It’s a bit of a trek out to Cho lon, otherwise known as Chinatown, in District 5, anything up to 30 minutes from the other end of town depending on traffic, and I only ever go to pick up overseas parcels at the post office. I’ve done zilcho in the way of exploration of this people-packed part of town and for eats I was in need of advice. And so, after a bit of a debate, the paper shufflers down at the main Cho lon post office suggested I head to their fave pho joint, 3 minutes around the corner at 93 Tran Van Kieu Street.
No more than a pavement stall across from the scented Saigon river. Diners scoff in a darkened, scuzzy, alleyway behind the stall. I ordered Pho Chin bo (Cooked beef pho) and got Pho Tai Bo (Raw beef pho). It wasn’t a language problem that cocked up the cookery, the raw beef rendition is the only dish on offer – my mistake. The broth was pipin’ hot and I could see the slivers of beef change colour as I waited for it to chill to internal organ temperature. This pho comes with a 3 herb plate. After sampling the beefy broth, I ripped up some saw tooth leaves and basil, chucked in some freshly cooked beansprouts, squeezed in a lemon quarter and bent bowlwards.
The first taste is pepper heavy with strong chili overtones – stronger than I have had at any pho shack before – and of course, there’s that old favourite, star anise poking its head up at the back. There’s little of the all-important fat skimming going on at number 93, consequently this pho sits firmly in flab city. Unsure whether or not I already had enough lunchtime cholesterol to deal with, the chef gave me an additional small bowl filled with broth, spring onions and morsels of beef groaning with grease – called Mo beo. I didn’t really need it, but cheers anyhow.
One minor grouse, is this culprit. I like clean meat in my pho. Fat trimmed, blood heavy, and tender. This was tender enough, but that arty line of fat above is a bit of a pieman turnoff. However, it is far better than the stringy fat you find attached to the main meat event in many other pho joints. At least this example was not at all chewy, just a bit unsightly.
The noodles were a little tired, but this isn’t one of those noodle nightmares where you need to beg for more broth. At 8,000VD, this is stomachworthy pho, but nothing more. I wouldn’t make a point of heading into Cho lon for this offering, but if I was cruisin’ the vicinity and needed a quick fill I’d drop by again.
Pieman will be up north on business for the rest of the week. Got my mince pies on a noodle shack or two. Will blog up upon my return.