Friday, January 20, 2017

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: The Iconic “Pho” Meal

Our first meal in Vietnam is naturally the iconic Phở that originated in northern Vietnam but eaten everywhere in the country, on the streets and in the restaurants.

We arrived at our hotel in the city centre just before lunch time, which was a bonus because we were able to relax, recover from the long ordeal the night before and freshen up before going out for lunch. It took us actually some time to get out of the airport because of my visa. I will post a separate entry about this soon, as well about the hotel we stayed at. (Update: The Visa Application and Visa on Arrival Situation in Vietnam)

Pho Saigon

A lovely spread of our delicious pho lunch.

Pho 2000

The restaurant is located on top of the Coffee Bean Company Cafe beside Ben Thanh market.

We found out about the restaurant courtesy of our hotel, the Avanti Hotel. Upon check-in, they gave us a few 10% discount coupons of Pho 2000. It was very timing as we were looking for a restaurant to have lunch. Well, why not? The bellboy told us that it’s just around the corner and above a coffee shop. At least my mum does not have to walk that far and we can check out the Ben Thanh market across after lunching.

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When we arrived at the restaurant, one of the female personnel quickly noticed my mum’s walking stick and assisted her. The stairs were a bit steep but with proper assistance, my mum was able to climb to the upper floor where Pho 2000 is located.

The restaurant seemed to be very popular because it was full with guests, and mostly foreigners. I was already thinking – Is this a tourist trap? But if it is, then the food must be good?

Pho 2000 Saigon

This is the scene when we arrived. So busy, eh!

333 beer

I ordered the 333 beer for myself.

Not sure what my sister is doing here.

We were quickly given a table and then we ordered the restaurant’s speciality – Pho, the national dish of the country.

So what is pho actually? Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup. It basically refers to the white flat silky rice noodles but the broth is what makes it a magical dish.

My dad and sister ordered the same thing, a standard bowl of seafood based pho. My mum had a chicken pho, while I had the beef. We noticed that they were serving large bowls so we made sure that we get the standard order. I could not wait to eat and slurp my pho discreetly, haha. We did not really wait that long because the service here at Pho 2000 was really quick.

With the pho came some garnishing such as chilli peppers, coriander, bean sprouts, Thai basil, and culantro. I love all these garnishings. They are like pure art to me. I love the extra heat and the quirky taste of the herbs. The Thai basil, coriander and culantro have a special taste and aroma so not everyone is easily accustomed to eating this right away. My family, for example, ignored them. I just wished they gave us fresh raw bean sprouts instead of steamed ones.

So here’s the real thing. When I tasted my pho? It was lovely. Like the whole world of Vietnamese cuisine opened up to me and cradled me in her arms. So poetic haha but I really felt so good when I slurped, albeit discreetly, my pho. This is one of the best noodle soups I have tasted. The broth really made a huge difference. This was much better than the noodles I have had in Xiamen. My mum, dad and sister also said that their pho was very good.

Chicken Pho

The chicken pho.

Seafood Pho

The seafood pho.

The garnishing: chilli, bean sprouts, Thai basil, coriander, culantro.

Beef Pho

This is my beef pho. Delicious.

Funnily, even after a few days we still talked about the pho we ate here at Pho 2000. So this must have been a good pho restaurant even if it looked like a tourist trap.

And oh, after gorging down the pho we saw pictures of Bill Clinton and Chelsea on the wall. It looks like the Clintons visited the restaurant many years ago and the owners used this to market further their business. Well, we came here not because of the Clintons or someone tipped us that this is the best pho in Saigon. We came here because of the 10% discount coupon and that it is just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. As sober as it may sound, this is the reason.

This meal was just the start of our foray into Vietnamese food and I am already liking it. I have eaten Vietnamese food before but I have a feeling that Vietnamese food is going to become a favourite of mine after this holiday.

Pho 2000

The Pho 2000 discount coupon we got from our hotel and pictures of Bill Clinton and Chelsea on the walls of the restaurant.

The restaurant is located on the corner, right under the Mitsubishi Electric above the Coffee Bean Company Cafe. This is across Ben Thanh market. It is very easy to find.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

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All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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