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Pho Ga (Update March ’16)

We came here tonight prior to catching a movie at the Cinemaxx on the others side of the road. My brother in law originally intended to bring us to the running sushi place next door but that joint was bursting with people and no free seats were to be seen. Not having much time before the movie started we improvised and swiftly opted for their sister restaurant that cooks up a variety of Asian inspired wok stir fries, that were my definition of Asian cuisine about 8 years ago.

In the tradition of good germanized Asian food, I set my mind on ‘Ente Kross’ (crispy duck), a friend’s fitting name for a common fried-to-the-death-duck dish (not literally of course). Other than in Asia, where people love their fatty and chewy bits, Germans, in general, are not too fond of excessive fats and wobbly textures so those duck dishes are crisper than crisp, probably a bit dry yet still kinda delicious. Almost decided, I browsed my the pho bo on the menu and got indecisive again. When I am confused at a restaurant nowadays I tend to ask the staff for their recommendation given my shortlist of dishes. The lovely waitress was pretty quick in swaying me into the direction of the big bowl of piping hot Vietnamese soup, filled with lots of goodies; there were lime wedges, loads of those flat rice noodles, greens like herbs and scallions and deliciously tender beef slices. I was only missing some chili padi but they were also just one request to the waitress away.

As far as the broth goes I was pretty impressed. As always I would have wished for some more cinnamon flavor but since I mention that every single time that I am eating pho, I’m not even sure anymore if it’s actually supposed to have such a strong flavor or if it’s just in my head. The sriracha added a ubiquitous and intensifying heat to it all but the fresh chili just gave out free right hooks for my taste buds. It almost gave me the hiccups, which in my case stands for a proper chili experience and at the same time signals that I’m very close to crossing my line of tolerance. I was slurping and sweating away and felt quite happy to see such a decent bowl of pho in a place that I wouldn’t have expected it.

Dish Update March: I recently came here again during a shopping spree in town, and this time, I ordered the pho ga with chicken. I’m not 100% sure if it was the same broth, I would maybe say it was a little less intense but the chicken was just delicious; white meat that was somewhat tenderized, lightly panfried and kicking out some proper chicken aromas. A nice changeup and still healthy enough.

The place is no thrills, functional and clean but because of the open kitchen you might take a nice little food scent home with you depending where you were seated. There are tables for couples and groups with benches, meant for quick meals and not for lounging around for hours. Service is mostly nice, especially our waitress was super attentive and later even checked if I was actaually happy with my final choice. As a result of the streamlined menu, the kitchen runs very efficiently and fast and the food we had was great and cheap. You can never go wrong with an affordable delicious pho now can you? Nice one.

Get Your Grub On!

Mai Wok (open everyday)
Bertoldstr. 53
79098 Freiburg
Germany
http://www.maiwok-freiburg.de/

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Breakfast Pho.

imageAfter the soupy disappointment from the night before I spotted a pho station at the breakfast buffet of the ‘Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi’ we stayed at. This soup was different, even though nothing compared to ‘Pho Hoa’ in HCMC it was still miles ahead of yesterday’s bowl. The chicken soup, still light, had hints of cinnamon, giving it this distinct fragrance I love so much about pho and as it was breakfast I simply overlooked the fact that the noodles here were actually pretty soft as well. The added bunch of crunchy sprouts however ,made up for their lack in bite and even though the condiments were also limited to chili and lime here, the spice nicely kicked my butt and woke me up good.

This is a great hotel conveniently located in the business district of Ha Noi and the breakfast selection at the ‘Mangosteen’ nicely mixes Vietnamese and international cuisines. The pho was obviously not the most unique bowl I have ever had but this breakfast version made me curious to taste their à la carte bowl as well.

Mangosteen Restaurant (at Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi)
83A Ly Thuong Kiet Street
Hoan Kiem District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3822 2800
http://www.moevenpick-hotels.com/en/asia/vietnam/hanoi

Mediocre start with a nice safe.

imageIt was my first night in Hanoi and waiting for my brother to arrive later that night a friend and I went to get some grub at ‘Quan An Ngon’ around the corner from our hotel. The setup looked promising with a nice outside garden filled with tables and different stalls offering all sorts of Vietnamese favourites.

As a must start of every Vietnam trip and because it was rather chilly outside I started with a bowl of hot ‘Pho Bo‘. Unfortunately this turned out to be rather boring, even though the soup was warm and comforting it lacked that special taste and was not really different to any sort of ordinary chicken soup; no cinnamon and besides lime and chilli sauce no condiments to add. The noodles were pretty soft too and only the beef slices were nicely lean, soft and tasted kina nice. Not my greatest find but I had already heard that pho in the north is very different and less unique compared to the type you get down south.

imageNot fully satisfied I tried to turn things around by ordering ‘Bánh Xèo‘, the Vietnamese street style pancake I knew from HCMC and the street food festival in Singapore. When it came I was quite happy to see lots of greens on the plate as well as some rice paper to wrap it all up in. I knew this only as lettuce wraps but couldn’t wait to give it a try anyway. It turned out to be quite good, the crispy pancake, the basil and mint and the crunchy sprouts all worked quite well together and were fun to eat too. Overall this was a tad dry and nothing I would really call a taste explosion but still quite satisfactory and actually managed to reconcile me over the letdown with the pho.

