Where To Find The Best Pho In Hanoi



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Steaming bowls of pho are everywhere in Hanoi. That’s no exaggeration; you will genuinely see the steam rising off a bowl as you move with the traffic on your Honda Wave, vapours competing with exhaust fumes, the two intermingling for a smell that’s unmistakably Hanoian. 

All walks of life hunch over a bowl here. On stools, at the side of the road, in shophouses, or simply lent against their bike or a tree, enjoying noodles – your businessman, school kid, xe om driver, teacher and health worker all just one wrong slurp away from a splattered shirt. There’s something democratising, levelling, about pulling a slippery tangle of noodles up to your lips, make no mistake…

If the Vietnamese capital is said to run on coffee thick and sweet with condensed milk, then we think it’s fair to say that Hanoians bleed pho, with no two establishments serving the same bowl and the best versions closely guarded secrets handed down through the generations. Accordingly, finding purveyors of this national Vietnamese dish is the easiest thing you’ll ever do in the city. Finding the very best versions is another story, though…

Pho has a tangled history, and the facts about its origins are more murky than a bowl of the good stuff that’s had too much tương ớt added. Some say it was born of necessity – the French colonialists slaughtering cows for steak and such, and resourceful Vietnamese chefs making use of the leftover bones and scraps to glorious effect. 

By Kevin Nguyen via Canva

Others believe that it was simply an adaption of the French dish pot-au feu, which shares a certain phonetic similarity to ‘phở’. That supposition – a French one – has been largely debunked. There are others still who say that the term pho came from ‘pham’, which is the Vietnamese pronunciation of fen – the Chinese word for flat rice noodle. 

Despite some disagreement about its origins, the most common consensus is that pho came from southeast of Hanoi (reportedly out of Nam Dinh Province, sixty miles from the capital) and eventually made its way all over Vietnam, with different regions putting their own spin on the soup.  

There’s even been a pho festival this year, providing the opportunity for tourists and locals to get to know and enjoy the different flavours of pho that are associated with regions across the country. Vietnam is said to be preparing a dossier to be submitted to UNESCO to inscribe Vietnamese Pho with World Heritage status – the festival is in lead up to this. 

The pho in Hanoi, where it all started, differs from its Southern sister somewhat. The Saigon style sees the bowls heaped with herbs, including Thai basil and sprouts, its bolder broth punctuated with a pronounced sweetness that’s enhanced further by sliced red onion. The northern version, on the other hand, is low on embellishment and frippery, proudly austere and distinctly savoury – not sweet – and all the more delicious for it, we think. Even coriander sprigs or bean sprouts will be viewed with suspicion, a Hanoi pho usually adorned only with slices of the green part of a spring onion. 

Diners customise their pho to taste. A measured dose of lime enlivens the broth. The pickled garlic vinegar brings sweetness and piquancy. Fresh slices of red chill give fruitiness and a sharp, pleasing heat, though don’t add too much; you’ll often see folk here dexterously poking out the seeds of the chilli into a tissue so they don’t overpower the broth with capsicum heat. You’d do well to follow suit.

A dash of homemade hot sauce is optional – many don’t, we do, often halfway through the bowl, to refresh and replenish, to make things feel brand new again.

However you enjoy your pho, enjoy it with quay – the only necessary accompaniment to pho – which is, in taste akin to a savoury doughnut, and, in appearance, a golden brown dog bone. It takes on the flavour of the soup perfectly, retaining its crunch whilst soaking up the broth. For some reason, the thought of this crispy quay, bathed in pho broth, is the first time we’ve genuinely started salivating whilst writing this. Maybe it’s some kind of Pavlov/dog bone thing…

…Anyway, since pho contains a fairly strict, concise set of ingredients — a deeply layered broth, a protein, be it quickly boiled beef or poached chicken, rice noodles and a handful of herbs and green onions, the dish’s success lies in the details; in the tenderness of the protein, the verve, depth and lightness of the broth, and the chef’s deft but delicate layering of the bowl. 

We’ve only included the bowls where those details shine through with utter clarity. So, without further ado, wipe down your chopsticks, shine your spoon and dig into our roundup of where to find the best pho in Hanoi.

*Pho is traditionally a breakfast dish and pretty much all of the shops on this list open from early until sold out. Many won’t stay open much past lunch, which ends at around 2pm. A couple of the spots on our list of the best pho in Hanoi do stay open late into the night, though it’s always a little unpredictable in Hanoi. Always check Google’s opening hours, but do not put 100% faith in that information.

