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Aug 8, 2007 07:44 PM

How I eat Pho soup.. (moved from Ontario board)

I love Pho, but I only like to drink the broth..I don't enjoy all the noodles and I don't like the fatty pieces of meat that are used..I know it's probably not authentic to true Vietnamese cuisine, but where has the best broth (not oily, but with good herbs and delicious on its own)..or where do they use better quality meats (white chicken breast?)

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  1. what makes you think the use of white chicken breast would be better quality?

    Spring rolls uses white meat chicken - truly inauthentic. You might even be able to get deep fried ice cream for dessert.

    1. You can never find chicken breast in Pho. If you find one, it is not Pho.

      9 Replies
      1. re: skylineR33

        I did find chicken breast in Pho, called 'Pho Ga' on the menu at Spring Rolls, as I posted above. I'm not vouching for authenticity, but it's there. Go to and look in their vietnamese menu.

        from wikepidia: Phở is served as a bowl of white rice noodles in clear beef broth, with thin cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations featuring tendon, tripe, meatballs, chicken leg, chicken breast, or other chicken organs (heart, liver, etc.) are also available.

        1. re: thenurse

          There is indeed a chicken version of Pho - a Viet friend's mother always sends him back from visits home with several containers of it. However, the one she makes is not made from chicken breast, but rather from whole chickens (much like Western chicken soups).

          1. re: thenurse

            Wiki again...Yes, it maybe a variation. You can put foie gras on it too and called it Pho X. I have been visiting Vietnam, it is a joke if you ask people there.

            1. re: skylineR33

              Skyline, if the people in Vietnam think it's a joke... perhaps you can explain why a quick Google search turns up hundreds of hits for Pho Ga and my friend's Viet mother isn't giggling hysterically each time she serves it?

              Agreed, beef pho is the standard. However, that doesn't rule out variations on a theme that are equally legit.

              1. re: tartiflette

                When I was in Vietnam Pho Bo (beef) + Pho Ga (chicken) were offered just about everywhere...

                1. re: tartiflette

                  Sorry for the confusion, somehow I thought we are talking about beef broth Pho here when reading the OP, so I was wondering why there is chicken breast in beef broth ? The one I usually order is Pho Dai (raw beef with beef broth)...and yes Pho Ga is the chicken broth one with chicken meat.

                  What I tried to say is you cannot find chicken breast in beef broth Pho.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Pho Ga is chicken in beef broth. Just had a fantastic bowl of it at Pho 98 in Charlotte, NC

                    1. re: southernitalian


                      I am not Vietnamese but I know with my experience:

                      For authentic vietnamese noodle soup, Pho Ga is chicken in chicken broth, there is no beef involved in it what so ever. Pho (to be exact to avoid confusion, Pho Tai, Pho Dac biet, Pho Gau .....) is different kinds/parts of beef in beef broth with NO chicken involved. To be truely authentic, in Vietnam, you can even ask the waiter to give you a bowl of what is called 'Bel' which is the oil from the beef broth, add it on to your bowl of beef pho to have a stronger taste.

                      Pho 98 is either too lazy to make a proper Pho Ga or they have no idea what they are doing. Ask any Vietnamese or tartiflette's viet friend's mother or visit a restaurant in Vietnam please.

          2. Golden turtle on Ossington has 1 of the best broth. Good herbs & intense favour.

            18 Replies
            1. re: ace123

              Golden turtle on Ossington (not the Mississauga one) is possibly the best pho I have eaten in Toronto.

              1. re: skylineR33

                I was introduced to Golden Turtle about 10 yrs ago by a Vietnamese friend who claimed that it is the best in Toronto. At that time, it was located on the west side of Ossington. I enjoyed the pho very much. I haven't tried a lot of Vietnamese resto to compare, but I think it's really good. BTW Claudio Aprile & Guy Rubino recommended it in Toronto Life.

                1. re: ace123

                  I think Pho is such a nice thing for lunch, it is so good, quick and cheap. Have been eaten at quite a lots of vietnamese restaurant in here and HK as well as home made Pho by my vietnamese friends, I think Golden Turtle is really good.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    I like Pho for a quick lunch too. I haven't tried a lot of Vietnamese resto because I find the broth of most Vietnamese resto made me VERY thirsty, I like Golden Turtle's pho because the noodle is not soggy, the broth has intense favour which is really good & not made me thirsty.

                    1. re: ace123

                      ..the thirst you get might be from MSG, excessive salt, I too am rather sensitive to it...

                      1. re: Recyclor

                        Thirded. I have a health condition that is triggered by MSG and I can't touch the stuff, unfortunately. I really miss Vietnamese food, which is virtually impossible to find without it.

