I promised myself that I would never eat another bowl of pho for the remainder of my trip in Vietnam.
The last city we visited was Hanoi, and despite my promise, I knew there was a well-known local pho restaurant I would regret not visiting. A place so famous that people start lining up at the door even before it opens at 6PM. It is never without a line, and the restaurant closes when its sold its last bowl of broth.
Pho Gia Truyen is a simple restaurant, just a homey, typical, hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant. It has only one room with a small storage-like room where two men tend to the boiling cauldron of broth. Even the menu is simple, consisting of only three dishes. Go up to the little cart and tell the aunty that you want three bowls. She won’t ask which pho you want but will assume that you want the most expensive one, which is unanimously the best. She then butchers off different cuts of meat from the hanging and drying meats on the wall and adds a handful of mixed vegetables. The bowl of pho is ready in less than a minute.
The broth, consistent with the restaurant, is simple. There is no trace of salty MSG, just a nice oily broth made from hours of simmered meat. Along with the pho, we order deep-fried fritters. A bit hard by itself, dipping these into the broth softens them up and makes them great accompanists.
The noodles and meat are good but nothing spectacular. The best part about this pho is only its broth, but isn’t that what makes pho, pho?