Every bowl on our list clocks in at between 50’000 and 100’000 VND (between £1.50 and £3), with the exception of the duck versions, which are a little more. Regardless, all are absurdly good value for the skill, effort and heritage involved in making them.*

Map Of The Best Pho Purveyors In Hanoi

Where To Find The Best Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) In Hanoi

Hanoi-style beef pho – phở bò – is the gorgeous, nourishing Vietnamese noodle soup of sliced beef and bone broth, the latter flavoured with star anise and cloves for a subtle, ever so slight hint of spice. Here’s where to find the best beef pho in Hanoi…

Pho Ly Quoc Su: Ideal for perhaps Hanoi’s best bowl of pho bo…

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

By imke.sta via Flickr

If you’re looking for the best pho in the Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam…the world, then you’ve quite possibly found it. The wild popularity of Pho Ly Quoc Su (the one on actual Ly Quoc Su street – more of that in a minute) means that you’ll likely have to wait a while or – heaven forbid – share your table with other tourists for tucking in, but the exemplary bowl of pho bo on offer here is well worth the wait and/or the awkwardness of accidentally splashing your broth over your table companions. Those northern noodles are slippery things, no doubt about it.

Here the service is brusque and efficient, the beef always fresh and tender. The chefs (visible through a glass partition constantly ladling bowls of the good stuff) work quickly, meaning you won’t have to wait long for your soup once you’ve taken a seat.

Once you’ve settled in, ordering by numbers is easy, with menus boasting English translations placed under the glass surface of every table, visible to all. For a newcomer, the different types of beef pho can be a little bewildering, but really, there is one order that stands out above all others…

…Yep, we’re massive devotees of the tai gau version, which sees fatty, long-braised brisket and slices of raw beef sharing the bowl. Here, the brisket is thinly sliced and tender, with its mellow, yellow fat gently melting into the broth, causing those all-important globules to dapple the soup’s service.  

© author’s own

That broth itself is on the lighter side, just a little cloudy (as it should be), and refreshing, savoury and obscenely moreish. The rice noodles are slippery and have the right bite, as in, not much bite at all. Add a little of Pho LQS’s homemade chilli sauce and a dash of the liquid from their pickled garlic, and luxuriate in an absolutely gold standard version of the national dish. 

*Do be aware that there are many, many imitators across the city, operating under the same name and with the same standout orange facade. The only true Pho Ly Quoc Su in terms of sky high standards is found on – perhaps unsurprisingly – Ly Quoc Su street.*

Address: 10 P. Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan: Ideal for the widely acknowledged number one beef pho on the planet

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

You know all that stuff we just said about Pho Ly Quoc Su being the finest bowl of pho bo in the world? Park that, as Pho Gia Truyen on Bat Dan Street (just around the corner, in fact!) is perhaps even better.

The obvious move here is to try both versions, with the two streets only a five minute stroll apart. You won’t miss Pho Bat Dan (as most people call it), as the snaking queue of hungry locals stands testament to the quality of the bowls within this little family run shop. Service is cursory on a good day, and you’ll need to juggle a boiling hot bowl of soup while you jostle for a stool, but genuinely, honestly and with truth, it is worth it. 

You’ll see the beef briskets hanging in the doorframe (there is no window here – the shophouse opens fully out onto the street), their hulking frames swaying enticingly on their hooks, their fat shimmering enticingly. There are only three options; tai, tai nam, or chin, which is rare beef, rare beef and braised flank, and braised brisket, respectively.

Our heart lies in the latter camp with the pho bo chin, all to get a taste of those swinging briskets. It’s a deeper, richer broth than Pho LQS, perhaps better suited to Hanoi’s surprisingly chilly winters, whilst the one at Ly Quoc Su is more of a summery affair. Anyway, enough of the now tired comparisons – both bowls are the finest versions of beef pho you’ll find anywhere in Hanoi. And, by rights then, the world. Get here early; they’re often sold out and shop shut up by midday.

Ideal Tip: If you want some dessert, head to Xoi Che Ba Thin (1 Bat Dan street) two minutes down the road and have some chè. Gorgeously sweet and syrupy, it’s refreshing, replenishing stuff.

