Pho is as Vietnamese as it gets. Is it Vietnam’s national dish? Probably. Who has the best one? We don’t know, although plenty will claim to have had it.
One district in Saigon that gets overlooked for having some of the best Vietnamese food in the city is District 7.
It’s easily forgotten that District 7 is more than Phu My Hung, Saigon’s unofficial Korean BBQ mecca.
But Phu My Hung with its malls, gated communities and highest amount of turbo-charged baby strollers per capita, is just a wee part of what is quite a large (and tasty) district.
Not far from the plumes of blue smoke and sounds of sizzling beef strips paired with the raucous hysterics of tipsy diners at the Korean BBQs, is the neighbourhood of Tan Phu.
Nearby its central market (Cho Tan My) are some of Saigon’s best pho joints that you’ve probably never tried.
And true to Vietnamese bowls of pho the nation over, their creators have added their own little touch to the people’s dish, to make it their own.
No wonder we can’t agree on the best one!
Here they are.
Pho Bo Ba Tap
If you love rich, beefy stock made with beef bones, then this is your place for pho tai.
It comes in at a bit pricier than other places in the area at VND45,000 for a bowl, but it’s well worth it. They could charge a lot more for this.
Order an extra small bowl of xuong bo (approx. VND15,000) to top up your big bowl so you can finish everything off.
Pho Bo Ba Tap is at 42 Street No.1, Tan Phu, District 7, HCMC
Pho Bo 23
Their pho looks and tastes as “clean” as it gets.
For VND30,000 you get a lot for your dong, including bean shoots. The limes are plump, the chilis spicy and the service friendly. There’s not much more you need.
Next door in the alleyway is a coffee shop that will serve your caphe sua da straight up to your table.
Ah, that’s exactly what you need to kickstart your day.
Pho Bo 23 is at 23 Street No.12, Tan Phu, District 7, HCMC
Pho Ga Ha Noi
This is definitely for those who enjoy their chicken noodle soup Hanoi style.
Pho Ga Ha Noi is consistent and they don’t scrimp on the herbs and bean sprouts.
This place gets busy and trills to the sounds contented of locals slurping away on their breakfasts. That’s as good as a five-star Foody rating right there.
Like most joints this side of the canal, expect to pay VND30,000 for some of the best pho ga in the hood.
Pho Ga Ha Noi is at 118 Street No.9, Tan Phu, District 7, HCMC
You know when you’ve had a bowl of Pho Sang.
Here at this small joint you’ll get served up the “pepperiest” bowl of pho we’ve had since the lid popped off the pepper shaker on Phu Quoc.
Add in some chilli and the blast from this little number at VND30,000 could light a furnace.
The added bonus about Pho Sang is that it’s owned and operated by possibly the cheeriest chap we’ve ever come across, Mr Sang.
Pho Sang is at 59 Street No.1, Tan Phu, District 7, HCMC
Pho Co Hai
Run by an all-lady cast, Pho Co Hai’s broth is substantially lighter than at other joints in the neighbourhood. That’s cool, some people like it that way.
The service here is friendly and the shop is light, spacious and clean.
Expect to pay VND39,000 for a standard bowl of pho tai. If you plan on taking some photos, ask the ladies to lend you a hand. They styled ours at no extra cost!
Pho Co Hai is at 134 Street No.1, Tan Phu, District 7, HCMC
Words & photos by Matt Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon