The Pho Hoa (Vietnamese for “fragrant noodles”, pronounced fer hua) has an interesting tale of courage and success in the face of adversity to tell. Founder Binh Nguyen was one of the original boat people who left Vietnam in the 60s and 70s to escape purgatory to arrive in America, the land of freedom. He started the first Pho Hoa in San Jose in 1983 and today, this US chain has nearly eighty outlets worldwide.
It’s a simple but obviously very successful recipe – take some popular Vietnamese dishes and adapt the recipes slightly to take away the less healthy elements like excess oiliness but still keeping it authentic by using the original herbs and spices, then offer it to the public in a clean, trendy fastfood environment. Replicate this many times round and voila! A world-wide food chain is born.
This outlet in KL first opened in Sri Hartamas but moved to its present site in The Curve about two years ago, where they have been busy serving noodles to a loyal following ever since. There are plans afoot to open at least another two more in Malaysia. It’s a bright, cheerful place with a painting of the founder and his family all along one wall, and quick and friendly service.
The Pho Hoa was recently named as one of the top 400 restaurants in the US for being health conscious – an accolade indeed, in such a vast and competitive country. Their tagline is the “Health Conscious Chain” because the stock of their most popular dish, Vietnamese Beef Noodles (Pho Tai), is made without using beef bones, after the BSE scare in the early 90s. Most of the fat has also been removed, and there is plenty of accompanying green vegetables served – que (fragrant sweet basil), hanh (spring onions), ngo (coriander) and fresh mint, all combining to make for a heart-warming, delicious soupy meal, with the underlying trademark anise flavour. You can choose to have beef brisket, flank, crunchy flank, fatty flank, steak, tendon, tripe or meat balls.
If noodles aren’t quite your thing, try their Banh Mi / Pho Bo Kho – carrot beef stew serve with French baguette, a legacy from their former colonial masters. It’s fragrant, healthy and hearty, accompanied by the usual plate of fresh green vegetables and herbs. Or they also offer Asia’s equivalent to the fondue, steamboat, for two or more people.
Whilst waiting for the main course to arrive, take the edge off your hunger with their selection of very tasty deep-fried appetisers. I particularly enjoyed the Cha Tom, minced prawn meat wrapped round a small moistening length of sugarcane, eaten dipped into their special home-made chilli sauce. Or try the cha trung hap, a unique steamed chicken and egg pie, in Vietnam usually served with rice.
They feature a different dessert every quarter – I rather liked their cendol kem with coconut ice cream, or the avocado nata cream with green tea ice cream. Unusual but delicious, especially as the ice cream is imported all the way from the US.
Being a coffee fanatic, I had to try their drip coffee, a small, individual coffee percolator which is probably adapted from the French method. It’s delicious but rather strong, so you can choose to dilute it with additional hot water. If this is still too much, opt for their longan tea, which is only available from Vietnam.
There is a helpful menu with pictures to guide those less familiar with this South East Asian cuisine. If you fancy a meal with a difference, then I can heartily recommend the Pho Hoa. Apart from everything else, it serves very fragrant noodles indeed.
Source: The Expat Magazine
This article has been edited for ExpatGoMalaysia.com