Last updated October 2019 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
This post was last updated 3 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.
Vietnam’s best-known dish, phở is a beef noodle soup that’s defined by the complexity of its broth. There’s a constant squabble between north and south over which has the best phở in the country – an argument that the north usually wins, largely because this is where the dish originated, sometime is the early 20th century (although this is up for debate). For my part, despite having lived in the south of the country for over a decade, I agree that northern phở trumps southern. The main reason for this is that the northern broth has more depth and magic to it than the sweet, watery versions you find in the south. In particular, finding an outstanding bowl of phở in Saigon has always been a difficult task. However, although I cannot claim to have tried every bowl in the city, I have now found one of which I can say, with confidence, is my favourite phở in Saigon.
Phở Phượng occupies a quiet corner at 25 Hoàng Sa Street, in Saigon’s District 1, opposite the newly developed, tree-lined banks of the Thị Nghè Channel. Phở Phượng moved to this location several years ago from its previous site at the nearby Điện Biên Phủ traffic circle, where it had been operating for 30 years. With over a generation of experience there’s a calm confidence about Phở Phượng. From the outside there’s nothing to distinguish it from similar eateries all over Saigon, but when the rich, meaty aroma first hits you from the bubbling cauldron of broth, you just know you’re in for something special.
Images: Phở Phượng, Saigon
For me, this phở begins and ends with cinnamon and star anise: it’s the fragrance that dominates the broth from the first moment you smell it, and it’s the taste that lingers in your mouth long after the meal is over. But, while cinnamon and star anise are the high notes of this bowl of phở, it’s complemented by a background of deeper tones, such as cloves, ginger, shallots and, of course, beef. Once you add sawtooth coriander, basil leaves, rice paddy herb, and a squeeze of lime the broth takes on an almost medicinal quality – deep and soothing like an exotic Vicks Vaporub that spreads, warms and cleanses your body.
Ms Phượng, a sturdy, stern woman from the north, is the proprietor, and she seems justifiably proud of her product. Like all the best places to eat in Vietnam, Phở Phượng is a family-run business, and this is their one and only outlet: there are no other branches. A bowl of phở here is 45,000-60,000vnd (over $2, which is fairly pricey by Vietnamese standards). It’s open all day.
MAP: Phở Phượng | 25 Hoang Sa Street, Da Kao ward, District 1, Saigon
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Congrats on the new site, looking slick. Can you create a slide show once you click on an image in the collage?
Not on this particular post it’s not. But I agree that it would be more convenient if you could click through to the next image – I will try to address that.
Hmmmm, it’s 60k for the medium bowl and 80k for the big bowl, today Dec. 22nd.
They definitely overcharge foreigners, I saw a lady right next to me paying less.
The pho is good, though. But not sure worth the 60k price tag.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I have not been overcharged at Phở Phượng and nor has anyone else I know, so that is unfortunate.
As for the value for money, I agree that 60k is more than one might normally pay for a bowl of phở, but these days it’s also a pretty standard price for a well-established phở joint in Saigon’s District 1.
If you’re looking for a cheaper (but still very good) bowl of phở in Saigon, you might try checking out this place.
That’s about 10k above the price in Dalat, where things are almost always cheaper than in Saigon, so it’s really not unreasonable. Are you sure you had exactly the same meal as the woman you mention? Either way, it’s less than US$0.50 more than other restaurants, so hardly worth worrying over.
A truly epic bowl of Pho, great selection of different types of beef.
Cinnamon and star anaise shine through.
Also a side of a poached egg just adds to this great meal.
Glad you enjoyed it, Seamus. I’ll have to try the egg on the side next time – sounds good.
Tom! We usually have pho ga, but since our friends were visiting from the States, we just had to have pho bo. This place was AWESOME. Hands down, best Pho in town. Thanks for sharing this info.
Great to hear you liked this pho too. I also have two friends visiting from the UK right now, so I think we will be heading over to Pho Phuong tomorrow too 🙂
Food was good but I’m pretty sure we got charged a foreigner price of 48000 dong a bowl vs what other people paid.
Glad you liked the food. You weren’t overcharged: that’s the ‘real’ price 🙂 If you’re looking for another great bowl of phở for a cheaper price and a ‘real’ local neighbourhood, try Phở Gia Hân.
I hope you enjoy it,
We went here for lunch and it was amazing. Really great flavors. Thanks so much for putting this on our radar!
Great. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
I need to try Phở Phượng, but for me the Nr.1 is a small family run eatery with just two tables on a Saigon river shore on 598/19 Trần Xuân Soạn street, in District 7 🙂
Sounds good. I’ll try that sometime. Thanks for the suggestion.
I discovered this place a few months ago as I live nearby, and drew the same conclusion as you- hands down the best I’ve tasted. It’s very funny seeing another fellow foodie has experienced this too! I enjoyed reading this!
Glad you enjoyed it too! Yes, it’s still my number 1 in Saigon. I recently wrote about Phở Gia Hân (which you can read about here) which I also like but it’s a little too sweet for me 🙂
I think Phở Phượng is a bit sweet and salty to my taste (or maybe because I was there in the evening, the both had became much more concentrated? hmm). I often go to Phở Loan on Hoàng Văn Thụ st. It’s on the same side with the famous bánh mì 110 🙂
Yes, it still has the southern sweetness – but I think that’s to be expected on any bowl of phở in the south. I like this one because the broth has more depth of flavour than most others I’ve tried in southern Vietnam.
I think I’ve been to Phở Loan quite some time ago – I’ll have to try it again 🙂
This link is for you Tom. The 10 best Northern Pho in Saigon.
Thank you. That’s very interesting.
Hi. I’d really love to recommend to you this famous place: Phu Gia noodles at 146E Ly Chinh Thang Dist.3.
OK, thank you. I will give it a try some day soon.
Looking forward to trying this place out. I also love a rich broth with notes of cinnamon, however my husband is convinced pho from the south is better because the meat is more tender. This can only be solved by eating more pho!
That’s interesting, I don’t think I ever noticed that the meat was more tender in the south – I’ll also just have to eat more pho to find out 🙂
Hope you enjoy my favourite place in Saigon.
This is not far from where I live and yet I had never been! Great recommendation and I will be back 🙂
Thanks, James. Hope to grab a bowl together next time you’re in town!
It looks delicious. My daughter teaches in HCMC so I will be forwarding this piece to her. We had Pho in several places when I visited in November but missed this place…but will be sure to hit when I visit this fall. There is only one place in my town that serves Pho, so we make do, but I cant wait to return. BTW you should send this to Anthony Bourdain!
I Enjoy your writing,
Thanks, Bob. Let me know what you think after you’ve tried it. Regards Bourdain – sure, I’ll give it a go. This pho place is right next to the ‘Lunch Lady’ which Bourdain played his part in promoting back in a 2009 episode of No Reservations.
Have tried. Can confirm. Would eat again. 🙂
Glad to hear it, Jodi!
thanks a lot for this new interesting place to try! I’m literally Pho-addict! and normally when I’m in HCMC I love the pho bo of Pho Le (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293925-d3741121-Reviews-Pho_Le-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html) I was wondering if you ever tried their Pho!
Yes, I’ve been to Pho Le and I like it, but I prefer this one 🙂 I hope you it too. Happy eating!