There is nothing better when you’re in need of a little soul food than a big steamy bowl of pho.
Why do we love pho? Because it's the soul-soothing hot, soupy dish made with a rich herbal broth, noodles, and either chicken (pho ga) or beef (pho bo) we all need in our lives. And for the veggies and vegans out there, Sydney does some killer tofu pho (pho chay).
It’s a Vietnamese dish popularised around the world by Vietnamese refugees fleeing the war, and comes in northern and southern styles which differ by taste and noodle size. With all that ginger, cinnamon, and bone broth in the mix, you could certainly do a lot worse in your lunch or dinner selection than pho.
Here, we’ve put together this list of the best places in Sydney you can get your pho fix.
Pho And Go
This smart and simple pho takeaway joint located on Belmore Street in the heart of Randwick specialises, as the name might suggest, in pho-to-go. It’s owned and run by Johnny Nguyen who captains the Me Oi restaurant in Strathfield and whose family have been making pho for generations. It’s a perfect little spot for generously portioned authentic Vietnamese pho with good flavoursome broth that they simmer for an extensive 48-hours. The vegan pho here comes with crispy tofu chunks and they also whip up a mean durian smoothie.
Pho Toan Thang
Pho Toan Thang has stood in the same spot for well over 20 years and has changed very little in that time. When you serve up rare beef pho this good though, it’s easy to see why. This understated little nook is a family-owned establishment that deals in authentic dishes of both Northern and Southern Vietnamese tradition with a bit of a Chinese lean as well. The noodles here are thin and cooked on the firmer side and the broth is light but full of flavour. Get the seafood rice noodle soup for a good mix of veggies, prawns, and cuttlefish or indulge in a few wontons if you’re feeling hungry.
Marrickville has a wealth of tasty pho joints but Pho PHD is a real stand out. Opened in 2014, it’s the successor to the original Pho PHD restaurant, which started just around the corner from here in 2006. They serve up hot bowls of Southern Vietnamese pho with thick noodles in a sweeter, aniseed-flavoured broth. Go for the rare beef pho and chuck a little fresh chilli on top for that extra spicy kick. You won’t be disappointed with the salt and pepper tofu either! Head over here to order direct from the restaurant.
Pho Mom is a relative newcomer to the scene but has made quite an impact in its short time. They offer a fairly narrow selection but do it well. It’s beef or chicken pho, noodle and rice dishes, and a couple of veggie choices. What makes this place special is the attention to detail. They always use fresh ingredients and pack the flavour into the huge portions for a really reasonable price. No fuss, just good eating.
Madame Nhu is a bit of a Surry Hills classic. It’s a smallish joint on the corner of Campbell and Foster Street with a sister spot up in Chatswood and you would normally struggle to get a table. They’ve been focusing on takeaway for some time now and so you know your meal is going to be top-notch when you order it at home. The pho here is an 8-hour bone broth deal that comes piled with grass-fed Hunter Valley beef. For the veggies out there, the tofu green papaya salad with 5 spice soy dressing is a treat.
Yen’s is exactly the kind of no-nonsense place you can put your trust in when it comes to pho. It’s a bit of a hidden gem and easy to miss, tucked away under an awning on the busy Botany Road though if you’re paying attention you can smell the star-anise-scented broth from a few doors down. Their menu features close to sixty dishes with a key focus on pho, fried noodles, and meat dishes like crispy chicken but there are veggie and vegan options too and even low-carb pho without noodles! This is pure nostalgia-based comfort food and we’re here for it.
VN Street Foods
Wolli Creek and Marrickville
Thang Nyugen was born in Hanoi and came to Sydney to spread the joy of Northern Vietnamese food though VN Street Foods. Located right outside the Wolli Creek station it’s totally worth a trip though it’s equally good via delivery. Most of what you get here is Southern-style so expect the flavours to be a little different to what you normally find around Sydney. They serve pho tai lan which incorporates stir-fry beef typical of the North alongside sticky rice with pork belly and an excellent coconut jelly to finish. If you’re after something different, you cannot go wrong here with the bun cha! Order pick up online here.
There are around 10 or so of these franchises across Sydney but the Gia Hoi in Cabramatta is the standout, which is saying something because this suburb is widely regarded as having some of the best Vietnamese around. They must be doing something different because the taste of their broth is always on point and packed with flavour. It’s probably better, in fact, to enjoy this one takeaway as it used to get a bit cramped in the restaurant at rush hour. The special beef pho is excellent but feel free to check out the bun bo hue for a perfectly spiced vermicelli soup. And because everything is around $13, you should probably load up on some of their beautiful spring rolls too. If you’re collecting in person don’t forget it’s cash only.
Good pho needs a nice and light broth loaded with beefy flavour that is well balanced by the spices. It takes a long time to get right and Black Ginger in Newtown is a good example of how to do that. Their 12-hour bone broth has an excellent depth of flavour and creates a solid foundation for all their pho dishes. Thankfully they also do a great vegan broth too so everyone can share the joy. Splash out on some tamarind chicken or the exquisite fried stuffed eggplant. You won’t be disappointed.
Great Aunty Three
Great Aunty Three is a great little family-run venture just across from the Enmore Theatre where the ever-smiling staff do traditional Vietnamese street food with road-tested modern adaptations. The banh mi is some of the best in Sydney and absolutely filling while the rice paper rolls are succulent and bursting with flavour. To get the best idea of what this place is all about you have to go in for the pho, which is slow-cooked to perfection from an old family recipe reportedly going back over a century that comes in veggie, chicken and beef styles. The veggie noodle salad has a fresh crunchy apple side and is also worth a go. Just remember they’re closed on Tuesdays.
For a food court Vietnamese joint far outside of any of the traditional pho hubs, Mai Vang packs a real punch. Soft, slippery noodles swimming about in a richly flavoured broth coming in pork, chicken, or beef varieties. The chicken is crispy, the beef is tender, and a heartier dish you never did see before the pork combination bowl with prawns. It’s exactly what you want and it’s $9.50 so if pho is on your mind, Mai Vang is your spot.
The final place on this list is the vegan mecca, Golden Lotus. Situated in heart of vegan town on South King Street, Golden Lotus offers up plant-based takes on all your Vietnamese favourites. Think crispy mushroom or eggplant fritters, vegan salt fish, and sizzling plates of vegan chicken. The pho here comes with a southern-style herbal broth and rice noodles served with either tofu and veggies or vegan chicken. Both options are great, but leave room for the fried soy icecream.
Speaking of soul-warming noodle soup, here's a list of Sydney's best ramen.
Image credit: Rez Art, Markus Winkler, Ronnie Chua, Lisovskaya