Tag Archives: pho

Pho Ngoon, San Gabriel

Phở Ngoon
741 East Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

When a American thinks of pho, they usually think of a beef noodle soup with a rich beef broth based spiced with a fair amount of cinnamon and star anise, thin rice noodles, and a wide variety of accoutrements that include Thai basil, culantro, and raw pepper slices. Well forget about all of that when you go to Phở Ngoon as they serve Hanoi/northern style phở.

What’s the difference you might ask? While I’m no expert, from my knowledge the much less lush and more harsh land of Northern Vietnam means that the people there have less fresh herbs and spices. Therefore the broth is typically simpler too the point that some may call it “bland.” However, you might also say that northern style phở is more “traditional” given that French and Chinese colonial influence in the north gave rise to the dish and, thus, phở in its more original form likely resembles northern style more closely.

So when I discovered that Phở Ngoon served Northern Vietnamese cuisine, I rushed to eat there at my next trip trip to LA, which happened to be this weekend. I stepped into the restaurant around 11:30AM when they were starting to get busy and took a look at their one sheet simple menu with maybe up to a couple dozen dishes, max. After asking the server for some of his recommendations, I ordered the following:

Pho Tai Lan at Pho Ngoon

Pho Tai Lan at Pho Ngoon

  • Pho Tai Lan – The beef in this dish is stir fried with garlic before it melds with the broth and noodles. While the broth on the whole was lighter than the usual Saigon style phở we have ubiquitous in the US, there were definitely tons of minced garlic to the point it was almost overpowering. However, the beef was marinated and cooked very nice and tender. The phở noodles were cooked decently too. They had slightly fewer accoutrements than a typical phở place, but I only sprinkled some bean sprouts as to try to stick as closely to Northern Vietnamese style as possible. Overall a dish I enjoyed and would eat again.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Pho Ngoon

Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Pho Ngoon

  • Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) – The iced coffee not only was contained in its tiny press coffee filter, but it was served in mason jars as well. Hipster/modern yuppie drinking glasses aside, the coffee mixed in really well with the condensed milk. Blended together it might be my third favorite blended dark caffeine/milk drink; following Hong Kong style milk tea and Taiwanese style boba.
Pho Cuon at Pho Ngoon

Pho Cuon at Pho Ngoon

  • Phở Cuốn – These rolls are made with wide square cut pho noodles wrapped around lettuce, grilled slices of beef, and some mint. It is then dipped into nước chấm (fish sauce). While definitely less jam packed with flavor than Vietnamese spring rolls, these rolls were very delicious and I love them even more than ‘typical’ Vietnamese spring rolls.

All in all, my visit to Phở Ngoon was a great one and I think I really like the lighter flavor of Northern Vietnamese food. As a bonus, the service was pretty nice too, especially given that there is one server/cashier. And while I’ve seen some negative or snide comments about the rotation of Top 40 (mostly EDM and hip hop) music, I felt it was fine and in line with the more modern “hip” decor.

I definitely will be back again to try some other items and I hope you will too. This feels like a great place to expand anyone’s taste in Vietnamese food.

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Pho A Dong, Las Cruces

Pho A Dong
504 E Amador Ave
Las Cruces, NM 88001

A couple weeks ago I took another trip to Las Cruces to do some get out the vote work and a message training to local activists. Of course, this meant that I was able to explore more of Las Cruces’ Asian food options. Thus, my coworker and I ate at Las Cruces’ other Vietnamese restaurant, Pho A Dong, which was conveniently located just mere blocks from where we did a phonebank.

In contrast to the wide space and bright flat panel TV screens that were showing Thursday Night Football in our trip to Pho Saigon, we were greeted to a restaurant that looked a little more familiar to the homey, hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to Albuquerque or Westminster, CA. We were greeted happily and seated promptly to a table in the middle of their relatively small, but still spacious, dining room.

