Pho. My eyes roll back, my nostrils flare, as I remember dusky evenings in Hanoi, food carts parked on street corners, diners sitting on crates, steaming bowls of soup propped in their laps.
It’s hard to describe the layers of meaning in a good pho, achieved by hours of stewing and skimming beef flank, reusing some of the same stock from batch to batch, loading with stock slices of the cooked beef (or chicken), noodles, greens and bean sprouts, the richness cut through with Vietnamese basil, chilli and, most of all, a squeeze of tiny native lime.
Pho on the Gold Coast? Truly, there’s not much competition! Pho Vietnam, upstairs outside the cinemas in Australia Fair, is one of the best versions of this dish on the Coast. It’s MSG free, fresher and not as ‘dirty’ as street fare, (think young vs vegetative pinot noir), no doubt due to food regulations as well as food varietal differences, but add some chilli oil from the counter and it’s got a fair punch!
When you eat at Pho VietNam, don’t be tempted by the bain-marie! Go straight for the menu board! Besides its #1 dish, Pho, this tiny shopfront sells a good range of other soups (Sour soup, Laksa, Egg noodle soup) as well as fresh Rice paper rolls (3 for $7 – fresh with a tasty hoisin and peanut sauce, but we’d love more vegies than noodles in the middle and a load more mint – that’s just how we like them), Crispy skin chicken with vermicelli, Grilled tofu, Rice porridge, Chicken salad, and another of my favourites – the delicious Viet pancake (a bargain at $13)! Order a fresh coconut juice or Vietnamese coffee to go with your meal.
Oh, and the owners are delightful!
October 2014: Pho VietNam has moved upstairs, beside the cinemas. It is a more ambient setting for such authentic food.
Australia Fair Shopping Centre, Marine Parade Ph: 07 5591 5746
Want to learn more? This article from Fine Dining Lovers gives a background history of Pho as well as tips for making the dish.