Sydney has some of the best pho in the world. This city has generations of Vietnamese knowledge and skill and excellent ingredients. Choosing which restaurant to eat at is like deciding your favourite colour – it’s less about quality and more about preference. This guide will help you sort through the soup.
Pho originated in northern Vietnam in the early 20th century as a simple soup made with only beef bones, onions and coriander. Now it’s a simpler but heavier iteration, with the flavour based more on beef rather than a complex layer of spices.
Owner James Tran told us the name means “to bring back from the past”. The Tran family use an almost-century-old recipe that started in a stall outside their family house in Hanoi. The recipe is mostly secret but we know they follow the northern tradition of grilling both the onions and ginger before adding them to the stock. The resulting broth is salty, meaty and carries a slight fermented taste at back of the palate.
4/219 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights
(02) 8764 4117
Mon to Sun 9am –10pm
Unfortunately Hanoi Quan is more famous for the volatility of its staff and the kitsch interior than its noodle soups. Serving one of the heaviest (literally) and beefiest phos in Sydney deserves more recognition; the pho from here is as bold in flavour as it is absolutely massive. Every bowl comes with free tea, a typical tradition from the colder northern regions.
346 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
(02) 9559 1637
Mon to Sun 9am–9pm
Pho migrated South during the country's partition along with families fleeing from communist rule. The South, being much more affluent, added variety to the previously simple noodle soup. With more food available people used more spices and bean sprouts, basil and lemon were added as sides. The variety of meats and herbs increased. The southern style, typically more nuanced, spiced and sweeter, is by far the more common style of pho in Sydney.
One of the oldest and most popular pho restaurants in Sydney, Pho An’s stock is dark and heavier than most other southern style soups. It’s brewed for 10 hours using marrow-filled beef shank bones, ginger, star anise, cardamom, cloves and some other ingredients we’re not privy too. Get your pho with an ice coffee and either use the traditional method of mixing the punchy chili mixture with some hoisin in a side bowl to dip your beef in, or ignore that and whack it in the soup.
27 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown
(02) 9796 7826
Mon to Sun 7am–9pm
Bo 7 Mon Thanh Tam
Like many pho chefs in Sydney, Phuoc Hoang learnt how to make pho from his mother in law. The generational recipe says to cook the beef bones for eight hours and serve with ngo gai, a strong coriander-like herb, a generous dusting of pepper, shallots and onion slithers. The finished product is zesty, sweet and rich without being intense – Hoang describes it as being perfectly medium in strength. Hoang has his soup with an iced coffee but otherwise bare – without lemon, basil or bean sprouts.
Level 3, Market City, 9–13 Hay Street, Haymarket
(02) 9212 5610
Mon to Sun 10am–8pm
The 30-year-old staple has been praised as one the best in Sydney by both Noodlies writer, Thang Ngo, and Vietnamese celebrity chef, Luke Nguyen. Pho Viet’s 16-hour broth turns out sweet, liquorice-like, slightly tart and thick in the mouth from good amounts of fish sauce, bone marrow, star anise and cinnamon. Although the bowls are massive and generously filled, it’s one of the cheapest at $9.
11 John Street, Cabramatta
(02) 9728 6657
Mon to Sun 8am–9pm
Almost all of the Asian cuisines in Sydney have been reinterpreted but Vietnamese pho has largely missed out. It’s still hard to find a good bowl of pho in Sydney that isn’t an authentic style. Despite that there are a few places trying to do something a bit different.
Luke Nguyen’s restaurant has been mostly ignored in the best pho stakes because of the difference in price – $19.50 is double what you’d pay at most other restaurants. However, unlike most of the other places, Nguyen cooks his stock for 24 hours with all natural ingredients. The delicate but rich stock uses a mixture of more than 14 different spices, Chinese medicinal herbs, oxtail and premium quality beef.
80 Pyrmont Street Level 1, Pyrmont
Sun to Thu 11.30am–2.30am
Fri & Sat 11.30am–6am