The best pho/Vietnamese beef noodle soup in Saigon is at Pho Le
You would think it’s easy to find an excellent bowl of pho in Ho Chi Minh City. (It’s not.) You’d think there’d be a pho shop on every corner. (There practically is.) But as many times as I’ve been to Saigon, I had yet to taste a bowl of steaming beef noodle soup that I felt was on par, if not better, than the bowls I can get on Houston’s Bellaire Boulevard.
People are surprised when I tell them this. Why? They ask. Why would the national dish of Vietnam be better in America than in its own birth country?
I have a few conjectures. First of all, the quality of beef we get in the U.S. is better than that in Vietnam. I mean, I live in Texas where cattle is king. And better cows mean better bones and meat, which are the foundation of solid pho. Secondly, I think our Vietnamese-American palates have evolved to prefer bolder, saltier flavors. Much of the pho I’ve had in Vietnam are, dare I say, on the bland side.
But not anymore.
I finally found my favorite bowl of beef noodle soup in Saigon at Pho Le in District 3. While Pho Hoa Pasteur might be the more famous noodle shop, I found Pho Le to have a better mastery over the spiced soup. The broth is more savory than those of other shops, and the servings are larger for us fat-ass Americans. I also like how they serve a slightly wider noodle, which is reminiscent of how my mama used to make her pho. They don’t skimp on the meat either, according to my (again) fat-ass American standards, and even though the noodles are cooked a little longer than I’d prefer (I’ve found most noodles in Vietnam are cooked beyond al dente—again, must be a difference of palates), the meal was incredibly satisfying. Finally, a bowl of pho in Vietnam I can get behind!
The hubs agrees, and he should know. Even though he’s Korean, he loves pho more than me. It’s usually his first go-to meal when he returns to Houston from a trip abroad.
Not this time, though, because he’s got Pho Le to satisfy his chronic cravings.
I found two addresses for Pho Le online, and I could’ve sworn it was in District 3. But Ho Chi inh City is famous for its challenging street navigation (read: addresses are sometimes disregarded, and you just need to know how to get there either by landmarks or a knowledgeable local guide). If you know the correct address, let me know in the comments.
Address 1: 303–305 Vo Van Tan St., District 3
Address 2: 414–413 Nguyen Trai St., Ward 7, District 5
Obviously, it’s in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.