Okay TO hounds
I've heard so many people rave about Pho, I wanna give it a whirl.
What do I need to know?? What am I getting myself into?? Is it a meal?? I'm a pretty big eater. Is there a really great place mid town ish or west?? What do I order??
Give me the place, tell me what to order and I'm on it!!
Pho (pronounced "fe" in Vietnamese) is awesome. What could be a better than thin rice noodles (not vermicelli) in a meat based broth. You can chose the type of meat you want (i.e. rare beef slices, beef balls, tripe, etc) to accompany your noodles and it's up to you how much of the bean sprouts, lime/lemon, vietnamese mint, chilli that you want to put in. Don't forget the hot sauce and the "hoisin" sauce too.
Most places offer small, large and x-large, so you'll definitely have enough food, but if you're going for Viet, try the springrolls (fried or fresh) and the bahn guan which are similar to Chinese rice rolls. West, there's a great place at Dundas and Cawthra (I forget the name), or try Pho Hung in Chinatown.
Pho Hung is great...ask for extra herbs... I'm eurasian (chinese-french) but i've noticed that the chinese students and my chinese friends all leave out the herbs and use the bean sprouts..which personally i dislike...Lots of Maggie/Black/Sricha sauce with herbs/limes and chilis street style. Anh Dao is also good a little north of dundas on spadina. Our fave place in the city is MiMi's in east chinatown (on gerrard), we used to eat there all the time until my partner moved in to my house in midtown. It has great Bun (grilled pork and pasted shrimp on sugar cane....also good beef wrapped in mint)... There used to be a great place ossington/dundas (what people think of as lil portugal-has a lot of viet businesses nowadays). don't know if it's still there. also bathurst/dundas is a great northern style viet place that has Hue (royal cuisine) style courses. hope that helps anyone trying viet for the first time.
When I have a pho or vermicelli craving and don't want to head downtown, I go to Pho Mi Asia on Wilson Ave., just east of Keele.
The broths (beef, chicken or seafood) are all flavourful and the pho is well garnished. Their grilled meats are great, too. The beef pho are great, but I usually opt for the chicken pho or the seafood with egg noodles and rice noodles.
Flavours Gal, noticed your post and have say I almost always stick to a beef pho. Wonder about the broth flavour in chicken or seafood??? And I am always amazed at the noodle combination of rice and egg! Egg noodles have so much denser qualities than rice noodles, wonder about this item!!!! Pho Mi Asia is a great place to drop by, if not during school lunch hours!!!
Most places actually use the same base broth for beef, chicken and seafood. The only difference is the protein added at the end. Traditionally, they do taste different. I find that beef broth is heartier especially because when you put the beef in at the end, the broth is flavoured by the beef cooking in the brother. Chicken broth, conversely, is lighter and you can appreciate the more subtle flavours of a good broth because it's not overwhelmed by the beef.
I have to disagree with you LTL. In my experience, the beef-based pho broth is used only for pho that contains beef. The broth for Pho Ga (chicken) is usually quite different. The only time I've had chicken in a beefy pho broth is if the chicken is combined with beef. As for the seafood soups, they tend to come in a more standard broth which can be used for dumplings, pork, seafood or chicken-based soups. I believe that most places make that broth with a combination of chicken and pork.
Alright, I love Pho. It is my comfort food. I eat pho when I'm down and it perks me up. I love it.
1) Pho is most definately a meal. At almost anyplace that offers you options in sizes, 'Large' is too big (I'm a big guy, I really mean it).
2) You will be offered options on what type of pho you want.
The options usually consist of 'rare' thinly sliced beef (it is raw but cooks in the hot broth), tendons (chewy and add great flavour), tripe, beef balls (really firm and should be peppery -- can become addictive), grilled meat (sort of satay-style).
You can usually get just about any combination of the above you want. I like either a. rare beef, tripe and tendon, b. rare beef and beef balls, or c. just beef balls.
3) These choices will be added to rice noodles and topped with either hot-water/thin broth or a richer broth depending on where you go. There may be sliced red onion and cilanrto on top -- especially with beef balls.
4) You will be given a 'salad' plate of greens. These will consist of bean sprouts, lime wedges (you may have to ask for more lime wedges -- they never give enough accept at a few better places), and herbs. The herbs should either depend on what you ordered or they will depend on the fact you're white. Expect Thai Basil (Hung Que) everytime. You might, on rare ocassions, also get some mint or some other herb.
If you order beef balls and they don't take you as unapreciative wasp you might get ngo gai (sawtooth herb, mexican cilantro, culantro, etc...). I love ngo gai. I always end up asking for it.
If you get anything else try it and then look up what it might be here: http://vietworldkitchen.com/essential... .
Alright, that's the essentials.
Now, for a first timer, I recommend Pho Hung on Spadina at St. Andrews (one block north of Dundas on the west side).
It is NOT the absolute best Pho in Toronto. Notably, their broth is thin and often needs the addition of sriracha and the stiring of the beef to flavour it (or order the tendon and tripe to enrichen it).
But, it is consistent -- the noodles well cooked, the beef fresh, the herbs fresh. It is also immaculately clean (usually even to a high degree in the washrooms!). Even the kitchen is spotlessly white. Plus, it is easy to get to (cheap parking in the garage on St. Andrews or TTC links), the servers are either helpful or can find someone who is (if it isn't supper and they're busy), and the atmosphere is lovely (glass-enclosed patio with views onto the street). The menu is approachable and well laid out.