This place is probably a good start for visitors to try out many different Vietnamese delights and phase into the local cuisine at an obvious clean place with friendly English speaking staff and a nice beer garden atmosphere. There are many other dishes to try here so I might come back and give them another shot when I’m in Ha Noi the next time around.

Quán Ăn Ngon
18 Phan Boi Chau
Hoan Kiem District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3942 8162
http://www.ngonhanoi.com.vn

A great friend recommend.

imageFriends invited us to join them for Vietnamese dinner tonight at ‘Viet Express’ at China Square and even though I was a bit worried about that unpromising name I was confident that our friends would’t bring us to something boring. It actually didn’t look like an “Express” kinda place more simple and a bit frumpy but the food here was really a surprise. I ordered my all time favourite,  ‘Pho Bo‘ with sliced raw meat. First slurp and it had me, this was the best pho I have had in Singapore to date, nicely infused with cinnamon and with this light beefy sour taste. It got even better after I threw the side greens and a good dash of the chilli and oyster sauce into it. The sharp onions and some fresh chilli made it nicely spicy, the beef was lean and tender, alone the noodles were nothing surprising. Service related I wouldn’t know what to write about really as besides serving the food we ordered pretty much nothing else happened but some things are just secondary after a delicious meal. Thanks A. and D., this one comes on the list.

Viet Express
3 Pickering Street
#01-34 China Square Central (Nankin Row)
Singapore 048423
Tel: +65 6536 9114

Vietnamese, my new after workout food.

imageOne branch of my yoga studio is directly next to this shop in Tanjong Pagar so it was just a matter of time until I would come by here for some after workout pho.

I ordered their ‘Summer Fresh Rolls‘ as starters that were probably not super authentic but exactly how I like them, fully packed with greens, fresh herbs, prawn and instead of the so often weirdly grey pork they used chilled chicken breast. Light and fresh. My main was set on ‘Pho Bo‘ with sliced beef which turned out to be quite tasty. The beef was lean and beefy, the noodles were ok and the broth had a decent flavour even that it wasn’t that strong. They provided some greens, sprouts and chilli to add to the soup but I just always miss the tables full of greens that I only found in Vietnam so far.

All in all not bad and I am glad to have such a dinner option so close after a tough yoga class that I surely will “stop” by again some time soon.

Pho Stop
21 Tanjong Pagar Road
#01-02
Singapore 088444
Tel: +65 6221 4001

Visiting Pho Bo At Home!

imageSome friends and I spend a weekend over in Saigon or Ho Chi Ming City in Vietnam for a birthday celebration and visiting a common friend at the same time. It was a weekend full of fun and delicious food but there was one particular place I heard a lot about before and which I definitely wanted to visit, ‘Pho Hoa’.

On our last day and as our last meal in Vietnam we made the trip not far from our hotel to the very beginning of Pasteur Street where this shop is located. When we arrived all the tables were pre-stacked with a big plate of herbs like basil, mint and mustard leaves, lime wedges, youtiao the fried dough sticks, bean sprouts and other dishes like ‘Vietnamese Wedding Cake‘, ‘Steamed Meat Cakes’, bananas and so on. I went for a mix of ‘Pho Tai‘ (raw meat) and ‘Pho Chin‘ (brisket) which came out the kitchen corner steaming hot. After mixing in herbs, chilis, lime juice and sprouts we started slurping. It was very nice and clean but I was hoping for more cinnamon which I think gives this dish a special twist. Nevertheless it tasted really nice. The noodles were ok but nothing too special about them. The brisket was nicely tender and long cooked but a little fatty on the edges. My favorite though was the raw meat. On the picture it looks like mince but it was super lean and lovely tender and juicy, so if I should come back here in the future this is the one I’m gonna get.

Overall this place is pretty good and I would definitely come back again but I might have overhyped my expectations as so often and was left slightly let down by the lack of cinnamon. I still really liked it and hope that Singaporean pho shops will also start offering herbal plates for self service eventually as I love my pho rather leafy.

For more of my pictures of ‘Pho Hoa’ and the other food from our Saigon weekend check out my twitter (#phohoa, #saigonfood).

Pho Hoa                                                                                                                                                             260C Pasteur Street                                                                                                                                     District 3                                                                                                                                                                 Ho Chi Ming City                                                                                                                                         Vietnam

Pho Bo…So So!

imageI went here together with a workmate in the evening as I had seen this place opening up recently and I hoped for a new place for good pho.

We started with the ‘Lemongrass Prawns‘ which tasted pretty alright. The batter was somehow different and crispy. I thought the lemongrass would be somehow incorporated into the actual prawns or crust but instead it came in form of a dipping salsa that was actually really tasty.

As main I went for the ‘Spicy Beef Pho‘ with Tenderloin. When I first sniffed on the broth I regretted that I went for the spicy one as it smelled as the chili would come from spicy prawn paste that I don’t really fancy that much. To my luck it turned out that the only thing prawnpasty must have been my nose as the soup didn’t taste like it at all. Unfortunately it didn’t really taste like anything. The broth was unspecial, not spicy and with only few herbs and greens in it and the beef was rather fatty too.

There may be some alternatives to be found on the menu but the pho won’t bring me back here anytime soon. The search continues.

http://www.vietcafe.com.sg/Welcome.html

Viet Cafe                                                                                                                                                                  10 Sinaran Drive                                                                                                                                                #01-07 to 12 Square 2                                                                                                                                      Singapore 307506