even better!

 

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The special honey brown sauce (Amakuchi) or garlic soy sauce (Karakuchi) or more black pepper ~~

 

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Salmon Pepper Rice is another option if you’re not a beef person

 

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If you love your steaks – Pepper Lunch offers premium marbled steaks! Here’s the Rib Eye Steak ~~ ooooo would you look at that!

 

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To enjoy your steak ~~ you first spread the signature butter around the steak like this ~~ oooooo

 

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You then turn it around for it to cook further ~~ enhancing the flavour ~~

 

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You can toss the garlic in as well to further add some oompph to your steak ~~ at this stage you decide on how done your steaks are – from medium rare to well done ~ it’s up to your preference ~~ the hot plate will be cooking at around optimal temperature ~~ 80 degrees C.

 

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oh ~~ did I mention their mashed potatoes are DELISH!? Thumbs up to sides ~~ which I normally don’t like but I can’t stop enjoying these!

 

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You can put the steaks on your vegetables to stop the cooking ~ this achieves two things ~~ you stop the meat from cooking further ~~ while also letting the meat juices fall onto the vegetables ~~ yay! ~~ note that meat will continue to cook as it still has residual heat ~~ so I usually prefer to cook mine medium rare then take them off the hot plate ~~

 

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Now ~~ you have the option of adding an egg to your steaks for just an additional 60 cents

 

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Same technique ~~ spread the buttery goodness ~~~

 

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Turn turn turn ~~ oooo that looks gooood!

 

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Put the yummy meat and egg on top of the veggies to stop cooking ~~

 

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SAUCE IT UP! w0000 ~~

 

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Bon Appetit ~~ or ITADAKIMASUUU ~~~ Here’s some egg porn ~~~

 

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If you think Pepper Lunch only has premium steaks – you are mistaken – they have also good quality fish in their menu ~ you can have Salmon or Saba Mackerel ~~ or BOTH!? Obviously we went for both ~~ I must say – they are delicious! Because I am in control of the cooking ~~ I can cook them just to my liking ~~~ perfect! Fresh and good quality fish!

 

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Drizzle with the delicious soy sauce ~~ and turn to cook ~~ yum yum!

 

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For those who can’t make up their mind on what they want ~~ they also have a mix grill! Hee hee ~~ The Hamburg is Pepper Lunch specially made patties that’s yummy too! It doesn’t lose out to the steaks I tell ya!

 

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We also checked out the chicken and cheese ~~ melty cheesy goodness on chicken (or beef if you choose)

 

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Turn it around ~~~ sizzle sizzle ~~

 

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Then add the lovely gravy ~~~ watch as the gravy sizzles! What a sight! You can choose your gravy or curry sauce!

 

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Mix mix mix ~~~ ooooo yes ~~ cheesy gravy chicken rice!

 

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For those who love egg and cheese – their Cheesy Omelet range will wow you over! You can choose from Chicken, Beef or Hamburg for the meats – or Tomato, Brown Gravy or Curry for the sauces ~~

 

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The cheesy egg on top of your rice looks beautiful doesn’t it? Die die also must hashtag #foodporn

 

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Cook your beef ~~

 

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Add the brown gravy sauce ~~

 

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Enjoy with the cheesy omelet rice ~~~ OMG OMG OMG OMG!

 

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Apologies ~~ Gomenasai ~~ this blog is here to make you hungry ~~ with thanks from Pepper Lunch ~~ *drools*

 

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Twin Hamburg with Cheesy Omelet ~~ woo hoo ~~

 

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Spread spread the butter ~~~ dum dee dum ~~ I am a pro now ~~ haha

 

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Pour the curry sauce ~~

 

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Enjoy with your cheesy omelet rice ~~~

 

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Another friend ordered steak with curry sauce ~~ oooh watch as she tears open that cheesy omelet rice!

 

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Dilys showcases her skill in mixing up her Chicken Curry Cheesy Omelet Rice ~~~

 

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Wait there’s more ~~ Pepper Lunch also serves some good sizzling pasta! My Brunei Foodie friends were happy snapping away for their Instagram and Snapchat!

 

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The sizzling beef aglio olio spaghetti ~~ oooh yes ~~

 

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They even got a creamy salmon spaghetti ~~

 

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add your creamy sauce ~~~

 

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Then stir and mix well ~~~~ oooh yesshh!

 

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You can add $3 to make it into a meal combo ~ where you have a drink and one side dish!

 

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It’s a shame we didn’t get to try this ~~ but I’ll look forward to it next time!

 

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Overall ~~ I love the concept of Pepper Lunch and the quality of the food has been good so far. It has given me the answer on why it is always crowded when I saw Pepper Lunch overseas. I hope they can maintain the consistency in terms of food quality and Pepper Lunch will be a major force in the Brunei Food Industry.

 

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Pepper Lunch Brunei’s first branch is located at Setia Kenangan 2 – the new blocks behind Regent Square Kiulap. They are on the same row as Library CafĂ© (opposite the Escape Rooms blocks)

 

Pepper Lunch Brunei

C9/10, Ground Floor, Setia Kenangan II, Kiulap

Opens 10am – 10pm

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