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Jan 14, 2005 04:44 PM

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.


    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.

          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.

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