I didn’t know this before getting here, but there are actually two types of pho: there’s the beef version, called pho bo. That’s the one that we’re more familiar with back home. There’s also a chicken version called pho ga.
I tried both, of course. Again, I’m not a crazy person.
First up is pho ga, the chicken version, which I had at a restaurant called Pho Lam Nam Ngu in Hanoi.
It’s essentially the platonic ideal of a bowl of chicken soup; it had an exceptionally clean, simple (and delicious) flavour. It’s tasty on its own, but once you jazz it up with a spritz of lime and a bit of the chili sauce they’ve got on the table, it really starts to sing.
I wish the noodles had been a bit firmer, but all in all this was a satisfying bowl of noodle soup.
The second restaurant was called Pho Gia Truyen. It’s super popular. The first time I showed up, the place was an absolute mad house; I came back the next day right when it opened, and there was still a line, but it was a bit more reasonable.
It’s packed for a reason. The soup had such an intensely satisfying beefy flavour — with just enough spicing to compliment it but not get in the way — that I didn’t even bother putting any chili sauce or any of the other condiments on the table. I didn’t want to mess with it. It was perfection.
It was topped with a surprisingly generous amount of thinly-sliced beef; that beef was bananas. It was super tender, with a shockingly rich flavour. This was obviously some top-shelf stuff, because it tasted good.
The noodles were pretty great, too. It’s easily the best bowl of pho that I’ve ever had.
I think I might have actually ruined pho for myself, because I’m never going to be able to find anything this good back home. Oh well.