By Kay Whatley, Editor
For those of you unfamiliar with pho, yet curious about it due to the increase in pho restaurant signs, here’s a little bit of background on this tasty, hot soup.
At the end of this article, you’ll find comments about several pho restaurants — near Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, north near Wake Forest/Wakefield, and in Knightdale, North Carolina.
Pho is a soup made of flavorful broth, rice noodles, herbs, and — depending on the restaurant or cook — a choice of meats, tofu, or vegetables. Pho is served piping hot with a side of raw foods for each diner to add: bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, fresh basil, or lime slices.
Pho originated in northern Vietnam. The broth flavor and noodle width may vary from place-to-place. The broth is savory, sometimes aromatic, and boiling hot when served. Noodles and meats are added to the hot broth before serving by most restaurants. The boiling broth cooks the meats and softens added vegetables and herbs as the customer stirs. Restaurants may provide sauces — sweet or spicy — to mix into the pho too.
Note that pho-to-go is available from many restaurants, but the broth will cool and need to be re-heated at home to ensure proper cooking of the meats/proteins and add-ins.
Pho can make for a tasty change-of-pace from most gluten-free meals. For those following a gluten-free diet, pho noodles are rice noodles, so pho is often gluten free. If in doubt, ask at the restaurant to ensure none of their ingredients contain gluten.
Oh, and by the way, while it looks like the name of the dish should be pronounced “fō” (like go), the correct pronunciation is more like “fuh”.
Because each restaurant offers different proteins, noodles, and broths, it’s worth checking out several places to find a true favorite. A quick search of Wake and surrounding counties provides a list of over a dozen Vietnamese and pho-specific restaurants.
In addition to the restaurants around the area, there are also grocery stores in Raleigh, Cary, and Durham which carry ingredients to prepare pho at home. Because of the variety of meats and vegetables that may be added-in, pho is a meal where everyone around the table may drop in what they’d like — offering choices for picky eaters.
Give pho a try, or even a couple of tries, and find out for yourself whether this savory soup will become a favorite, gluten-free, tasty addition for you and yours.
Ed. Note: Below I’ve included a little feedback on three area pho restaurants. Where other Vietnamese dishes or offerings were sampled, notes have been included. Please know that because the pho broth must be served so hot, we’ve seen waiting times vary widely. Be prepared to wait, just in case.
Check out Wake County restaurant health ratings by searching Wake County inspections.
The Pho Place
This restaurant also serves sushi, and the restaurant’s full name is “The Pho Place/Sushi Lulu”. Their website, sushilulu.weebly.com, includes their menu.
The Pho Place is in the north Raleigh / Wakefield area, at 3607 Falls River Avenue, Raleigh NC. It’s in a small plaza, tucked away inside a development of high-end homes. Navigate to find this hidden gem without getting lost.
Service was immediate and our server friendly. At The Pho Place, utensils were out on the table — chopsticks, soy sauce mini-bowls, soup spoons, and forks — making it easier for diners, and likely easier for the server.
This restaurant offers chicken or beef in their pho. The broth had a nice, just-the-right-strength flavor, the noodles were a thin vermicelli rice noodle.
We also tried The Pho Place’s vermicelli bowl — a staple in Vietnamese restaurants that is also made with rice noodles but served cold — tasted fresh and bright, with a nice amount of peanuts, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, and herbs. The fish sauce served as companion to the vermicelli bowl included finely sliced carrots — delicate and easy to eat with the noodles. The vermicelli bowl was good with delicious, crispiest pork on top.
The egg roll was thin, and from taste was unsure of its contents. We also tried their crepe — which in Vietnamese cooking is a stuffed, crispy dish with an omelet-like appearance. It was worth trying and might become one of our future go-to dishes.
The “Sushi Lulu” menu included a Dynamite Roll. This may have been the best ‘fried’ sushi roll I’ve ever eaten — light crust and bursting with flavor.
Overall, for our meal the server was friendly and fast, and the kitchen prepared our food medium-fast. Except for the egg roll, all the foods that we tried were good or excellent.
One member of the family who was with me on this trip said that she would rate the restaurant “7-1/2 out of 10” — though I would go a little higher (9) because the pho broth had nice flavor to it.
Their hours are:
- Tuesday-Friday: 5-9pm
- Saturday-Sunday: 1-9pm
- Mondays closed
Pho Super 9
Pho Super 9 is in Suite 111 (near Tuesday Morning) at 6401 Plantation Center Drive, Raleigh NC. That’s the plaza across Capital Boulevard from Triangle Town Center. Their website is www.phosuper9.com.
When you arrive, the service is sit-where-you-like style. On our visit, we found a seat right away and orders were taken quickly.
Hot sauces, soy sauce, condiments, and napkins are kept on the table at this restaurant. Chopsticks, forks, hot pepper oil, and other sauces are brought by the server upon request.
This restaurant’s pho broth is delicious. They offer chicken, seafood, beef, tripe, meatballs, and more options for their pho, including combos at no extra charge. They also use thin, vermicelli noodles and a generous portion (pile) of sprouts with basil, lime, and jalapeno slices. Their pho broth is especially tasty with a little of their hot pepper oil added, for those who like some heat.
Everything we have tried here has been good and the staff friendly. We have eaten here multiple times and never had a problem.
Ed. Note: I disclose that a family member was employed here; however, they chose to apply because this restaurant has been a family favorite, rather than this review being biased because of that employment.
Pho Super 9’s website includes an overview of their gluten-free options: www.phosuper9.com/gluten-free-options.html. Their menu is on that website too.
This restaurant also has a tasty vermicelli bowl. The fish sauce served with it includes thick slivers of carrots, if you like crunch. Egg rolls are tasty, thick, and crispy.
If it turns out you’re not in the mood for pho, or a vermicelli bowl, try a Bahn Mi — a sandwich. Several choices are on the menu. This restaurant does not serve sushi. They do offer boba tea — fruity drinks with gummy candies on the bottom. For a fruity, flowery experience, try the Taro flavor. They also make fresh-squeezed limeade, prepared by the server when the drink is ordered.
Our rating is 9 out of 10; this pho is one we’ll return to have again.
Their hours are:
- Monday-Tuesday: 11am-9pm
- Wednesday closed
- Friday-Saturday: 10am- 9pm
- Sunday: 10am- 8pm
iPho Sushi Kitchen and Bar
iPho opened in 2017 at 4001 Widewaters Parkway H, Knightdale NC. They are in the plaza near Lowes Foods. The are on Facebook.
Their pho came with a plate of sprouts, basil, lime, and jalapeno slices. Proteins available include pork, beef, meatball, and chicken.
The broth flavor differed on both visits: mildly tasty the first time, a strong chicken-boullion flavor on the second visit. Like the the other restaurants mentioned, their pho is made with thin vermicelli noodles; however, they gave a much larger portion of rice noodles.
The restaurant’s vermicelli bowl is tasty, as is the companion fish sauce. The spring rolls tasted fishy, and weren’t finished. We aren’t likely to order them again.
iPho’s sushi menu covers many flavors and tastes. The rolls we have tried were good and looked pretty too. Be prepared to open wide, as the rolls are thick and full of fish/vegetables. Some at our table resorted to forks due to the roll sizes.
Service here was medium-speed to slow, depending on how full the restaurant was or how busy the servers were.
Our rating for this restaurant is 7 out of 10, mostly because we went for the pho and the broth flavors didn’t pop for us.
Their hours are:
- Monday-Thursday: 11am-9:30pm
- Friday-Saturday: 11am-10pm
- Sunday: 11am-9pm