The Pho Before Christmas

It’s almost like a ritual with me and my friends – on Saturdays we go for Pho (pronounced “fuh” /fə/ or /fʌ/). We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. Having a bowl of Pho with friends and family is a great way to unwind after a long hard week. On today’s Pho outing, Paul Mudhar and his dad, my retired friend Wolf, and hoping to retire friend Greg joined Sarah and me. Our restaurant of choice for our weekly Pho get-together is Pho Lan on No. 3 Road and Granville Avenue in Richmond.

A long time ago, I was told that Pho means you’ll get a delicious wholesome meal in a bowl at a reason price. I would have to agree with that assessment. Pho is the perfect comfort food. Now a first timer may have trouble believing that when they see some of the meats the can go into a bowl of Pho. However, if he or she sticks with the “safe” ingredients, there shouldn’t be any vomiting.


The above is a typical bowl of Pho – it’s #11 on the menu – rare steak, well done flank and beef tendon. It’s not really recommended for the first time Pho goer because the tendon tends to scare people. Pho is best served steaming hot. You need this in order to cook the rare steak, which is really raw. If you don’t see steam coming off the soup base, send it back.


To enhance the taste of Pho, garnishes like lime, basil leaves, hot peppers and bean sprouts are included. There are also hot sauce, chilly oil and hoisin sauce to create an exotic flavor.


One of the reason we like going to Pho Lan so much is Lan still serve Pho in the large 12″ bowl. Most Pho shops has gotten rid of the large and only offer small and medium. In Paul’s case, the large wasn’t large enough. He also ordered up extra steak and beef balls with his #10. I’m amazed he finished it.


While Lan is best known for Pho, he also offers other Vietnamese dishes like #33. This is another favorite dish for those times when we don’t feel like a bowl of Pho. #33 is vermicelli with spring roll, beef and chicken. Fish sauce is used to enhance the taste.


If noodles are not your thing, then the #24 BBQ pork chop with lemon grass on rice just may fill the bill. Again, fish sauce is use to bring out the flavor of the dish.

To have a complete Pho experience, you should always order a Vietnamese iced coffee with your food. I’m not a coffee drinker but I love Vietnamese iced coffee. The stuff is so strong, you’ll be jazzed for a week.

Pho Lan Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

24 thoughts on “The Pho Before Christmas”

  1. Nik Agarwal says:

    You mentioned some “safe” ingredients for the first time pho eaters. Would you mind telling me what some safe ingredients would be. Me and my buddies are thinking about trying pho, but I’ve always been intimidated by it, not to mention my stomach does whine a bit.

  2. John Chow says:

    For the first timer, we always recommend #10 – rare steak and meatballs. It doesn’t get much safer than that. Just make sure you submerge the steak into the soup base so it gets fully cooked.

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  4. Alex Becker says:

    I hate you John Chow. You just made me hungry, And its 12:30 at night with no food in the house. Uhhh.

  5. Johnny Vu says:

    I love pho. Those noodles and rice plate looks good. Haven’t had dinner yet. Gasp.

  6. dacholo says:

    hmm, but how does the coffee compare to Turkish coffee where half the cup is the coffee grounds, and your brain is still buzzing one week later?

  7. Ed says:

    Vietnamese ham is another safe ingredient. It’s #20 at Pho Lan.

  8. eclipse says:

    “safe” ingredients is right…i love Vietnamese food. I get special bun aka vermicelli and grilled chicken at least 1 a week if not twice. Its number 21 but spring rolls are extra number 3.

    My first and last pho experience was this past summer, 2 nice Asian girls that worked with me brought me some to try out. The soup was hot but not quite hot enough i guess. After soaking the meat for awhile i dig in. As the night goes on i start to feel awkward, which is normal as i have a weak stomach. I end up picking up a friend to watch flight plan. Just as the movie starts im getting some hard pains in my stomach. I excuse myself and go downstairs to the private bathroom. an yak my guts out for about 10 minutes. At least i was at home! brush my teeth and go back up stairs like nothings wrong…except i’m STARVING again, and drinking water like no tomorrow!

    So yeah find the safe ingredients, ask questions and follow directions! ah good times

  9. love pho .. i used to do the SEM for a company in Irvine CA, used to hit the best pho place for lunch with all the asian designers

  10. Kenn Klick says:

    My favorite in Pho houses is Bun which I used to get after doing Tai Chi saturday mornings when I lived in Texas. Here in SW VA there is a chronic shortage of good Vietnamese restaurants.

  11. That is one heavy duty bowl of Pho!

  12. Michael Kwan says:

    Well-done flank and beef brisket are pretty safe too. If you want to be super safe, you can get the lemon grass chicken with rice, but it’s so far from the authentic pho experience.

    I’m a big fan of the iced coffee, but I like my caffeine strong.

  13. Ty says:

    One of these days I am going to launch my Seattle Pho house called, Mo Pho.

  14. Bryce says:

    This does look a bit funny, but still looks better than a lot of the Westernised asian foods

  15. Andy says:

    The third pic looks very very good

  16. Leftblank says:

    Like Bryce said, it looks a bit funny, no doubt it all tastes better than the wannabe-Asian food they sell out here in Europe, I’ve only found a couple of quality restaurants so far that don’t offer food that’s swimming in the sauce used.

  17. I’d love to see some of this stuff here in Europe, the main reason I go on holiday is to try out these different dishes, looks good!

  18. HMTKSteve says:

    John, as much as I like reading about what you are eating it pains me to read some of these articles.

    See, I suffer from the rare malady of the “beef allergy.” I don’t know how I acquired it but I have been lactose intolerant since age 24.

    I used to be a big beef eater and cooked steaks twice a week…

    How about doing a restaurant article where you have zero meat on the plates?

  19. Jane says:

    I think I’m going to have to get myself some of those 12″ bowls because I love Pho

  20. charlie says:

    im vietnamese and my parents make pho at home so we dont have to go to the cafe.

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