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Is there REAL AUTHENTIC Pho in Westminster?

  • r

OK, my wife and I just got back from Vietnam where naturally we got to eat all kinds of REAL Vietnamese food.

I've been an Orange County resident for 5 years and my wife lived in the San Gabriel Valley for nearly as long. We've both been to MANY of the Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon and in the SGV. We eat Vietnamese food on a regular (sometimes daily) basis.

Having gotten used to the "Steak-um" quality beef they seem to put in Pho Bo or Pho Tai in almost every Vietnamese joint I've been to in California, it was a revelation to eat Pho Tai in Saigon where they actually use REAL and FRESH rare beef. (Not to mention a bowl of Pho Tai in Saigon costs about 75 cents. Paying 5 or 6 bucks for the lousy renditions I've had here now seems almost criminal.)

So the question is, does anybody here know anyplace in Westminster (or SGV, or ANYWHERE in So. Cal. for that matter) where I can actually get REAL FRESH beef in my Pho? Is there anything that compares to Vietnam here or have I been forever ruined?

I was going to ask about where to get REAL Ca Phe Sua Da like I had in Dalat, but I won't even bother. I came back with Vietnamese coffee beans and I can make that easily enough myself.

So PLEASE somebody, help me out here so every trip I make to Little Saigon now won't depress me.

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  1. Can you elaborate more about the taste of PHO TAI ( pho with rare beef) you had in Vietnam ? How is it different from the one you find it here in US.
    I know for sure that here, they use a slicer and thinly slice half frozen beef which makes the beef very dry and unflavorful. I have tried at home cutting thicker slices of beef and then pound them thin. The pieces of beef come out moist and full of beef flavor.

    Toto

    1. Having just returned from 6+ months in Asia (with 1 month in Vietnam) I feel your pain. I live near Absolutely Phobulous on La Cienega and to pay $7.00 for a bowl of pho now seems criminal when we were paying upwards of 35 cents for ours.

      I would love to get my hands on a good cup of ca phe sua da (iced white coffee) and am open to any suggestions other hounds might suggest...

      Mr Tastetr

      2 Replies
      1. re: Mr Taster

        Raw meat in pho is readily available here; in fact, some people like to order the raw meat separate so that they can marinate them before dunking the meat back into the soup.

        As far as I know, any Vietnamese restaurant will serve you your coffee in a tableside dripper upon request.

        It's funny because most Vietnamese expats I know who have gone back to Vietnam actually prefer the pho made here than over there, because the pho here is generally made with better ingredients without all the cost-cutting measures taken in Vietnam. Remember, these are 1st generation Vietnamese immigrants. Most restaurant owners have probably lived more of their lives back in Vietnam than here in the States. They aren't that out of touch with what makes a bowl of pho "authentic." My favorite pho restaurant has always been and still is the original Pho 79 on Brookhurst and Hazard. They know their pho and will take just about any request (cooked sprouts, green onions bulbs in extra fatty broth, vinegared onions, etc).

        And not to get all socio-politico-economico yada yada, but yeah, some stuff are gonna cost less in a third-world country than they do here. Suck it up and pay the 7 bucks.

        1. re: Tkn

          I agree. Vietnamese immigrants living in and around Little Saigon know their pho and to say anything else would be disrespectful to them. They would rather eat the pho here versus back in Vietnam. The quality of ingredients here is much better than what they have in Vietnam and if anything "authentic" was needed, it most likely can be imported these days. If the pho isn't authentic, the restaurant won't survive in Little Saigon.

      2. besides the beef, how else was the pho you had in saigon different? were the soup/noodles/fixins' any different? i remember when pho first started becoming popular here; it seems like places took a little more care in serving you rare beef that would turn a nice shade of pink (instead of the dry grey slices you find these days...)

        8 Replies
        1. re: rameniac

          The most striking difference is that the pho beef in Vietnam is raw when it is put into the super hot soup, so it cooks and arrives at your table still a little pink in the middle and very tender. Here it seems to all be pre-cooked, and even at the best places the soup often arrives tepid rather than steaming hot as it should.

          Yesterday my Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I went to Quan Hy in Westminster for the first time and had a quite delicious ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk). The coffee tasted fresh and appropriately mildly bitter, balanced nicely with the sweetness of the condensed milk. We asked if they would drip the coffee at the table for us as they do all over Vietnam, but they said they could not (the $5,000 espresso machine in the corner is probably the reason for that one... funny how such a low-tech yet effective method has been replaced in America by such horrendous excess!)

          In addition the coffee was served in quite a big glass for $2.50, about 3 times the size of the typical $0.25 serving you'd get in little homestyle cafes all over Vietnam.

          And the food was quite good... per Professor Salt's blog recommendation, we had the bun bo dac biet cha hue (Hue royal noodle soup) and the Banh it ram (pork and shrimp mochi dumplings). See his review for details. http://professorsalt.blogspot.com/200...

