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Oct 30, 2007 09:21 PM

#26 at Pho Hoa Lao (Oakland) - my new favorite pho

#26 is the pho bo kho - standard skinny rice noodles, topped with the most delicious stewed pork, and a slick of red, spicy oil. Not sure what part of the pig was represented here - maybe shoulder? Whatever it was, it was unbelievable tender and flavorful. I think you could eat this pork even if you didn't have teeth. The only downside of this dish is that you have to modify your sipping technique - do it the wrong way, and you aspirate spicy oil. Not pleasant.

I like pho, but don't usually have strong cravings for it. Once a week is usually plenty. This pho, I crave. I'm thinking about it now, and I just had it yesterday for lunch. I'll have to try it at the other Oakland Chinatown pho places, for comparison's sake, but it's hard to do when I love this one so much.

Pho Hoa Lao
333 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607

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  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that pho bo kho is spicy beef stew? Are you sure it was pork?

    13 Replies
    1. re: DezzerSF

      yeah, pretty sure it's beef stew

      1. re: kc72

        Ha, yes. You both are right. I would go and edit my original post now, but then these responses wouldn't make sense. It is beef... what part of the cow is the meat from? I had pork on the brain because the meat had the texture of pork shoulder when you roast it at a low temperature for 8 hours - really, really tender. Lots of gelatinous bits. I think the only cow parts I've ever had that resembled it in texture were tail and cheek.

        1. re: daveena

          I am a big fan of pho bo kho, so much so that I rarely eat pho bo, given the choice. I am under the impression that pho bo and pho bo kho are not really considered to be variations of the same dish; they share only the rice noodles (pho). Actually, I prefer to get bo kho with egg noodles (mi) or wide rice noodles (hu tieu).

          I have always enjoyed Pho Hoa Lao's version, and do not find much difference between the Chinatown and International Blvd branches. My recent favorites, though, have been Kang Nam (Telegraph) and Kim Huong (Chinatown). Kang Nam's version is a rich, turmeric-seasoned version with a great deal of body. Kim Huong's is similar, though I haven't been since August, and I understand that there was an owner ship change (I went at least once after the change, and thought it was still good). There are some threads on both places from this year.

          I am a fool for beef stew noodles, though. I probably order the various Thai versions the most, followed by Sichuanese/Taiwanese spicy beef noodles, then pho bo kho.

            1. re: twocents

              Bad news - Kim Huong reopened after changing owners, and the menu no longer has the Pho Bo Kho. Menu now has lots of stir-fries and lunchtime "bento boxes" with kalbi, spring rolls, etc. I settled for a Bun with shrimp and chicken - the portions are way, way smaller than before (I wouldn't order them in the past because the portions were too big and I didn't want to waste food... today, I had to get a few dan tat after lunch because I was still hungry). I probably won't be going back.

              1. re: daveena

                Wow, thanks for the report Daveena on Kim Huong. That's odd that they had a change in ownership so soon after opening. I might go out of curiosity to see if I see the same people who were there before. I wonder if they were just overwhelmed by it all? Odd to hear bento boxes at a Vietnamese place, but I love the idea of an assortment of things.

                1. re: singleguychef

                  I didn't recognize any of the staff... unfortunately, I think the overall shift has been to mediocre pan-Asian food. My friend couldn't finish her kalbi because she thought it tasted off.

                  1. re: daveena

                    I went for the Bun Bo Hue on Monday and I was wondering if I was missing something after reading somewhere here that someone liked the version here better than Rang Dong. I'm sad to have missed them before they changed over.

                    1. re: jeffreak

                      It's frustrating, isn't it? Things change so quickly... the changeover at Kim Huong, the disappearance of the shredded pork and coconut noodle dish from B C Deli, someone reported that the "Home-Style" dishes at Green Papaya will no longer be offered... at least the dan tats at Golden Gate Bakery are still good.

                2. re: daveena

                  Were the previous owners of Kim Huong related to Vien Huong, also in Oakland Chinatown?

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    I'm going to guess no, but I can't say I know for sure.

                    Anything particularly good at Vien Huong?

                    1. re: daveena

                      most folks go to Vien Huong for the veggies and beef (or fav meat) over flat noodles. lines typically out the door on the weekends cause it's such a tiny place. they're often rushed and the space is confining, so if you can, go during the week.

                      1. re: daveena

                        I usually get the house special soup with wonton and egg noodles. The broth is perfectly light, but very tasty. We also share the fish cake appetizer to start. nicedragonboy is right about the lines and they're just as long on weekday lunch hours, so we usually try to get there around 11:30/45.

          1. is this pho hoa lao much different from the one on international blvd?

            1 Reply
            1. re: nicedragonboy

              I always thought this pho hoa lao was better than the one on international. In fact, it was my favorite pho joint for a while. But the last time I went, the pho wasn't up to par. It could have been just that day though, I hope.

            2. Just tried the wide rice noodles with beef stew at Rang Dong (Kim Huong was closed today). Not spicy at all, beef was a lot less tender and tasty than at Pho Hoa Lao. Strong sweet spice presence. Bigger bowl but less substance, and a dollar more than at PHL.

              Rang Dong Restaurant
              724 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

              3 Replies
              1. re: daveena

                I tried the Bun Bo Hue at Rang Dong recently and that was pretty spicy to me. It doesn't look really red, but it definitely tasted spicy.

                1. re: singleguychef

                  I had the Hu Tieu Bo Kho (went with the translated version in my brief report b/c I couldn't remember what the noodles were called). What did you think of the Bun Bo Hue?

                  1. re: daveena

                    I liked it, but didn't go crazy about it. The broth was very light and like I said, didn't look spicy but was pretty spicy. It had a nice assortment of meats and parts but I still don't eat the blood jelly cubes. I find Rang Dong's prices a bit higher than others, don't you think?

              2. Was hoping to try Kim Huong's version today, but they're closed until Nov 15th for some reason. Retried the one at Pho Hoa Lao - still tasty, but some of the beef was a little tougher and chewier than on the first visit (enough pieces were tender enough to reassure me that I wasn't delusional the first time around). So I guess it's not totally reliable... but still pretty enjoyable.