After receiving our glasses of water and cup of Jasmine tea we started ordering. My coworker ordered a bowl of bun (rice noodles topped with meat, vegetables, and fish sauce) and I ordered the following:

Egg Rolls

Egg Rolls

  • Egg Rolls – These were pretty delicious and reminiscent of what I can get in Southern California. The egg rolls were packed with pork and julienned carrots. Best of all, it came with lettuce and extra slices of carrots to make the perfect egg roll wrap to dip into the fish sauce.
Pho Dac Biet

Pho Dac Biet

  • Pho Dac Biet- The broth was fairly good, although since the restaurant owners are from Northern Vietnam it could have been a little spicier. The beef was a little overcooked, though the beef balls were done just right. The noodles were also slightly overdone. All in all I think it edges out Pho Saigon but not by much.

All in all the food was pretty decent. It might have not blown me away but I am pleasantly delighted that Las Cruces has not one, but two fairly good places that people can enjoy delicious, authentic Vietnamese food. That’s more than I can say about our state capitol of Santa Fe.

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Pho Saigon, Houston

Pho Saigon
2808 Milam St., Suite D
Houston, TX 77006

One big thing I was excited about when I was in Houston for a conference was to try their Vietnamese food. Houston has the third largest Vietnamese population in the United States, after Orange County’s enclave of Vietnamese around Westminster and San Jose. Given the density of the Vietnamese population as well as my experience with Vietnamese food going to school in Orange County, I wanted to see how Houston stacked up.

Pho Saigon 1

I originally wanted to go to Mai’s, considered by many to be the top Vietnamese restaurant in Houston, but since it was closed on Sundays I decided to go to the ostensibly second best reviewed Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Saigon. I took a cab a couple miles to Midtown and landed in a small strip mall, which seemed auspicious in my mind given the plethora of great hole in the wall Vietnamese places in tiny Westminster strip malls. Upon entering the place, the feel got even better as it seemed very much like a Vietnamese restaurant in Southern California – bare linoleum tables stuff with condiments, busy servers flying over the place with steaming bowls of pho, and barely decorated walls.

I sat down for my quick meal before my ride to the airport and ordered their combination beef pho, #44 on their menu. Since I love Vietnamese egg rolls and typically order 2 items to see a better spectrum of the kitchen’s ability, I ordered a small plate with 2 egg rolls as well.

Pho Saigon 2

Within 7 minutes, the bowl of pho came to my table. I immediately sipped the broth and found it spectacular in taste. The beef was not too strong and balanced well with the taste of star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and onion. The noodles were cooked fairly well, though perhaps just slightly more overcooked than I liked. The slices of beef were heavenly, seasoned well and just rare. They were also generous with the slices of meatballs, which was an added bonus. The egg rolls came later, and those were done superbly as well. It was crunchy without being too oily and the filling was dense and well seasoned, without being overwhelming. I was disappointed that they did not include more slices of pickled daikon and carrots, as well as leaves of lettuce to wrap the egg rolls in. However, that is just a minor error in an overall superior meal.

The service was efficient, but friendly as well. They generously refilled water, even as busy and moderately understaffed as they were. When I requested a little sauce plate for my sriracha and hoisin sauce mixture, they were eager to oblige. Finally, the check was delivered right after I was finished and I paid up at the counter as is customary.

Overall, I would say that Orange County is still the place to beat in terms of Vietnamese food, and pho in particular, but Houston gives a good run for the money. The prices were comparable as well, which was satisfying to my wallet. The best pho of my life still remains at Pho Nguyen Hue in Westminster, but Houston is certainly a destination for Vietnamese food in America.

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Que Huong, Albuquerque

Que Huong
7010 Central Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108

Don’t get me wrong, I love beef pho, but there’s something more subtle and light about chicken pho that makes me crave it a lot. Unfortunately, not a lot of places have good chicken pho. Sometimes it’s not that great because they just throw chicken into a pot of the beef pho broth with noodles and call it a day (instead of making their own chicken pho broth). Other times they don’t marinate the chicken well or use slices of chicken that would be more apt in a chicken stir fry. That’s not to say that these versions of chicken pho are bad (often times these versions are still delicious because if you can do beef pho right – it’s still good), but they won’t rise to the level of my most beloved pho shop – Pho Nyugen Hue which is well beloved for it’s beef and chicken pho.

