Where to Find the Best Pho in Australia

The Best Pho in Australia

Found everywhere from Marrickville to Mansfield Park, pho, the fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup, might be as Australian as the meat pie.

If you want to fire up a southern Vietnamese auntie, ask her whether she’s a fan of the pho that’s made at the other end of her home country. “Bland. Just beef floating in water. They don’t put much bone in there and cook quicker,” says Lynda Tran of the subtle, clear pho that’s usually served in the north of Vietnam. Tran knows her stuff, having opened one of the first Vietnamese takeaway restaurants on Marrickville Road in the mid-1990s, after moving to Sydney in the ’80s. She pauses before adding diplomatically, “It’s not for me but it’s for someone.” Today, Tran helps her son, Cuong Nguyen, run the busy and friendly Hello Auntie (hello-auntie.com.au), one of dozens of Vietnamese restaurants in Marrickville, the inner-west Sydney suburb that’s home to a precinct the local council recently branded “Little Vietnam”.

The Pho at Pho Hung Vuong

Nguyen’s pho is anything but bland, nor is it traditional. He boils the beef bones for his stock for 24 hours but unlike most recipes – whether from the north or the south – he doesn’t use a method known as “washing the bones”, where most of the marrow and blood is skimmed away after the first boil. This means Hello Auntie pho has a richer, darker, beefier broth than purists might recognise. Nguyen also uses sweet basil rather than Thai basil as a garnish, though the spice mix, made to his mum’s secret recipe – which she refuses to share with her son or anyone else – is the same one she used way back in the ’90s. In other words there’s pho and then there’s pho. And it can be traditional, inventive, regional or even vary within families. “I think it’s the same as with any culture or cuisine,” says Nguyen, who will be opening a new venture, Hey Chu (heychu.com.au), in the CBD (Hello Auntie 2.0 is down the road in Darling Square). “You need to respect tradition to a degree but you also need to have progression and creativity.”

Huong Giang.

Pho’s origins in Vietnam are somewhat murky but what’s certain is that it was first made in the north (so the “beef floating in water” thing is a feature, not a bug) around the early 20th century. It’s likely a mash-up of at least a couple of colonising cultures: Chinese rice noodles and French pot-au-feu (hence the name). The dish arrived in Australia with refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s. Vietnamese communities (or Viêt Kiêu) settled all over Australia – in Bankstown, Cabramatta and, later, Marrickville in Sydney and Footscray, St Albans and other western suburbs in Melbourne – though initially pho was only served at home or between families. Recollections vary but arguably Sydney’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Tau Bay, opened in 1980 (it’s still there, at Shop 12, 117 John Street, Cabramatta – and it’s still great). It wasn’t until the 1990s that non-Vietnamese Australians, at least in the capital cities, could name a favourite pho spot.

Generally pho falls into two camps: pho bo – beef stock with beef – and pho ga – fragrant chicken soup with chicken meat. It usually contains medium-thickness rice noodles, which can be fresh or dried, and spices, including cassia or cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and star anise, as well as fresh ginger and onion. Southern-style pho tends to be richer, saltier, sweeter and garnished with bean sprouts, fresh chilli and basil, plus hoisin and chilli sauces, while the northern style has a more subtle clear broth and is lighter on the herbs. Traditional pho has offal, though most “Australianised” versions leave this out. “Even younger Vietnamese Australians ask for it without,” says Nguyen, laughing. But there’s one thing that every good pho is, according to Jerry Mai – a big bowl of comfort. “When you’re hungover it’s an elixir that fixes you,” says the chef from restaurants Pho Nom (phonom.com.au) and Bia Hoi Vietnamese Beer Hall (biahoibar.com.au) in Melbourne and the author of the cookbook Vietnam: Morning to Midnight. “If you’re starving and have to go somewhere quickly it fills you up and moves you along. If you’re not feeling well it’s the penicillin of food. It’s the hug you didn’t realise you needed.”

Pho Thin

Where to find Australia's best pho


Pho Minh

This tiny but always packed café in the city’s north-west serves a rich, aniseed-heavy beef broth topped with pickled onion. You can choose rare beef only or add tripe, beef balls, tendon and oxtail.


Pho Hung Vuong 2

When she’s not eating at her own restaurants, chef Jerry Mai heads to this Richmond eatery for a pho fix. The pho ga (chicken pho) gets particularly good reviews and can be ordered with liver and giblets if that’s what you’re into.

Pho Thin

This chain originated in Hanoi in 1979 and opened its first Melbourne outpost at Shop 3, 399 Lonsdale Street, 40 years later. As its city of origin suggests, this is northern-style pho bac, which means a clear-ish beef broth, garnished with nothing more than spring onion and coriander (though there are also add-on condiments such as house-made chilli sauce). An extra, unusual touch are the fried dough dippers for dunking in the delicious soup.

Pho Chu The

A Footscray mainstay, where the beef broth is on the darker side with just the right amount of fattiness and flavour, and the portions are huge. There’s a good reason you’ll usually have to queue – happily, it moves fast.


Trang’s Café & Noodle House

There’s a choice of eight different types of pho at this tiny, nondescript Vietnamese café tucked inside a strip mall in Perth’s northern suburbs. The raw beef and beef ball version is the crowd favourite, with the thin-sliced meat getting a light cook as it hits the hot broth.

Thanh Dat Vietnamese Noodle House

The twist here is the signature dish: a pho made with beef short rib, bone and all. Pick the bone up, caveman-style, and the gelatinous meat will fall into the marrow-rich broth. For a local touch, there’s also a Margaret River Wagyu pho.


Huong Giang

Good luck narrowing down the best pho in Marrickville; it’s hard to find a bad one. Huong Giang deserves a special mention because it’s one of the few in the suburb that retains the old-school vibe, décor – including a traditional altar near the cash register – and service. Plus, it’s owned by one of the loveliest Vietnamese couples in the neighbourhood.

Pho 54

You might need to join the queue to nab a table at this Cabramatta bastion (another contender for Sydney’s first) but that’s how you know you’re in for a treat (Shop 2, 54 Park Road; 02 9726 1992). There’s nothing fancy about this soup but it includes everything good. And the eatery’s open from 8am so it’s ideal if you have a hankering for breakfast pho.


Tan Thanh

The south-western suburb of Inala is the heart of Brisbane’s Vietnamese community and this restaurant is always busy (Shop 16, 57 Corsair Avenue; 07 3278 8883). There are eight kinds of pho on offer, including pho tai, made with rare beef, that sticks pretty close to the home-country original.

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