Not All Phở is Created Equal; That’s Phở Sure!

Phở Thìn’s Hanoi Location

It’s not often that I write a restaurant review. I think the last one was about a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in downtown Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), long since relocated to the suburbs, that had the best wonton noodles I’ve ever had.

This one is about Phở Thìn, a veritable Hanoi institution that’s been serving heaping bowls of phở bò (beef noodle soup) since 1979. (That’s four years after the end of the US war in Vietnam, in case you’re counting.) It now has three locations, including two in the suburbs and the original one, pictured here, in the city.

The large 75,000 VND ($3.19 USD) bowl, which kept me full for the remainder of that rainy afternoon, tasted like good beef noodle soup but not like phở bò. Missing were some of the five pillars of this famous Vietnamese dish: star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and coriander seeds. (This article describes how this speciality is made.) It was filling and tasty but unsatisfying.

Aside from places in Hanoi that went of business in a previous lifetime, the best phở bò I’ve had recently was at Mama Phở in HCMC. It’s authentic, fresh, and uses Australian beef. Yes, you can taste the difference. The irony is that this place is adjacent to Bến Thành Market so it attracts a lot of tourists. I’m happy they get to experience real phở bò, not the imitation soup served elsewhere. (Full disclosure: I receive no financial or in-kind reward from Mama Phở’ in exchange for this glowing recommendation.😀)

NOTE: Mama Phở has three locations in HCMC: 1) Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1; 2) The Sun Avenue – SAV2, 28 Mai Chi Tho, An Phu Ward, District 2; and 3) GF-07A Sapphire Tower – Saigon Pearl, 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Ward 22, Binh Thanh District.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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