Since Que Huong has a reputation as one of the best of Albuquerque’s many Vietnamese restaurants, I had to see how good their chicken pho is, especially knowing their beef pho is pretty good. Once I entered the restaurant I sat down and got to ordering, one large bowl of chicken pho and one order of egg rolls.

Que Huong rolls

The egg rolls came out first, as is usual. They were nice and crunchy with a good filling of meat, shredded carrots, and cooked cellophane noodles. The sizes were good too, not too big as I have seen them at StreetFood Asia but not too small like some other Vietnamese restaurants around town. Of course, as usual I am disappointed by the lack of accompaniment of more lettuce, fresh herbs, and pickled daikon to go with my egg rolls which I’m used to in California and Colorado. However, this is typical of nearly all Albuquerque Vietnamese restaurants and I certainly can’t fault Que Huong on what is a relatively small thing to have a disagreement over.

Que Huong pho

The pho came out next in a bowl that is even large by my standards. There was plenty of chicken and plenty of noodles, so I dug in right away. The noodles were done fantastically, with a good texture that was chewy yet soft. The broth was good as well, though it seemed like they did use some beef broth in it. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker but in other places this could overpower the more light and subtle flavors of chicken. For the chicken itself, it was shredded white meat, which was good if a little overcooked and too chewy.

The service, as always, was warm and hospitable. Clearly I am started to frequent the place a bit as it’s now become the fourth Asian restaurant to know me as a regular. However, the servers were very pleasant, refilling my glass of water fairly regularly and allowing me to switch the TV station, if only to watch my hometown Chargers lose.

All in all Que Huong is a great restaurant with good food. Their beef pho is definitely better than their chicken pho, but their variation of chicken pho isn’t bad. Next time I will try their version of Vietnamese style wonton noodle soup and see how that stacks up.

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Kim Long Asian Cuisine, Albuquerque

Kim Long Asian Cuisine
2325 San Pedro NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

There are few things better to eat on a cold rainy day when you’re under the weather than pho. Fortunately, Albuquerque has a number of Vietnamese restaurants serving this wonderful rice noodle soup with beef due to the number of refugees that were flown in here and settled during and after the Vietnam War. (You can see a more detailed account of Vietnamese settlement in Albuquerque here)

Considering that many of the Vietnamese restaurants here close early on Sundays, I had to leave the house quickly at 7:45PM to find a spot still open. Fortunately, Kim Long Asian Cuisine was open until 8:30PM and is located relatively close to Trader Joe’s, where I had to buy groceries later. When I arrived at Kim Long, cold and wet from the rain, they were about to close. Luckily I knew exactly what I wanted, a large bowl of their combination pho, and they were gracious to accommodate me at their counter.

Kim Long

The pho came out fairly quickly with just a small side dish of bean sprouts, thai basil, jalapenos, and cilantro. Sipping the broth it was clear that the beef stock is a little bit stronger than most pho beef stocks (as I could also tell from the dark, rich color), but it was overpoweringly so. It could have used a little more spice (perhaps some more star anise) or slightly more salt to add more complexity to the broth flavor, but all in all it was pretty good. The noodles were cooked just right with a little chew but not too tough. The cuts of meat were well portioned and they even included meatballs which is generally extra in most Vietnamese restaurants. One thing that was a little downer is that I didn’t see much rare meat, which is a little disappointing since I love the flavor and taste of just done beef.

Because it was closing time I didn’t get the chance to explore other menu items like Vietnamese egg rolls, rice cakes, or some of their drinks. However, once I sat down their service was pleasant and they were nothing but hospitable as I finished my bowl of pho.

While this place (or others in Albuquerque) are really comparable to what you’d find in Westminster, it’s pretty good in my book. I definitely need to come back and try more, but this is a promising start.

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