Address: 49 P. Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

By IndreJeg via Canva

Pho Hang Trong: Ideal for a secret back alley pho

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

Pho Hang Trong, or ‘back alley pho’ as we like to call it, is the kind of place that feels like a well-kept secret, even though it’s anything but. You’ll find this pho shop tucked away in the Old Quarter between a cafe and a souvenir shop, just where it belongs. 

On our first visit, we were so confused as to where it was, an elderly gent approached us and simply asked “pho?” before ushering us down the dark alleyway between those two shops. Once you’re shrouded in darkness, head for the narrow flight of stairs which opens up into a family living room of Ms. Minh, and you’ll find Pho Hang Trong. It’s a belter.

This unassuming, tiny shrine to pho seats roughly 12 people. The walls are adorned with faded pictures of relatives. Take your shoes off and grab a seat. It’s only open for a select few hours a day and closes at around 8pm or when they’ve sold out, which is often much earlier. There’s only one thing on the menu, and all you’ve got to do as you enter is state the number of bowls you want. Simple.

It’s the kind of pho joint where locals and savvy travellers come together, all slurping in careful, quiet reverence. The broth is a masterclass in balance, simmered for hours to achieve a depth of flavour that can only come from years of perfecting the recipe. It’s rich and aromatic, with just the right amount of spice to keep things interesting. The noodles are perfectly cooked, with a satisfying chew that pairs beautifully with the tender slices of beef.

The decor is minimalistic, with low slung blue plastic tables and even closer-to-the-ground plastic stools. That’s okay; you can really get your face into the bowls, and your lovely white shirt is protected from the inevitable backsplash.

This isn’t a place you linger in after you’re done; luxuriate in that pho, sure, but then move on and let someone else have a go.

Address: 8 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm,  Hà Nội

Pho Vui: Ideal for a happy-go-lucky pho that stays open late

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

© author’s own

‘Vui’ means joy or cheerful in Vietnamese, and this happy-go-lucky pho certainly does put a smile on our faces and a spring in our steps. The atmosphere at Pho Vui is lively, with the sounds of clinking bowls and animated conversation filling the air – the kind of place where you can lose yourself in the moment, savouring each spoonful of pho as the world goes by.

The merit of a good pho lives or dies on the quality of its broth, and the broth at Pho Vui is excellent, a real peppery little number that’s got plenty of unctuous mouthfeel from beef bones that have been cooked low and slow until they release their marrow.

Just around the corner from Hanoi’s rowdy Bia Hoi Corner and Ta Hien street, its main strip of backpacker bars, Pho Vui stays open until 1am, ready for revellers looking to soak up the beer and perhaps even wring out one more from their evening.

Address: 25 P. Hàng Giầy, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

© author’s own

Pho Thin: Ideal for a unique take on a classic

Area: Hai Ba Trung District

Mr. Nguyen Trong Thin – the so-called ‘pho artisan’ – made this restaurant famous through a special pho technique that he perfected in the late 1970s, one which is now known as ‘pho tai lan’ all across Vietnam. 

At Pho Thin on Lo Duc Street, that method sees beef quickly stir-fried with ginger, onions and garlic, before the contents of the wok are poured into a bowl of soup and noodles. As a result, the broth is slightly thicker and more cloudy than elsewhere, and humming with umami and wok hei in the process. Honselty, it looks (and tastes) quite close to an onion gravy. There’s a shit load of chives to freshen things up.

Like many of the best phos in Hanoi, you’ll see copycat shophouses all over the city; a quick search on Google reveals dozens of places with the name ‘Pho Thin’, many of which pale in comparison to the inaugural restaurant.

Interestingly, some are actually affiliated with the original Pho Thin. At these joints, the chef-in-place has been trained by Mr Thin, and the man himself will regularly, unexpectedly come to check that they are doing things right, franchise-style. One has even opened in Melbourne, and another in Indonesia. However, we’d definitely stick with the original Lo Duc outpost here; often imitated, never duplicated, and all that.

Do be warned; Pho Thin Lo Duc gets rammed; it’s not a spacious dining room, even during quieter times, and due to its popularity, there aren’t, well, quieter times. That said, if you’re looking to enjoy a pho thin in comfortable surroundings, a collaboration between the main man and luxury resort Vinpearl’s head chefs has led to Pho Thin Vinpearl – or ‘skyscraper Pho’ – at Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81. While we can’t vouch for the pho here, having never tried it, it’s certainly an interesting proposition.

