In seach of pho

In recovery from a nasty tummy bug, all I wanted when I woke on Saturday was pho.

it doesn't look like much, but it is something truly special

For those who haven’t tried it, pho [pronounced something like “fu-u-uh” – I was told to curl the ‘uh’ sound, like a mini verbal rollercoaster] is a delicate, clear Vietnamese noodle soup that is refreshing and warming at once. It distils the very essence of its components into a cleansing elixir of pure goodness. And that definition does not do it the justice it deserves.

The last Vietnamese restaurant at which I had the pleasure of dining was Nhat Tan in Sydney. I was served an excellent introduction to pho – and ignorant me called it “vegetable noodle soup” at the time, which it is, only way, way better.

Now I discover that pho production is a revered industry all of its own, involving secret recipes and master stocks and dead bodies in alleyways. I made that last bit up, btw. Though I am sure many professional establishments guard their recipes closely, there are many and varied recipes to be found online/in cookbooks – such as the detailed example from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, via Viet World Kitchen. [Incidentally, one of my friends is visiting Vietnam very soon and I am hoping to have an authentic pho recipe in my hot little hands within mere months…]

I hadn’t eaten much Vietnamese food in Perth, save for rice paper rolls, which are an addiction, so I set out to find a restaurant online. I had heard of Viet Hoa in Northbridge and To To in Victoria Park, but I went for Simply Pho (Unit 2/305-309 William St, Northbridge – ph: 9328 6895) because of its name. It’s what they do so it had to be good, right?

the Simply Pho facade

With a still-weak stomach, I thought it best to go vegetarian for the day, starting with the rice paper rolls I ordered for entree. They looked good but were not the greatest I had tasted; I looked forward to the main event.

the cold rolls were nothing special

From the first mouthful, my main meal hit the spot beautifully. This huge bowl of steaming soup was almost exactly what I felt like: if I had been given just the clear broth, with some of the add-your-own lemon, mint and sliced chilli, I would have blissed out. The noodles and vegetables tasted fresh and delicious, but the broth was awesome. The bowl was so big that I could not finish my order. I did drain the bowl of as much precious liquid as I could, however.

As I was leaving, I noticed merchandise and, lacking sufficient sets of chopsticks at home, I bought four pairs of chopsticks with paua shell inlays and holders. I was satisfied with my $10 purchase and can’t wait to try them out.

The service at Simply Pho was pleasant and prompt, and I felt that the $14 I paid for my meal ($9 for the pho by itself) was very reasonable indeed. I would recommend the vegetable pho to anyone wanting a wholesome, simple meal and it’s certainly large enough to satisfy without any additions.

Incidentally, on my way to Simply Pho I passed many a good-looking Vietnamese restaurant. I can now see myself eating my way down William Street in search of Northbridge’s best pho, beginning next weekend. This is a flavour sensation I could eat all the time.

I absolutely understand how the Vietnamese can start their morning with this dish and eat it continuously through each day.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Cuong Huynh says:

    Hannah,

    I'm glad you're getting to know pho, and found Andrea Nguyen's site. She's one of the best. If you're looking for pho recipes, you'll probably not find it in restaurants in Vietnam. You'll have more luck online using your fav search engine or just hit one of my posts: http://www.lovingpho.com/pho-chefs-recipes/top-pho-recipes/

    Also wrote an article on pho in Australia: http://www.lovingpho.com/pho-opinion-editorial/pho-australia-great-pho-in-the-land-down-under/ Many choices there for Australians 🙂

    Enjoy your pho!!

    Cuong

  2. Hannah says:

    Thanks for your comment, Cuong. I thoroughly enjoyed your article.

    I had kind of revered pho, thinking that it would be one of those things I only eat out. With a couple of recipes (including yours) now begging to be tried, I am really going to have to make it for myself. And blog about it, of course.

    H 🙂

  3. The Chansburys says:

    H, I am total fan or Chao Tom Banh Hoi (thin vermicelli with prawns on sugar cane and mint leaves and some grated carrot, bean sprouts, lettuce wrapped in rice paper) – if you want to go and grab this for an eat, I would so be there for sure!!!!!!!!! xx e.

  4. Cuong Huynh says:

    Ahh I can see you are hooked! The more you eat the more you crave for it. I look forward to see how you did with making your own pho, though I'd recommend trying a few more different pho restaurants to get a feel for how it should taste before cooking up a big pot 😉

  5. Hannah says:

    E, I am totally up for trying Chao Tom Banh Hoi. Sounds awesome.

    Cuong, definitely hooked and looking forward to my next pho sampling on Saturday!

    H 🙂

  6. phofever says:

    Hi Hannah,
    Your photos of the veggie pho are great! Want to let you know that we recently launched a pho restaurant directory just for Australia:

    http://www.phofever.com/australia.php

    Hope it helps in your next pho search!

  7. no fuh says:

    Went looking for Simply Pho but its no longer there. Any other good Po places around?

  8. Hannah says:

    Alas, Simply Pho was not with us for long. I too noticed its disappearing act just over a week ago.

    There are a few good places to go in the vicinity; my favourite for pho tai is Tra Vinh on Brisbane Street. I am about to write up my pho adventures in Northbridge, so stay tuned.

    H 🙂

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