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            Huh? I get ca phe sua da dripped at my table at Pho So 1 and Pho 999... and Pho So 1 puts the beef raw into the soup... isn't that how it's supposed to be??

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Funny, I don't even recognize my own post. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I posted that in 2006. How years and experience can change a brotha.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                How years and experience can change a brotha.
                -----
                You went from cranky old jew to brotha?

                ;)

                1. re: ns1

                  I doubt seriously that MR. TASTER would EVER be mistaken/accepted for a Brotha, in any misinterpretation of the word. In any situation.

                  On another note, can a FOB ever become an ABC? :)

                  1. re: FoodTrippin

                    What if Mr. T. has a Jewfro?

                    I'm technically an FOB but I've lost much if my native tongue and think and dream in English and speak it with an American accent. So I'm an ABC in all but name.

            2. re: Mr Taster

              I get raw beef all the time. If there are any doubts about its rawness, you can order pho tai to go. They will give you the raw, slightly frozen slices of beef. You need to heat the soup to near boiling before you put in the beef. Otherwise, the soup won't cook the beef.

              1. re: Mr Taster

                If you want to make sure the beef is rare when it comes out to your table, ask for "thit tai de rieng" (rare beef left seperate) so it only cooks when you dunk it in the broth.

            3. I've had ca phe sua da at Golden Deli in San Gabriel, and I assume you can get it at other Vietnamese restaurants in the area. Of course, the beans used will probably differ from those you can find in Vietnam, but, personally, my tastebuds aren't sharp enough to pick up much of a difference, what with the sweetness of the condensed milk. More refined palates may disagree.

              1. I'm Vietnamese, born in Saigon but came to OC when I was 2 years old. I have also been back to Vietnam, in 2004 and had pho there. It isn't bad, especially for the price, but back in Saigon they just don't have access to the good beef and ingredients that we can get over here.

                There are many bad pho restaurants in Westminster. I'm surprised that they stay in business for so long. Having said that, Pho is a uniquely individual dish. It is all a matter of personal taste. Some people prefer a more oily broth, others want it clear without any grease. Some like the fish sauce taste, others think it cheapens the soup. So you will have to hunt around for your favorite pho.

                A special "insider" thing about pho that most Vietnamese people would know - if you like the oily soup you can ask for some "nuoc beo" and they will bring out a small bowl of the oily broth, with a green onion bulb sitting in it. Put a few spoonfuls into your pho bowl for the extra oily beefy taste.

                Another thing you may want to get is the onions marinated in vinegar. They will bring you a small plate of thinly sliced white onion, marinated in vinegar and a little sugar to kill the spicy taste of the onion. Just put a little bit into your soup to add flavor.

                Lastly, I always order the rare beef to come on the side. That way, I can dunk them into the bowl at the table, so that I can eat them rare. The broth still cooks it, but at least I can control how done they are.

                Best place I have had for Pho is a small restaurant called Pho Thanh Lich, on the southeast corner of Brookhurst and Hazard. This place serves slices of filet mignon for the tai, instead of normal bottom round. You have to ask for the filet, and it's a very small upcharge, but well worth it IMHO.

                Get that on the side, and maybe meatballs and tendon in the soup, and get ready for heaven in a bowl!

                Pho Thanh Lich
                14500 Brookhurst , Westminster
                714-775-6686

                2 Replies
                1. re: kingkong5

                  You're right, Pho Thanh Lich does have the best meat (which was actually the OP's main concern). The pho with filet mignon is the first item on the menu now. The regular beef slice has been bumped down to number 3 on the menu.

                  1. re: Tkn

                    One of the reasons I enjoy pho so much is that it is a very individual dish. I mean, everyone has it done to their liking - some people add hoisin, others use the sriracha sauce, and I prefer putting in the jalapenos. You choose if you want bean sprouts, saw leaf, or the thai basil, and you can control how much lime juice to put in.

                    And even before that, you choose which cuts of meat you will have (my current order is pho tai (filet) nam gau bo vien, tai de rieng (on the side raw beef). I love adding the meatballs :)

                    In a way, your bowl represents you, a unique person. How cool is that? It also makes me happy of my Vietnamese heritage, because there aren't really any other asian dishes like this; pho is uniquely Vietnamese.

                2. I have to laugh at the complaints about the cost of pho here vs. in Vietnam. Try living on the average salary of a resident of Vietnam and then see how cheap it is. Soup in Little Saigon is still a bargain.

                  1. the REAL question should be "is there authentic cha ca in california?"

                    i've been jonsing for that for years since i got back from vietnam.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: shimpiphany

                      I still dream of the Cha Ca I had in Hanoi....

                      1. Not in westminster or anywhere in US except at home brother. Keep on searching and let me know if u find it ok. GOOD LUCK!