Address: 13 P. Lò Đúc, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

Bu HoaiPT via Canva

Pho Suong: Ideal for the legendary Blue Shirt Pho

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

Wander down Trung Yen, which is considered one of Hanoi’s most famous culinary alleys, and you’ll find Pho Suong. At the helm is Ms. Nguyen Tuyet Lan, a third generation cook continuing the family business of serving up properly satisfying, nourishing beef pho.

Pho is usually a family business in Vietnam, and the best of the best pho joints have – on the most part – been around for decades. In the case of Ms. Nguyen Tuyet Lan’s family, her father originally roamed the Old Quarter selling pho back in the 1930s. His operation was nicknamed ‘blue shirt Chinese pho’ because of the colour shirt he wore, helping Mr. Nguyen (or, Mr Blue Shirt) become well known throughout Hanoi. 

In 1986, his children opened up Pho Suong using the recipe her father passed down, cementing his legacy in the process. Today, Pho Suong is still, undeniably, one of the best pho purveyors in Hanoi, famous for its light and gently sweet broth. 

The family recipe sees beef bones simmered for 15 hours, with ginger and fish sauce intensifying the flavour. Interestingly, the cooks here – just as Mr. Blue Shirt did a century ago – forgo the usual cinnamon and star anise, resulting in a lighter broth that’s so refreshing on a particularly humid Hanoi day.

After you’ve finished your meal, stroll down Dinh Liet street (home to one of our favourite banh mi in Hanoi, incidentally) past the souvenir and art stores and walk your meal off with a loop around picture-perfect Hoan Kiem lake. Do as we do and get an ice cream for dessert from one of the many stalls lining the lake!

Address: 24B Ng. Trung Yên, Phố cổ Hà Nội, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnamn

Laurence Taylor from Getty Images

Pho Suong Co Muoi Ideal for one of the most attractive pho shops in the city

Area: Hai Ba Trung District

The Pho Suong dynasty have since spread their wings further. Following on from the patriarch’s success, the Nguyen family have opened another pho shop in Mai Hac De, up in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung district. Indeed, about the success and subsequent ubiquity, the owner says – almost laments, to be honest – on Pho Suong Co Muoi’s Facebook page, that “the image of the blue-shirted Chinese street vendor carrying noodle soup probably became a part of the memories of every child of the capital”.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Muoi, who was one of the original siblings to open the first Pho Suong restaurant in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, runs operations here. She says that “pho is said to be the ‘business card’ of Vietnamese people, and Pho Suong Co Muoi has preserved the soul and symbol of the country’s cuisine to the fullest.” We couldn’t agree more.

We love this second branch of Pho Suong for its light and airy space and delicious quay. With wooden panelling and tables, a gorgeous tiled floor and light yellow walls, it’s one of the most attractive pho shops in the city. The pho bo sot vang (a riff on pho using a wine-spiked broth) is something of a speciality. 

Address: 36B Mai Hắc Đế, Bùi Thị Xuân, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Facebook: phosuongcomuoi

Spicy Pho Bay: Ideal for West Lake’s best pho bo…

Area: Tay Ho (West Lake)

It’s a truism for so many street food recommendations across the planet – that the ‘best’ pad Thai in Bangkok, the ‘best’ pizza in Naples, or the ‘best’ tacos el pastor in CDMX is just, well, the closest one to your house. 

The one that, whilst perhaps not knowing your name, certainly knows your usual order, your favourite seat, and whether you’ve put on weight or not since your last visit. 

Spicy Pho Bay, in Hanoi’s increasingly swanky West Lake, was our local pho shop for years, and it’s a darn good bowl if you’re up in this next of the woods, taking in the scenery. 

Ignore the signage, which clearly depicts a stereotypical Italian chef (possibly off the Simpsons), chef’s kiss fingers and all. Instead, be drawn in by the huge vats of bubbling broth that seem to obstruct the doorway, pulling off the admirable feet of both enticing you in and blocking your entrance. Slalom through, settle in, savouring the aromas of star anise and charred ginger when you do, and gear up for a nourishing bowl of the good stuff. 

Alongside the usual rundown of slowcooked, ultra fatty brisket, slices of rare steak, braised flank, and even our old friend ‘thin’, Spicy Pho Bay also do an excellent pho xao; that is, stirfried pho noodles – crisp and charred and singing of wok hei – with plenty of dark green leaves, slices of beef and a pleasingly gloopy gravy. Anoint it with the signature house chilli sauce and enjoy.

