Re-discovering Yangon’s best known Vietnamese
WHEN Golden Pho on Yaw Min Gyi closed its doors your intrepid reporter lamented the loss of what had been a reliable and mostly enjoyable local spot for quality Vietnamese grub. From then until just this week it had not come to his attention that Golden Pho had a newer outlet at Sule Square and another restaurant proper overlooking the eastern portion of Kandawgyi Lake. For this weeks culinary outing, it was decided with a group of comrades that we would visit this restaurant location to catch up on all the delicious Vietnamese food we had been missing out on these past six months (realistically there was no choice in the matter, Zuzakar does not debase himself by eating in malls). Hence, we enthusiastically agreed to dive back in.
Arriving to this Golden Pho, which is located a few doors south of The Esperado Hotel, your reporter was initially impressed by the clean, open appearance and bright signage. Upon entering the group was ushered upstairs and found the interior to be neat and tidy, but in terms of mood, not terribly warm. This did not deter us, however, since we already had a good idea of what we wanted to order and were excited to get our old favourites once again. Menus delivered, we reflected that the music they were playing inside the restaurant, EDM and pop from 2015, was not conducive, and the staff were kind enough to let your reporter put on his own music, an easy listening - jazz compendium that earned a silent ‘thank you’ nod from a fellow diner.
Getting right to the heat of the meat, we ordered a rice paper roll sharing plate and a pork and prawn salad for the table to nibble on followed by three pho bo soups (beef) and one bun cha (hand food with noodles to be wrapped in greens and soup for dipping). A couple of fruit juices arrived which were reported to be of good quality.
First to arrive were the rice paper rolls – which, first up, are your reporter’s favourite snack from this establishment. Inside the neatly wrapped rice paper you will find either beef or prawn filling with coriander, a little mint, lettuce and vermicelli noodles. Now – these in combination are really for the texture, which is at once bouncy and crunchy fresh but with the soft sinew of the meat. The flavour comes from the sauces which are delivered with the rolls. One is a standard sweet-chilli and the other is a more sour note peanut based dipping sauce. Both are quite lovely and take this simple dish from not simply being a healthy snack but a delicious, deeply moorish staple of any visit to Golden Pho. There was a fried beef spring roll served alongside which was also quite delicious – different from the usual vegetable fair, it made a good impression.
Next to arrive was the pork and prawn salad, which was larger than expected but proved a good size for four hungry gents. This salad is loaded with prawn and thinly sliced pork tossed over with shredded carrot, more coriander, lettuce, peanuts and a sauce that is tangy but, truth be told, too sweet for more than a small portion. Your reporter realises that sugar, spice and sour notes are key to Vietnamese cuisine but salads, simply, should not be this rich. One must suspect the kitchen is overdoing it. This also seems to affect the bahn mi pork, which is marinated and then barbecued and is similarly overpowering (for a bahn mi recommendation, see the write up on Great Sandwich).
So, it should be said, the salad came to be a bit overpowering and left a shadow over what was supposed to be the big event – the pho soup.
The pho bos proved to be a reasonable dish of noodles, beef, leaves, sprouts, lime, chilli and a variety of forms of beef all in a hot, fresh, only lightly salted broth. Phos are a fantastic and simple dish from the streets of Vietnam that will fill you up and get you feeling warm but with no residual heaviness or too much fat. The leaves and sprouts were crisp and crunchy, curled in with soft hot noodles. The beef was actually of a decent quality and complimented well while not being over-present.
The fourth member who had ordered the bun cha was pleased with the interesting array of do-it-yourself ingredients, with the idea being that one takes meat, vegetables, chilli and noodles and wraps it up in lettuce before adding meat from a broth and using the soup for dipping or to drink as a compliment. it’s a fun dish for people who like finger food. As pointed out, however, the meat can be quite sweet, so be sure you enjoy that profile before ordering, or you can do your best to balance it with lots of chilli and lime.
The end of the pho really had everyone at the table reeling. We’d done well on filling ourselves up and spent another ten minutes conversing before packing it in and going next door to the Esperado for a drink in the bar. On that note, if you do go to Golden Pho, pop your head into the hotel and see the magnificent view it offers of the lake, complete with the gaudy and resplendent central Bamar boat-restaurant. The space at the Esperado is not worth writing home about, but the view goes a long way.
.......................................................................... Golden Pho is located at 23 U Aung Myat Rd, Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, or inside Sule Square (for those who dine in malls). Reservations: 01 861 9194
Rice paper rolls en masse.
Example of a dry bowl.
A pho bo.
Salad sans meats.