Pho is one of the most ubiquitous dishes in Vietnam – you’ll find it on practically every street corner in every town and city in the country. But as common and unpretentious as pho is, don’t mistake it for being a simple dish.
Vietnam’s best-known pho joints have been run as family businesses for decades. They have perfectly-honed recipes passed down through generations that are closely guarded secrets. The beef broth often takes 6-8 hours to prepare and can include dozens of ingredients – onion, shallots, ginger, cinnamon, anise, cinnamon, and roasted pepper to name just a few.
What makes the perfect bowl of pho is largely a matter of personal opinion. So while some people prefer the simpler, more earthy flavors of northern pho (phở bắc) typically found in Hanoi, others swear by the more complex composition of southern pho (phở nam) with a heaping pile of fresh herbs on the side.
There is an endless debate about the best pho in Saigon. Some noodle shops are renowned for their delicious broth, others for their healthy portions of beef. Now that we have been living in Ho Chi Minh City for over a year, we decided to set out on a mission to discover for ourselves the best pho in the city.
After slurping our way through hundreds of bowls of pho we put together this list of our 10 favorite places for pho in Ho Chi Minh City. Of course, there as many opinions about pho as there are noodle joints in Vietnam, so our recommendation is to get out there and decide for yourself who serves the best pho in Saigon!Winner: Pho LeIf you don’t want to be bothered to read the rest of this article then just head to Pho Le in District 5 and order the phở tái nạm. With thick, flavorful cuts of beef flank, we think it’s the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City!
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How to Order Pho
Ordering pho can seem intimidating at first. Often you’ll be presented with a menu that seems to have a dizzying array of options – all written in Vietnamese. Other times, there may be no menu at all and you’ll simply be expected to describe how you want your bowl of pho prepared.
In reality, ordering pho is quite simple – there are really only 2 choices you’ll need to make when ordering a bowl of pho. How large a portion do you want? And what cuts of beef do you want in it?
And once you have mastered the basics you can start adding more Vietnamese phrases to your repertoire and customize your bowl of pho exactly to your liking.
Pho Portion Sizes:
There are typically two sizes in which you can order pho – a regular portion (tô thường) and a large portion (tô lớn). Keep in mind the regular portion is generally plenty for a meal and a large portion is often enough to feed a small army.
Pho Cuts of Meat:
In general, when you talk about pho in Vietnam you are referring to beef pho (phở bò) which uses beef broth as a base and adds various cuts of beef to the final product. You can also find chicken pho (phở gà) and even vegetarian pho (phở chay), but anytime you see the word phở by itself it’s safe to assume you’ll be getting the beef version.
There are a variety of cuts of beef you can order in your phở bò. Here are a few of the most popular options (and feel free to mix and match):
- Tái – Thinly sliced round steak that is placed into the bowl raw and cooked by the boiling hot broth
- Chín – Well-done brisket (my personal favorite)
- Nạm – Beef flank
- Bò viên – Beef meatballs
If you’re feeling more adventurous you can try these:
- Gầu – Fatty brisket
- Gân – Tendon
- Sách – Tripe
- Vè dòn – Crunchy flank
And if you want to have them all you can order the Phở Đặc Biệt which is a big combo bowl of every cut of beef you can imagine.
Even More Pho Ordering Options:
If you’ve already ordered a few bowls of pho and you’re feeling a bit more confident you can try these phrases to further customize your pho dining experience:
- Nước béo – Broth with extra fat in it
- Tái sống – Meat served rare
- Ít bánh – Less noddles
- Nhiều bánh – Extra Noodles
- Giá chín – Steamed bean sprouts on the side
- Không rau mùi – No cilantro/coriander
- Nước béo hành trần – A bowl of extra-fatty broth and green onions on the side
The 10 Best Pho Restaurants in Saigon
1. Pho Le
Any conversation about the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City will surely include Pho Le (Vietnamese: Phở Lệ) as one of the top contenders.
Pho Le has been serving up delicious southern-style pho since the 1970s. It has become one of the city’s favorite noodle shops and for good reason – the portions are huge and the broth is exquisite.
The highlight for us is the big, flavorful cuts of beef flank (which they refer to as “brisket” on their English menu) so we highly recommend ordering the Phở Nạm (or Phở Tái Nạm).
It’s easy to spot Pho Le, especially at night, thanks to the flashing rainbow-colored marque above the entrance. You can always count on this pho restaurant to be hygienic and reasonably clean. Plus they have a full English menu which makes ordering easy (though you don’t really need a menu to order pho).