Address: 1a P. Đặng Thai Mai, Quảng An, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam

By Muk photo via Canva

Where To Find The Best Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup) In Hanoi

Though beef pho is, to so many visitors, the headlining Hanoi dish, it’s actually chicken pho (the ol’ pho ga) that’s more popular in the city. It’s the city’s go-to, its day one, its every day. It’s the one that Hanoians crave when the weather changes, a source of replenishment and rehydration, a soul-soother and heartwarmer. 

Here’s where you’ll find the best bowls of chicken pho (pho ga) in Hanoi.

By Vinh Dao via Canva

Pho Ga Nguyet: Ideal for a dry version of the famous soup

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

Light, herbaceous, restorative chicken pho in Hanoi is its own thing, a world away from the beef version’s assertive savouriness and rich mouthfeel. In fact, as a rule, if a shophouse or stall serves both chicken and beef pho, it’s reasonable to assume that neither is the greatest rendition, the two disciplines not interchangeable by any means.

Just outside of the Old Quarter proper, on Phu Doan, a stretch of road defined by garages and motorbike repairs, you’ll find one of Hanoi’s best versions of chicken pho at Pho Ga Nguyet.

Two key moves with your order here; request the dark chicken meat, which is so much more flavourful (the white breast meat is automatically allocated to non-Viets) and order the dish ‘tron’ – or dry. That’s where Pho Ga Nguyet really excels, the standard noodle soup turned into a gorgeous noodle salad, with a chicken fat and soy sauce spiked dressing that coats every damn noodle strand.

The main man here, wielding the cleaver all evening in the shophouse’s entrance, speaks a little English, and is a charming presence. Owing to the shophouse’s daytime operations fixing motorbikes and revving engines, Pho Ga Nguyet is an evening only affair. 

During the dinner rush (between 6pm and around 7:30pm), you might have to wait five minutes to get a seat. It’s worth it. Though we’re damn prone to hyperbole, the dry chicken pho here (pho ga tron) is our favourite bowl of pho in Hanoi, period. It is fucking immense.

A rare thing for Hanoian pho shophouses, this one stays open late, too, closing at around midnight.

Address: 5b P. Phủ Doãn, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Pho Lam Nam Ngu: Ideal for a chicken pho that celebrates the whole bird

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

You’ll find Pho Lam tucked away down a pretty little lane that’s defined by unkempt but totally beautiful hanging greenery, the kind that clotheslines you off your motorbike and you don’t even resent it. Pick yourself up and dust yourself down, as there’s pho here to soothe your soul…

We say “you’ll find” but it’s easy to miss the red sign here, the bold caps of PHO LAM NAM NGU set back from the road and obscured by the Hanoi’s ubiquitous corrugated iron awning. You might be better off looking for the popular French restaurant La Badiane, which sits opposite Pho Lam, and then turning right.

The chicken broth at Pho Lam operates on a rolling boil over coals which sit at the front of the shop, big pots of forever ticking over, a reminder of life’s cyclical nature, but also, as the aunty sweeps another bowl directly through this bubbling cauldron, of things being finite.

Here you’ll find reliably flavourful dark chicken, no stinginess as it’s packed high on its plinth of tightly wound noodles. Though the menu is prosaically delivered – a single white sign that declares ‘Pho Ga 50K’ – there’s actually a fair bit of customising to be done here if you’ve got your Vietnamese (or confident pointing) down. 

On the counter that Pho Nam’s cooks diligently draw from, a big bowl of dark and white flesh and slices of yellow skin are all mixed together in equal quantities – and then you can add more of your preference, be that dark or white meat. It looks like a lot of skin going into your bowl, but when the fat from the skin melts into the bowl, you’re in for a truly delicious, unctuous broth. There are big bowls of msg, too, which you can ask to be omitted if you don’t value flavour.

Boiled organs are also all spread out on a tray – blood cake, eggs, chicken feet – which are available on request. However you play it, this is a hugely herbal bowl, with whole spring onions, garlic chives, delicate baby coriander and dill all piled high.

Though it feels – in our mind – better suited to beef pho, the quay at Nam Ngu is excellent, with plastic bags full of the stuff hanging from random coat hooks across the joint. The homemade hot sauce is some of the best you’ll find too, thick and deep rust in colour. A vinegar pot brimming with freshly sliced chillies and a few quarters of lime seal the deal.

Yes indeed, this is one of the best bowls of pho in Hanoi, beef, chicken or otherwise.