                        1. re: vorpal

                          That's unfortunate to hear. I'm not sensitive to MSG but really don't like the idea of its use since there are spices that do a nicer and healthier job of kicking in the flavour. I think it might be used as a cheap substitute for star anise, a key spice in Viet cooking. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't yet mastered the difference and find the two flavours quite similar. It didn't help that the one time I made pho at home, I used a lot of star anise in the broth and found it tasted of MSG. I really like my duck leg noodle soup when its good, but have a sneaking suspicion that much of the flavour comes from MSG. Would love for someone to confirm otherwise.

                          1. re: missmu

                            I think you might be confusing MSG (Mono Sodium Glutimate) with something else, it's used as a preservative and flavour enhancer -- due to it's salt content, as far as I know it is flavourless...McDonalds uses it in their patties, guilty pleasure of mine used to be a small pile of cheeseburgers, but oh the pain, I get a ripping headache if I eat them now...I know, I'm better off...

                            1. re: Recyclor

                              I remember tasting some MSG on its own in my Grade 10 science class when were assigned to bring in things from the kitchen to identify and practice our observation skills. (Don't quite remember what the logic behind that was.) Everyone agreed that it reminded them of Chinese food. Maybe I should try that experiment again.

                              1. re: missmu

                                If I recall correctly, MSG's main function is to trick your brain into thinking what you're eating tastes good. Nothing more than another unhealthy corporate sham. I suspect Recyclor's McD Headache was a direct result of the heavy MSG consumption. A good thing to add to your Avoid List.

                                1. re: Googs

                                  While I agree that many restaurants and food processors use too much MSG, often to mask an otherwise flavourless dish, let's be fair.

                                  MSG is a natural substance that is found in many natural foods - in their natural states. Check out Wikipedia. It is not a corporate sham, though it can certainly be misused. It has been part of Japanese cuisine for maybe 100 years and has been around in its natural form essentially forever.

                                  It seems to stimulate "umami", which is coming to be recognized as an additional taste sense, though it is really more of a taste reinforcer. Used appropriately and with discretion by the majority of people (who are not sensitive to it), the effect of msg (and some other glutamates) is startling. I use it in very few foods and I use tiny amounts, but the impact can be delicious.

                                  Unless you KNOW it makes you ill, experiment before you condemn. But remember - discretion. If a lousy restaurant dumps a cannister of Accent into a vat of soup, the result is revolting. But a tsp can be a revelation.

                                  Some people are sensitive to it. Most aren't.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    What I said was the McD Migraine was a reaction to heavy consumption. I do think it's a sham when used to trick us into overeating otherwise bland food. I don't think major food companies are using natural 99 year old Japanese sources. It's industrial manufacturing.

                                    I too have a container of Accent in my cupboard. About once every 4 years or so I pull out an ancient Anne Landers meatloaf recipe that requires it. That wouldn't be overconsumption.

                                    While Wikipedia is kinda neat, here's the FDA link.

                                    MSG has no flavour, yet makes us think food tastes good. I don't think it should be put into consumer products at all. If it creates profit for corporations capitalizing on over-eating and substandard food why should it be supported? That's what I'm sensitive to.

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      No argument about overuse in otherwise tasteless food. But is is worth using sometimes. A small amount in any protein-based soup/stew (perhaps 1/4 tsp in a gallon of liquid) can be remarkable. So can a pinch sprinkled into certain grain products (e.g., kasha) and on some green veggies (asparagus; broccoli).

                                      In some of the Asian soups we're discussing here, I suspect we agree that msg is the ONLY flavouring, substituting for, say, beef or chicken.

                                      Frankly, I don't think the presence or absence of msg has any impact on the taste of most McD food because (1) I don't think most McD food has any taste and (2) most of the McD food that does have taste tastes bad. (The headaches, though, are another matter.) Every now and again I crave a Big Mac. Each time I have one, I remember why it's been so long since the previous one. I don't like the fries anymore either. But I'm a food snob and billions clearly disagree.

                                      I don't buy the argument that msg has no taste. If I put some on my tongue, it tastes distinctively like msg. The neighbourhood Chinese restaurants of my childhood - sufficiently long ago that almost all food served was fresh and freshly prepared - nevertheless served "chicken soup" that, in hindsight, tasted purely of msg.

                                      [I read the FDA reference and it was interesting, but I DO NOT consider the FDA an accurate, unbiased scientific resource any more than I would consider Wikipedia to be one. My reasoning (not really relevant to Chowhound) bears a direct relationship to your previous comment about corporations. I'm sad about that.]