A large bowl of phở tái nạm will set you back 75,000 VND (~$3.25 USD). Pricey by Vietnamese standards, but the hearty cuts of beef flank justify the price tag.
I am sure plenty of people would disagree, but for me, Pho Le is the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City!
2. Pho Hoa Pasteur
Ask for a pho recommendation in Ho Chi Minh City and there is a high probability that you’ll be directed to Pho Hoa Pasteur (Vietnamese: Phở Hòa Pasteur).
This 50-year-old pho restaurant has been featured in numerous guide books and has become quite popular with foreign travelers visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Because of that, some people feel that the price has risen while the quality has declined at Pho Hoa Pasteur.
We can’t speak to the taste of the pho 50 years ago, but we think it remains one of the best bowls of pho in Ho Chi Minh City. And while the price at Pho Hoa Pasteur is much higher than you would expect to pay for a bowl of pho in Vietnam – 90,000 VND for a large bowl – you will still find plenty of locals dining here.
One of the highlights of Pho Hoa Pasteur is the plate of deep-fried donuts (bánh quẩy) set out on each table. They’re perfect for dipping in the broth of your pho while you wait for it to cool down enough to eat.
You’ll also find a plate of steam pork paste (chả cây) wrapped in banana leaves on your table. It tastes a lot better than it sounds – kind of like a sweet sausage. Make sure you try both the bánh quẩy and chả cây while you’re there!
3. Pho Hung
Pho Hung (Vietnamese: Phở Hùng) is yet another famous noodle shop that is a part of any conversation about the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City. They serve classic southern-style pho accompanied by steamed bean sprouts, limes wedges, chilis, and a heaping bowl of fresh herbs (cilantro, Thai basil, and paddy herb). The broth is super flavorful and not too heavy or oily.
They have a convenient location in District 1 so you don’t have to venture too far from the city center to get a great bowl of pho. Plus their dining room is air-conditioned which is a huge plus in the relentless heat of Saigon. If you’re staying near Bui Vien Street then Pho Hung is just a short walk (or motorbike ride) away.
Pho Hung has an extensive menu in English so ordering is easy. And they also have chicken-based pho if you’re not into beef. A large bowl of phở tái nạm costs 75,000 VND and a small bowl is 70,000 VND. A big combo bowl (Phở Hùng Đặc Biệt) will set you back 85,000 VND.
Pho Hung is also open quite late – until 3:00am to be exact. So if you find yourself with a late night craving, there is no better place for pho in Ho Chi Minh City after midnight!
4. Pho Phu Vuong
Many people swear that Pho Phu Vuong (Vietnamese: Phở Phú Vương) is the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City while other people feel the broth is a bit too salty. We personally are big fans of their pho – it’s full of flavor from plenty of onions, chives, and black pepper. We recommend adding a bit of the chili oil you’ll find on your table.
A large bowl of pho costs 65,000 VND and it comes with a plate full of fresh herbs (mint and cilantro), lime slices, and chili slices. A small bowl is 60,000 VND and the combo bowl is 80,000 VND.
Several of the other best pho restaurants in Saigon have raised their prices as they’ve become more popular, but Pho Phu Vuong has remained quite reasonable. We think the pho here offers the best value of any noodle shop in District 1.
The dining room is simple and the staff speaks limited English, but there are large menus posted on the walls to make ordering easy. And while the main dining area is only cooled by fans, there is a room in the back with air-conditioning if you need a break from Saigon’s muggy heat.
The only downside to Pho Phu Vuong is that their chili sauce is a strange neon pink color and the hoisin sauce has a weird flavor to it. Just stick to the chili oil and we think you’ll find Pho Phu Vuong has some of the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City!
5. Pho Tau Bay
First opened in 1954, Pho Tau Bay (Vietnamese: Phở Tàu Bay) is yet another long-standing noodle shop in Saigon that is well-deserving of its reputation. It’s a bit further afield than the other restaurants on our list and it’s unlikely you’ll encounter too many foreigners here.
The menu at Pho Tau Bay is quite simple – 65,000 VND for a regular size bowl and 75,000 VND for a larger bowl which they refer to as a “train-size bowl” (tô xe lửa).
There is no English menu or picture menu so be prepared to order whatever cuts of meat you want in Vietnamese or just point to the size bowl you want and you’ll probably get phở tái nạm (it seems to be what most pho restaurants assume foreigners want).
The broth is excellent at Pho Tau Bay and you’ll find a heaping plate of herbs on every table as well as the typical selection of sliced chilis and limes. The pho also comes served with an extra bowl of drippings from the beef and green onion which you can add to your soup if you prefer extra fatty (and flavorful) broth.