Address: 7 P. Nam Ngư, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

Image @ a 1 u c a r d

Pho Ga Cham: Ideal for a golden, consomme-like pho broth

Area: Ba Dinh District

Wow, this is one clean bowl of the good stuff, over at Pho Ga Cham, just off picturesque, cinematic Truc Bach Lake.

Pleasingly, here the bouncy yellow skin is left on the slices of breast, rather than being served separately or, heaven forbid, removed entirely and discarded, lending a gorgeous mouthfeel to every bite.

The option to add an egg yolk to the broth is one that many locals avail themselves of. Do the same, though don’t mix that yolk into the soup; that’s not the done thing and muddies the broth. Instead, allow it to set gently before eating the whole yolk in one.

Go further, and order the house special, which sees a clean, consomme-like golden pho broth with absolutely no herbs added, just a few bobbing slices of chicken breast and four or five egg yolks. One for the ‘gains’ crowd perhaps, but bloody delicious, too. The gratis iced tea here is excellent – bitter and refreshing.

Address: 64-68 P. Yên Ninh, Quán Thánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

By Muk photo via Canva

Pho Ga Dac Biet: Ideal for a rich, offal-spiked broth in the OQ

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

Dac Biet means ‘the house special’ in Vietnamese, and at Pho Ga Dac Biet the chicken pho house special is very much the signature. It’s a bowl that’s absolutely heaving with dark thigh meat, organs, intestines, chicken feet, beaks…you name it. Please, don’t be put off; it is bloody fantastic, those offaly cuts lending a supreme richness and depth to the broth that is totally unique when compared to many of the other lighter chicken soups on our list.

Interestingly, you can order the scarcely seen pho tai ga here, which is a bowl of rare beef steak (cooked in the broth) and chicken, all bobbing about in a broth that combines the two stock bases. It works… kind of.

Address: 1 Hàng Điếu, Phố cổ Hà Nội, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

By minddream via Canva

Pho Ga Tron: Ideal for a local favourite

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

Popular on a summer’s day, another dry (well, not dry, rather; ‘soupless’) pho to try is the banger at Pho Ga Tron on Lan Ong street. This is a legendary spot beloved of locals for the restaurant’s use of ga ta – chicken raised in the country that’s had a good run around and frolic, its flesh benefiting in flavour from its freedom. Or, as Hanoians more succinctly put it, “gym chicken”.

Any establishment serving industrial chicken is frowned upon and largely ignored by Hanoian patronage. Much like our free-range chicken, ga ta has a richer taste and the meat is firmer in texture. And so it is at Pho Ga Tron, where the chicken pho is present in tron format, what your Ottolenghi or your Oliver might call a ‘noodle salad’. There is actually a small bowl of soup served on the side when ordering pho tron – some might choose to spoon a little over the noodles to make them all silky and slippery. We certainly do.

Anyway, this one is really herbal, with bright, zippy notes and an enjoyable low thrum of sweetness from deep fried shallots and peanuts. The dressing is gorgeous; rich but light, and soy sauce defined. What a treat it is.

On special occasions (we’ve enjoyed this one during September’s Moon Festival), you’ll find black chicken served at Pho Ga Tron, a deliciously aniseed affair with delicate translucent noodles and promises of getting healed from a medicinal, bracing, but utterly gorgeous broth. 

A little further down the road, you’ll find Pho Hanh which we hear also does a good version of Pho Tron, although we’re yet to try it. On their Facebook page, a recent post with Mark Wiens fills us with confidence that this place is the real deal. 

Address: 65B P. Lãn Ông, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam 

Where To Find The Best Pho Chay (Vegetarian Noodle Soup) In Hanoi

Purists may baulk at the notion of a vegetable-based pho, but pho chay, the vegetarian version of the Vietnamese national dish, can be a deeply hearty, savoury affair. Dried wood ear mushrooms bringing plenty of umami, whilst ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, and spices add deeper layers and plenty of warmth.

Vegetarian pho, or pho chay, originated from the Buddhist cuisine of Vietnam, where monks adapted traditional meat-based pho by creating imitated beef, chicken, and vegetarian broths. 

Influenced by Buddhist principles of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence, pho chay avoids not only meat but also root vegetables and strong-smelling plants like onions and coriander. This results in a distinct version of pho that lacks the familiar aroma and flavour of traditional pho, but is still a delicious bowlful.

