A Pho Crusade…

…This is a follow-up thread to the most recent thread on pho. There was a debate whether the pho in San Fran or in SoCal was better than pho here in Vancouver.

Here is my experience accordingly:

San Francisco
I spent my weekend on the 23rd and 24th in San Francisco to get my fix of In’n’Out burger and also to see how great the pho was in San Fran as mentioned by another user in the previous thread. I did a Google search and found a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the local downtown S.F. area only to find a few within my vicinity. After doing a quick search, I found one that was praised by locallers and tourists which unfortunately, no longer exists! I went around the corner just off Ellis Street to a restaurant by the name of Pho (Thanh) Hoa. No, it has no relation to the Pho Hoa chain.

The restaurant was located in the Tenderloin district. Pretty dirty area with a lot of homeless people, run-down buildings, businesses and poverty of all sorts. It was kind of scary walking there myself not knowing what I’d get myself into, but it was okay. The restaurant itself was fine. I ordered their Pho Dac Biet or I guess that means house special. Here it is:

The soup and overall presentation of the pho here was no different from what we get in Vancouver. However, the soup was different as in it wasn’t full of MSG and didn’t contain too much of a bitter clove/spice taste to it. The cut of meats were okay at best and came with the usual bean sprouts, lime, jalepeno, and basil. Portion wise, it was huge. I couldn’t finish it.

Verdict – A great bowl of pho but not as great as I had exected it to be based on the hype from one of the previous posters in the other thread. Portions were beyond my consumption but overall, not too bad, however, it left me a little thirsty later on throughout the day.

Los Angeles

I went to visit my family in Los Angeles. The moment I arrived at LAX, I asked my cousins to take me out for pho in this quest for SoCal pho. They thought I was crazy but they did fulfill my request. They took me to a place near their house and a place they’ve been going to for years and year – Pho Hoa. And no, no relation to the chain – I gaurentee you.

Same deal with the pho I had in San Francisco, however, the broth was lighter in taste and in presentation. Oh, and little to no MSG. I didn’t have to guzzle a gallon of water after finishing. I tried their coffee and boy, did that ever suck. :(

Verdict – Okay at best. Not as good as I had anticipated but for a huge bowl for $5, I can’t really complain. It satisfied my pho craving so hey, what the heck!

Homemade Pho

I was graced with the opportunity to have some homemade pho at my aunt’s house in Los Angeles. Little did I know, she always made pho at home and the hype from my family is that the pho she made was way better than what you can get in restaurants. Unfortunately, I had to set my expectations low because in all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect.

I was lucky to be able to try two different types of pho – Pho Ga which I believe is a noodle soup with chicken and a chicken broth and is more influenced by nothern cooking/Chinese styles as you can see in the photo – there are no bean sprouts or other condiments included other than green onions and cilantro. Although this bowl of pho was rather plain and simple, it was awesome! The broth contained no MSG (my family doesn’t cook with it) and of course, you can see the pieces of chicken here and there. Mmm! :)

Here’s the moment of truth – home made pho. My aunt specially made this for me as I haven’t been to her place in a long time. She bought all the meats as you would get in a house special and made the broth – from scratch! I don’t recall what she used and I should’ve taken pictures, but she started preparing this at 9am and we weren’t able to eat until at least 7pm. If you look below, this was no different from a regular bowl of pho from the restaurants and boy, it was awesome! By far, the best bowl of pho I’ve ever had. The broth wasn’t too salty nor was it too plain tasting. The noodles were plentiful and the portions of meat were just right. And to top it off, all the usual fixings of the basil, sprouts and jalepenos.

Verdict – Best bowl of pho! Not only does my aunt deserve some credit, it was honestly, by far, the best bowl of pho I’ve had.


So, with my quest to find the best bowl of pho (does not) end here, from Vancouver, Paris, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, it is still debatable where the best pho is hidden. I’m not sure where my next destination will be for pho, but after trying pho all over the place, I think it’s pretty safe to say that pho in Vancouver, is still, by far the best pho available out there. Although I only had a small sample of pho in each different city, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what tastes good and bad or whether this or that style of pho is better. Vancouver is still the best in my books – hands down (with the exception of home made pho.) :)

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