One long-standing tradition of Pho Tau Bay is that they still use ceramic spoons because of the belief that pho tastes better when sipped from a ceramic spoon. Regardless of the spoon, we think this is one of the best places for pho in Saigon. Sadly, its location in District 10 means that we rarely have the opportunity to visit it.
Location: 435 Lý Thái Tổ, District 10
6. Pho Phuong
The pho at Pho Phuong (Vietnamese: Phở Phượng) has a unique flavor that sets it apart from the crowd – and because of it, this restaurant has developed a loyal fan base.
The broth is dark and complex – full of flavors like cinnamon and anise – with a bit of sweetness to it. The strong flavors aren’t for everyone. And to be honest, we personally don’t think it is the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City. However, some people would argue otherwise. We’ll leave it up to you to try Pho Phuong and decide for yourself.
Pho Phuong is located in the Da Kao area of District 1 just north of the Saigon Zoo. It’s a lovely neighborhood set alongside a picturesque canal and it’s perfect for a morning stroll after a big bowl of pho for breakfast.
Location: 25 Hoàng Sa, District 1 (Da Kao)
7. Pho Quynh
Pho Quynh is one of the most popular pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City due to its proximity to Bui Vien Street. Pho Quynh serves a solid bowl of pho with delicious broth, a decent portion of beef, and plenty of fresh herbs. That being said you probably won’t encounter any Saigon locals at this touristy pho shop.
A bowl of pho will set you back 69,000 VND. You’re paying a bit more than a comparable bowl of noodles would cost you elsewhere in town due to its convenient location.
The restaurant appears tiny and cramped at street level, and the fans are little comfort in the heat of Ho Chi Minh City. But if you head upstairs you’ll find the second floor has air-conditioning, and that alone makes this little pho shop worth a stop.
Pho Quynh is a quick and easy stop if you’re staying in the backpacker neighborhood around Bui Vien Street. However, we would recommend heading to Pho Hung instead (#3 in this article). It’s just a 5-minute walk and probably has a better bowl of pho. Or you can try them both and decide for yourself!
8. Pho 24
Pho 24 is a popular chain of Pho restaurants sprinkled all throughout Saigon. While it may seem boring to eat pho at a chain, their success is due to the quality of their pho. You can always count on a delicious bowl of pho, a high level of hygiene, and most importantly, an air-conditioned dining room.
I don’t think anyone would claim that Pho 24 is the best pho in Ho Chi Minh City, but their broth is actually quite tasty and complex. In fact, the number 24 in the name refers to the 24 ingredients of the broth.
A large bowl of either phở tái or phở chín is 59,000 VND, but if you want both cuts of beef you’ll need to pay an extra 22,000 VND. Or you can just get the combo (phở đặc biệt) for 69,000 VND.
We actually end up eating at various branches of Pho 24 quiet often – when we are in the mall or the airport or anytime we want a reliably delicious bowl of pho without any tummy troubles later.
Location: Pho 24 has dozens of locations around Ho Chi Minh City
9. Anan Saigon
The pho at Anan Saigon is a bit of a different dish than all the others on our list. Their “Truff Pho” has a steep price tag of 225,000 VND (almost $10 USD) which is not totally outlandish by western standards, but absolutely highway robbery when compared to other bowls of pho in Vietnam.
Of course, paying a bit more for pho makes sense when you consider the premium ingredients like wagyu beef and black truffles in this gourmet bowl of soup. Some people love it while others believe that fancy ingredients don’t justify the cost. We’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself if it’s the best bowl of pho in Ho Chi Minh City.
Another great reason to try Anan Saigon is their rooftop bar which has an awesome view of the Bitexco tower. If you’re going to pay $10 for a bowl of pho you might as well take advantage of the view as well!
Location: 89 Tôn Thất Đạm, District 1
10: Pho Chay Nhu – Best Vegetarian Pho
If you’re a vegetarian and feeling a bit left out of the pho conversation, then Pho Chay Nhu (Vietnamese: Phở Chay Như) has got you covered. A bowl of their vegan pho is full of mushrooms, tofu, carrots, and onions. And with a price tag of just 30,000 VND, it’s the cheapest pho on our list!
Pho Chay Nhu has a big menu of vegetarian takes on classic Vietnamese dishes like bò kho, mì Quảng, bún mắm, and cơm tấm sườn. In addition to the pho, I recommend the fried mushroom dumplings – you’ll find a plate of them at your table.
This delicious vegetarian restaurant is down an alleyway near the Le Van Tam Park in Da Kao (District 1). It is definitely the best vegetarian pho in Ho Chi Minh City (though there isn’t a ton of competition).