Ho Chi Minh has plenty of opportunities for locals and expats to try its culinary treasure: Pho.
While there are plenty of options available, there are some places that exceed expectations in Vietnam’s largest southern city.
In this guide, we’ll try to cover Pho for everyone, whether you’re wanting an authentic local experience, a Hanoi-style Pho or even one for vegetarians.
But first, you might be wondering:
What is Pho?
Vietnam’s national dish is a type of broth served for breakfast with strips of rice noodles and served with either beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga). An assortment of herbs are added, with a generous sprinkle of salt for flavor. When prepared properly, the noodles have a soft gentle texture, while the herbs relax into the broth to produce a fine and fragrant flavour.
With a delicious breakfast dish like this, there’s no wonder few of the Vietnamese locals go without breakfast!
Best Pho in Ho Chi Minh for convenience
Peppered around the country is Vietnam’s take on fast food. You’re never too far away from a Pho 24, and there’s a good reason for its success. The taste is more than decent, especially considering the modest price of 29k ($1.50) for a small bowl of Pho.
The name refers to the number of ingredients in the company’s secret recipe. Your bowl of Pho begins its journey simmering for 8 hours with cow bones. The dish is consistent through its many stores
As well as the typical strips of beef seen in traditional Pho, Pho 24 has beef balls as well. They stay fresh for longer thanks to some of the preservatives added. While they don’t taste like beef, the strangely chewy texture can be pleasant.
While having an air-conditioned dining space is appreciated, there’s no denying that Pho 24 has an industrial look that feels far removed from its cultural origins. Though, in terms of convenience, it has no rival.
Best Pho in Ho Chi Minh
For an authentic Pho that won’t break the bank, you should take a look at Phở Bò Phú Gia. The chef here stir-fries garlic and herbs with the meat before adding them to the broth. Everything is on show, so you’ll be able to learn how a local makes traditional Pho. It even got featured on the Netflix show: Feed Phil in case you wanted to see the chef in action.
You can find it here (146 Lý Chính Thắng, Phường 14, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh)
Another option is Pho Le, situated in District 5. The place is highly popular with both expats and locals alike, and there is an English menu for your convenience, which will come in handy since no one there seems to speak English. After sitting down I asked if I could wait a few minutes for my friend to arrive, but they just gave me a bowl of Pho instead! Still, it was a generously portioned bowl that satisfied.
The broth is more concentrated than most other Pho places thanks to the bones simmering in the broth for longer. Unfortunately, it seems that they don’t seem to provide Chicken Pho anymore, at least not on the day that we went.
Best ‘Healthy’ Pho
Mama Pho places an emphasis on the health benefits of it’s Pho. It proudly boasts that it’s Pho is made without MSG or additives (even having ‘noMSG’ as it’s Wi-Fi password). The Pho broth is simmered for 18 hours before reaching your bowl, allowing for a warm hearty taste to come through in every spoonful.
Bùi Bằng Đoàn, Tân Phong, Quận 7, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Best Hanoi-style Pho in Ho Chi Minh
For those curious about how the North does their Pho, there’s a place for you. Pho So 1 Hanoi (translated to: Best Pho Ha Noi) serves Northern style Pho. This is typically served with much softer and thinner rice noodles and slightly different herbs. Instead of strips of beef, raw ground beef is placed on top of the broth for you to mix in.
It feels like a restaurant for the locals, so it’s not particularly inviting for some travellers. The food is good though, and worth coming through for if you’re in the area.
19 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Best Pho in Ho Chi Minh for vegetarians
Pho isn’t just for meat-lovers. If you’re ‘An Chay’ (vegetarian), then you’re still able to try it out at some of these restaurants.
Veggie Saigon in District 1 is a short walk away from Bui Vien, the backpacking area of the city. The restaurant serves Pho Nam (mushroom Pho) instead of beef. In addition, there are pieces of tofu added as well for extra protein.
A chain of vegetarian restaurants called ‘Loving Hut’ offer an extremely comparable Pho Bo and Pho Ga with vegetarian substitutes. The texture is remarkably similar to actual meat, and the flavours are gentler than most. For a directory of their restaurants, take a look at the the loving hut website.
Ho Chi Minh City is full of incredible places for Pho. The places mentioned in the article are notable for their distinct flavor and taste, though that’s not to say that a local street stall can’t have Pho just as good. Perhaps it’s difficult for the average person to allow the bones to stew in the broth for as long as a typical restaurant, but the results can still be effective. Either way, don’t miss out on tasting Vietnam’s national dish, it’s essential to any visit to Vietnam.
Want something else to eat? Check out our list of the 5 Best Saigon Foods to try