What the Pho?: Seven Standout Pho Dishes in the Boston Area
A guide to restaurants in Dorchester, Chinatown, Allston, and Somerville serving warm, delicious bowls of the Vietnamese noodle soup, pho.
Winter in Boston is no joke. When temperatures reach the single digits, it’s time to start looking for meals to help you recover from the freezing weather. While chicken noodle soup—and, more recently, ramen—are the obvious choices, try ditching these for a staple of Vietnamese cuisine: pho.
Not only does pho (pronounced fuh, not foe) noodle soup warm you up, but it’s served in a number of ways that can appeal to a variety of tastes. Not sure where to look? Here’s our guide to seven of Boston’s finest pho establishments—along with their specialties—from Chinatown to Dorchester and beyond.
1370 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester
For all you pho rookies out there, this is the dish for you. Pho Tai may be just a plain beef noodle soup, but it has the triumvirate of necessary requirements for successful pho: thinly sliced flank steak that melts in your mouth, al dente noodles to soak up all the flavors, and a rich broth with a hint of herbs to compliment the steak. Toss in a couple of squeezed limes and jalapenos, and you’ve got yourself a real fine meal.
Mi Hoanh Thanh Pho
Pho ’n Rice
289 Beacon St., Somerville
Here’s a Vietnamese take on a Chinese dish, starring shrimp and pork wontons, sliced roasted pork, and egg noodles in chicken broth. The dish is simple to make, but hard to get right. Mi Hoanh Thanh Pho is a perennial favorite among Pho ’n Rice regulars.
Bun Bo Hue
1095 Commonwealth Ave., Allston
While pho is a derivative of Northern Vietnam, Bun Bo Hue’s origins lie within the central region of the country. A spicy pork bone-based stock with beef shank, shrimp paste, pig’s blood cubes, and lemongrass, the soup takes on a hue of bright red, but don’t worry—it’s not as tongue-numbing as it looks.
291 Adams St., Dorchester
Crab enthusiasts, meet Bun Rieu. Freshly cracked crab legs, pork spare ribs, and shrimp are the major players in a standard bowl. Complemented by tomato broth and crab paste, this is Vietnamese comfort food at its best. The flavors of crab aren’t too dominant, so your taste buds won’t miss out on the sweet and tangy golden-red broth.
Pho Dac Biet
7 Beach St., Chinatown
Here’s the meat lover’s combo of pho: beef tendon, meatballs, sliced flank steak, and tripe over noodles. If you enjoyed Pho Tai and are ready to up your noodle game, Pho Dac Biet is it. Are tripe and tendon unfamiliar territory to your palate? Well, both of these have the perfect textures for a noodle soup and soak up the flavors of the broth and steak. Mix some Sriracha and Hoisin sauce into the noodles for a punch of sweet and spicy.
198 Adams St., Dorchester
Bo Kho is a beef stew that is normally served with rice or a loaf of French bread. What makes this dish so good is its star ingredient, braised oxtail. Slow cooked for eight hours, the oxtail meat ends up tender and falls off the bone. Not only does Pho 2000 have the best Bo Kho in town, but they have an option where you can opt for noodles instead of rice.
Pho Hai San
Pho So 1
223 Adams St., Dorchester
Not a fan of meat? Give Pho Hai San a try. No chunks of beef or chicken in sight, this seafood version of pho is a testament to Vietnamese cooking. Despite including squid, shrimp, and fish balls, the soup isn’t overly fishy, but rather has a sweet and herbal aftertaste. This might not be in your standard pho repertoire of typical beef or chicken, but it’s just as delicious.
Want more? Check out our complete Cheap Eats dining guide in the February 2014 issue.