Pho Chay: Ideal for an unassuming yet exemplary vegetarian pho

Area: Hai Ba Trung District 

The restaurant, on the same strip as the original Pho Thin from earlier, doesn’t look like much from the outside. But then, not many pho shops do, exactly. Pho Chay is particularly unassuming, so narrow and branded in the same yellow-and-green as a famous local bank that we thought it was an ATM on our first visit.  

Step over the threshold and pull up one of just four stools, and order a baby or big bowl. Whichever size you go for, this one is defined by the popular meat alternative seitan, which here does a fine job of masquerading as beef. Plenty of deep fried treats (tofu, slices of quay akin to croutons…that kind of thing) bring a much-needed sense of textural contrast. The salted lime drink here is as refreshing as it comes on a hot Hanoian day. Mmm, electrolytes…

Address: 168 P. Lò Đúc, Đống Mác, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Pho Suong Co Muoi: Ideal for 100% vegan pho

Area: Hai Ba Trung District 

We’ve already spoken about Pho Suong’s legendary beef pho. Well, they also do a great vegan beef pho, clearly stating that no animal has been used, which is reassuring in a country that sometimes plays a little loose with the whole ‘chay’ description.

Billing it as a bowl for everyone, the cooks here say that “if you’ve had enough of salty dishes, then the delicious and thick vegetarian pho is very suitable to cleanse your body between those daily meals of fish and meat”.

Again, perhaps the idea of a vegan diet hasn’t been totally taken onboard, but this Pho Suong’s pho chay is a satisfying thing whichever way you look at it.

Address: 1a P. Đặng Thai Mai, Quảng An, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Where To Find The Best Pho Vit (Duck Noodle Soup) In Hanoi

Breaking away from tradition, duck pho has become popular in Hanoi recently. A speciality from the mountain regions in the Northeast of Vietnam, it’s bloody good on one of Hanoi’s surprisingly chilly winter evenings. 

Area: Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter)

If you’re looking for the best duck pho in Hanoi, the easiest and most accessible place to try a bowl is at Don Duck in the Old Quarter. Recommended by the Michelin guide, as the name suggests this restaurant specialises in all things duck. The owner Kiem is a lovely guy and will gladly explain the provenance of his ducks to you so we don’t have to. He – and his cooks – prepare this beautiful bird in all the ways you can imagine. We’re here for the duck pho, of course…

Don Duck’s pho has an unmistakable fattiness from the natural coverage of the duck. Warm spices give a subtle nuance to the aromatic broth. While this isn’t the cheapest pho in town, it’s an interesting and delicious one. 

Since you’re here, order a bowl of spring rolls to start, the dipping sauce of which is made using their six-hour duck bone broth and more than 20 spices. It’s a complex thing, and totally worth an order.

Address: 29 P. Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Facebook: @Don-Duck

Vit Quay Quan Lang: Ideal for a provincial duck pho

Area: Ha Dong District

Vịt Quay Quán Lạng is a renowned restaurant on the outskirts of Hanoi city centre, celebrated for its delectable roast duck dishes. Originating from the Lang Son province in Northern Vietnam, the star of the menu is, of course, the eponymous roast duck (vit quay), which blesses their pho.

This dish combines the rich, savoury flavours of roasted duck with the aromatic and comforting qualities of pho to great effect. Clear and aromatic from a low and slow simmering of duck bones, herbs and spices, the broth itself is typically lighter than a beef pho but still rich in flavour. 

While you’re here, try a bowl of pho chua (sour pho); a lesser-known but totally refreshing variation of pho that hails from the northern regions of Vietnam, particularly Lang Son. Unlike traditional pho, which typically emphasises savoury notes above all else, pho chua is known for its tart, tangy flavour profile. If you’ve had your fill of traditional pho, as we now have, consider this variation for a change.

Address: 164 P. Nguyễn Văn Lộc, P. Mộ Lao, Hà Đông, Hà Nội 12110, Vietnam 


The Bottom Line

Pho is more than just a meal; it’s a love letter to Hanoi’s culinary heritage. Whether you’re a pho aficionado or a first-timer, any bowl from our list of the very best pho in Hanoi is sure to satisfy. So, pull up a stool, grab a pair of chopsticks, and prepare to fall in love, like us,  with one of the best dishes in the world. 

Off to Bangkok next? We can help with that, too; here are our top 22 street food joints in Thailand’s capital. You know what, we might join you.

Joseph Gann
Joseph Gann
Chef and food writer, with an interest in mental health and mindfulness

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