Pho is Vietnam’s national dish and Hanoians live off the stuff. For breakfast, after a night out or for every meal of the day. It is said that Hanoi runs on Pho.
If you think that you’ve had Pho in England, you can think again. It’s like comparing a Dominos to a Neapolitan. In Vietnam the broths are deep, the best running on 100 year old mother stocks and exact recipes which are closely guarded secrets. No two establishments are the same, only adding to the famous dishes’ charm. Rice noodles are cooked but firm and fresh herbs and green vegetables add extra bite and textural fancy.
Pho comes in many shapes and sizes but its most famous, and in Hanoi most popular, version is Pho Bo (beef). Thinly sliced raw beef barely meets the soup before it arrives on your table just-cooked, at which point you season it further to your liking with an array of homemade condiments. The result is bliss.
Pho Ga (chicken) is a lighter, more refreshing take, but equally delicious. In the hot summer months when soup just isn’t bearable, the locals revert to Pho Tron, a dry-ish noodle salad with all the freshness and bite of Pho Ga minus the broth.
Here are our picks of the best places to try different types of Pho in Hanoi, try them all.
PHO THIN FOR PHO BO (BEEF NOODLE SOUP)
For the national dish, our top pick is Pho Thin which is reputed to be the oldest Pho shop in Hanoi. Enjoy with quay – a Vietnamese accompanient, in taste akin to a savoury donut, and in appearance a dog bone – it takes on the flavour of the soup perfectly.
Address:13 Lò Đúc, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng
PHO GA MAI ANH FOR PHO GA (CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP)
Pho Ga Mai Anh is run by an amiable family and offers the best chicken pho in Hanoi – clean, fresh with a deep broth and the additional treat of meatballs, this is the perfect pho for breakfast
Address: Lê Văn Hưu, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng
PHU DOAN FOR PHO TRON (CHICKEN NOODLE SALAD)
HANG BUOM FOR PHO XAO (BEEF FRIED NOODLES)
Not for the health conscious, and should be treated as an indulgence, pho xao is fried pho with fried beef and other treats. Utterly delicious once in a while, but an artery clogger if eaten regularly.
Address: 11 Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
TRUC BACH LAKE FOR PHO CUON (FRESH RICE NOODLE ROLL)
Not exactly a bowl of Pho but well worthy of mention nonetheless. These are fresh spring rolls made from pho noodles and filled with lettuce and beef – the perfect accompaniment to a few beers next to the lake as you watch the sun go down.