I recomend pho # 08 (rare and balls) for a first try. Also get either a mango shake or a strawberry shake -- they are very good. Their chicken wings are very, very good too. Ordering all three will stuff you even with the pho ordered at 'small' size.
'Qualtity' is what the menu says instead of 'quantity' on the self-serve order slips. I just love that. Anyways . . .
Now, once you've had you're first experience you'll want to try some other places and other dishes.
Pho Saigon at Warden and Eglington is very good -- better than most and certainly the equal of Pho Hung. They serve a richer broth than Pho Hung. It might be more accesible to you (you live north right?).
I like Que Ling on Bolton at Gerrard in east china-town for pho -- if I was closer to it when hungry, it would be my favourite spot.
Mimi's across the street is good for grilled meats and Chan Chua (sour-fish soup). An acquired taste, kinda like sour Hawaian Pizza, with fish, as a soup -- eat it and find out what that meant ;-). I also like Rau Vang on Ossington south of Dundas for pho. However, it looks really, really sketchy and kinda unwelcoming.
Other dishes include:
The other staples are Bun (cold, cooked rice vermicelli with topping) and Com (congee-like rice poridge). They often have similar toppings.
A personal fave is:
Pho Bo Hue (Hue-style pho) is a fiery-spicy, beefy (cooked), rich concoction and deserves trying. Perhaps not at Pho Hung (mediocre version). I've only had the Bun bo Hue at Que Ling (i.e. on dry noodles, not as pho) -- but, it was great. Otherwise, I make this myself.
All that said, I end up at Pho Hung a lot. It is close to school (I'm at UT), it is cheap, and it is really very good.
Sorry for such a very long post!
I must be the only person who finds Pho Hung just not good at all. Not for pho anyway. The meat is overcooked and the broth isn't flavourful. My favourite places for pho aren't around any more. There was a place at Dundas and Beverley that closed. Then Dai Nam was my other favourite -- it has been renamed Krispy Roll and is now on Warden at Eglinton. I typically order from Xe Lua but only because it's close to me.
I also want to say that I find the owner of Pho Hung very rude and have more than once seen him chase people out for staying too long, even when there is no line up. He once moved me to a different table in mid meal because he had a bunch of people show up. It's all about the dollar and of course it always is but these blatant displays make me reluctant to shell out too much for his bottomless pocket.
Oh and I hear it's pronounced like the French FEU which makes sense since it's soup (cooked over fire) and Vietnam has so much French.
NOW where is the best spicy Pho (the thin type with lemon grass, not the sate)? Krispy Roll gets my vote. Is it Ho Tue style or something like that?
Excellent reply to take the time to try and explain to perfection. A few things about Pho that I kind of like. I add the bean sprouts to cook in the hot broth and wait before adding greens that I break up and add after a few moments. The broth may be hot or quite hot and best eaten before cooling as the flavour and fragrances lessen. I use several fresh chilies, remove stem and seeds and break into several pieces when sprouts were added. I most certainly do not add chile or hoisin to the broth, retaining the fine flavour and structure of the broth. Usage of the small provided dipping dish for the meat is best in a combination of your choice, often half chile and half hoisin. With regards to the menu, one not worry about choosing from 10 to 30+ soups, as they are usually a meat combination. The rare beef and beef ball a good choice, the red rare beef will quickly cook once you added the bean sprouts and do a little stir with the chopsticks. A typical menu will have drinks, appetizers and about 100 items divided into 3 sections - soup/rice/noodles! Best to talk to your server the first times that you go and learn about the menu, the cuisine, etc. An Internet search of Vietnamese cuisine will be very informative.
I prefer Xue Lua on spadina. It's 2 blocks south of Dundas on the west side. It has a train for it's logo. I prefer to Pho Hung because the rice noodles are wider and it serves larger portions. I used to always get the #101 which is usually the special and comes with everthing. Now I prefer #109 which has everthing except the rare beef. I like the chewier and fattier meats. The rice dishes there are mediocre but the combination plates are really good and you get to make your own fresh rice rolls.
I agree with Chef_Fu. Xue Lua's better, I think. Arent the prices better as well? And yes, the 101 is still my favourite, I actually like the rare beef.
However, if you catch them during their peak times (lunch from 11:30am-2pm), you might get only be able to get a warm bowl of pho, rather than a steaming hot one, because they usually deliver the bowls of pho's in batches... so, your bowl might make it to your table the last!
I've always liked Vietnamese Noodle House on Finch at Midland (thats in Scarborough). They have yummy thick noodles (very soft, little chewy), and their soup is very flavourful and rich, and comes piping hot all the time. Their meat is soooooo yummy, just the right amount of marbling. Enjoy!
I second Xue Lua's. The Broadview/Gerrard location's one of our favourite places to eat at in Toronto.
Their spring rolls are great. Their chicken and beef pho are excellent and the broth in INCREDIBLY fragrant. lots of different meat used to make the broth (the owner told me he uses oxtail as well). sometimes their pho smells like apples and coriander.
Their satay soup in incredibly spicy and tasty.
once in a while, i get the rice paper wraps with different meats. its also very good.
their Bun is pretty good as well - a nice change of pace.
I've had pho up and down Gerrard East and at a bunch of places on Spadina on Xue Lua's is still my favourite