                2. re: skylineR33

                  I have to disagree about Golden Turtle. I tried it based on the enthusiasm of chowhound. The broth is good, but when I order the Pho Tai, I was served fully cooked beef with a cardboard-like texture. 'Tai' means not fully cooked in Vietnamese.

                  1. re: missmu

                    Yeah, that's true about the meat, not too tender. Do you have any good suggestion for Pho Tai with great broth and beef ? Even in Vietnam, there are couple of place we tried has rough beef in their Pho Tai.

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      Hmm, I'd have to get back to you on that one. Right now though, Kim on St. Andrew St. in Kensington is my favourite overall. The duck leg noodle soup is the best I've ever had, and they have banh cuon, which many places don't. I remember being content after a bowl of pho there, but I've only ordered it once. I don't like their spring rolls though since I don't like taro in my spring roll. (Would love to know where to find a good taro-less spring roll. My mother never used the stuff.) I mostly go there since its atmosphere is more tranquil than your average, and they are reliably fresh with their ingredients.

                      With pho tai, I guess I've never really had a stand-out bowl, but have been happy in the past with Pho Xe Lua, Saigon Palace, and Pho Hung on Bloor. I also rarely get out to the east side or suburbs. Like you, I'm still open to other's suggestions for finding the best.

                      1. re: missmu

                        ever since a bad experience with a minced shrimp on cane served to me that was spoiled... i just can't go to kim.

                        if you ever get out to pho phuong by brock and dundas, i'd like to know how the duck noodle soup compares.. that is if it's the same one (bamboo shoots right?). then i may just have to venture back.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          So I was driving through that part of town last night and stopped in for the duck noodle soup. I also can't resist a food duel. I hadn't been to Pho Phuong before. They had two kinds of duck noodle soup, bun mang vit and another with mien, but no mi vit, which is the soup I was referring to at Kim.

                          (Bun was the thicker rice vermicelli at Pho Phuong, mien = glass noodles, mi = egg noodles, wonton style egg noodles when in soup, mang = bamboo, vit = duck)

                          I ordered the bun mang vit since you referred to bamboo shoots in your post. Since it's another sort of dish, I can't really compare it to mi vit at Kim. But it was a little too hard core for me since it included pork blood cubes and a boiled not fried duck leg. So far my appreciation for plain boiled meats in Vietnamese cooking is limited to chicken. The mi vit at Kim is what I'm used to when I think of duck noodle soup, with its richer caramel colour broth, fried five-spice duck leg and bok choy. Kim also does a much better job of rendering the fat from the duck than my family ever has.

                          I did like the spring rolls better than Kim's and my boyfriend says the nem nuong is choice. I'll likely be back to try their other dishes since they seemed to have things I haven't noticed at other places.

              2. Why not simply ask for a Vegetarian version. Most restaurants will accomodate you by bringing the standard plate of basil, bean sprouts,chile pepper and lime. Within the broth, you could have carrot, broccoli, etc, and if lucky some deliciopus daikon radish! Of course the broth itself will not be Vegetarian in almost every case!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Jar

                  Pho Hung on Spadina has great broth. I agree that you may wan't to try chicken or seafood to avoid and fatty texture. If you ask the servers at Pho Hung they'll put whatever you weant in the soup for a couple of bucks extra. I've done this before (ckicken, shrimp, and pork together in one soup which is not on the menu).

                  1. re: Roberto7

                    Ok, Pho Hung is where I go for pho the vast majority of the time. But, that is because I think Pho is about the herbs, the lime, and the noodles as much as the broth and because it is clean, bright, and convenient. I would NOT say that Pho Hung has good broth -- in fact it is very weak broth and is largely flavoured by the raw beef steaping in the liquid.

                    For good broths try somewhere serving some Northern Style pho. Maybe you'd like Bun Bo Hue in a fiery, very rich beef broth. It has been a while, but I remember good things about Hanoi 3 Seasons -- particularly for the broth.

                    But, I personally like Que Ling (on Bolton just off Gerrard). They also make great bun bo Hue, and banh cuon.

                    On Spadina, Xue Lua isn't bad.

                    1. re: Atahualpa

                      que ling reigns supreme in this city, anh dao runs a decent second, golden turtle a distant third. All 3 are good in their own way.

                2. When I was in Vietnam I was shown how to eat pho by a Vietnamese. I squeezed in some fresh lemon juice and added a hot pepper sauce. It was delicious. This was in Ha Noi. It could be that the customs are difference in different parts of the country, as it is a very large country from north to south.