Finding Pho: Our Guide To Seriously Delicious Vietnamese Food In India

Finding Pho: Our Guide To Seriously Delicious Vietnamese Food In India
Fox and Briar

Vietnamese food walks the same precarious tightrope many other Asian cuisines do. Always maintaining a seemingly impossible balance between sweet and sour, cold and warm, fresh and fermented, rare and simmered. Yet, unlike many of its cousins, the risks it takes to immerse on the history and geography of the place it finds itself in is its greatest payoff to all lovers of the cuisine. Think the sudden crunch of a crusty baguette that cases the tender, juicy meat of a good Banh-mi (the obvious french influence in Vietnamese food is probably one of its best documented aspects) or the unexpected appearance of egg in your ‘Ca Phe’ (in our opinion, one of the strangest but most delicious versions of coffee around).

In India, however, we’re only just beginning to wrap our hands around steaming bowl of pho and our palates around the hearty gamut of authentic Vietnamese food. It’s not the easiest cuisine to find unless you’re ok with a watered-down version of what it’s really meant to be at one of those ‘Pan-Asian’ restaurants that might just as easily confuse a pho for a Thukpa and not understand what all the fuss was about. And when you do, we’re hardly at a place beyond needing descriptors for every dish. Think explanatory copy like “Vietnamese sandwiches” or “beef noodle soup”.

Luckily demand for more exciting and authentic food experiences is trickling into every aspect of culinary culture and there are a few Vietnamese restaurants that really get it right. Bangalore is quickly emerging as the place to be when it comes to this cuisine while one or two other names outside of the garden city promise all the piquant flavours, delicious oriental ingredients and French influence we’ve come to expect too. The Vietnamese take their food very seriously and so should you, so we put together a compilation of the few places in India that we think would match their expectations.

I. Phobidden Fruit, Bangalore

Where: 12th Main Street, Indirangar

These guys are as creative and original with their recipes as they are with their name. Delivering Phos right from the streets of Saigon, they check all the right boxes with their balance and broth. With a slow brewed, spicy and pungent broth; the beef pho is their ‘phorte’ without a doubt but if you’re looking for some wrap and roll, then try the Iceberg Lettuce Wraps–a combination of stir fried chicken and prawns rolled in a bed of fresh and crunchy ice berg lettuce drizzled with the Nouoc Mam, a classic Vietnamese fish sauce dip. Their enticing and authentic Can Thoi Clams brushed with a tangy dipping sauce seem like they have been picked up from the beds of the eponymous river in the heart of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Rumours of unpleasant service rarely keep us away, so head on over for a comforting bowl of food.

Cost: Phortunately decent at INR 1100 for two

II. Hanoi, Bangalore

Where: Koramangala 4th Block

A simple, non-descript restaurant in Bangalore that absolutely lives up to the culinary expectations of the city it is named after. A large steaming bowl of pho is the real deal of course (like we told you, Indians tend to opt for the familiar and restaurants continueto cater to that) but there are a myriad of other dishes that you can (and should) choose to devour. The Lau Nong, a classic Vietnamese Hot Pot, contains a pot of stew that smoulders on the table, accompanied with glass noodles and your choice of meat/veggies is a tried and tested favourite. Equally worthy of vying for your attention is the Five Spice Curry, prepared in a traditional Vietnamese five-spice Mix that jostles all your senses(even the sixth, if you have one) with its subtle flavours and seasoning. While Vietnamese Cuisine is heavy on meat; Hanoi offers a vegetarian version of most of its dishes too, the most popular one being its Rau Tam Bot Ran; crispy batter fried vegetables served with the eclectic Vietnamese Sauce, which mind you is used to judge a good cook. Accompany all your meals with a piping hot cup of Ca Phe or the traditional Vietnamese Coffee that is made of variants of yoghurt, egg and fresh fruit. Rich, dark and creamy; this may keep you up all night planning a trip to Vietnam.
Cost: The cheapest on this list at INR 1,000 for 2.

III. Vietnamese Kitchen, Bangalore

Where: 226, 1st Main Rd, Domlur Village, Jogupalya, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560007

There’s a sandwich, there’s a Vietnamese Sandwich and then there’s the Banh Mi from the Vietnamese Kitchen. Spicy, aromatic, piquant and absolutely delectable, the Banh Mi or the Vietnamese subwiches are basically a combination of pickled veggies, tofu, chicken, pork or beef stuffed, topped with warm fired egg stuffed inside a crunchy French baguette with a dash of sweet chilli chicken. Gulp it down with the traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, which features ground dark roast beans individually brewed with a small metal French dip filter placed right on your glass filled with condensed milk and ice. Vietnamese Kitchen specializes in Vietnamese street food, like rice paper rolls, noodles, sandwiches and pho. Devouring them may temporarily transport you to the streets of Vietnam, perhaps right into the huge Muriel in the restaurant depicting daily life in Saigon.

Cost: The Vietnamese Kitchen may serve delectable street food, but not at that cost. INR 1400 for two.

IV. Blue Ginger, Taj’s West End, Bangalore

Where: Race Course Road

If you’re planning to do (taste) something different, you might as well do it in style. The Blue Ginger, at Taj’s West End might pinch a hole in your pocket (or burn the whole of it right off) but the city’s first Vietnamese restaurant is perhaps its most authentic one. With a very exhaustive tasting menu (different for vegetarians, carnivores and sea food enthusiasts) comprising of Vietnamese soups, rolls, appetizers, main course and dessert, the Blue Ginger ensures an authentic Vietnamese experience, especially so with their open-air, water front pavilion. If you are planning to opt for Ala Carte, we’d suggest trying the absolutely lip-smacking Vietnamese Raw Mango Cari with Prawns, whose flavours have been perfected by their on-board Vietnamese chef. Round up your meal with some pineapple and mint sorbet, which we’ve heard is divine.

Cost: Err.. Cheaper than flying down to Vietnam? The tasting menu costs INR 2400 for Vegetarian; INR 3500 for Meat and Poultry and INR 4500 for Sea Food.


Where: E-16, E-5A, Market Ln, Block D, Hauz Khas, New Delhi

Token bamboo hats on the wall, sewing machine bases doubling up as tables, bright chairs and a very friendly Vietnamese owner Hana Ho, (a former chef at Blue Ginger, Taj) Little Saigon is truly a Vietnamese haven hidden amidst the grocery shops in Hauz Khas Market. Hanna will personally take you through the menu, give recommendations based on your preferences and personally drizzle your pho will all the table-top sauces of your dreams. You cannot miss out on Mon Ngon Saigon, which is actually a Vietnamese thali comprising lettuce and basil leaves, rice noodles and crispy pork patties. The vegetarian favourite is the cold summer roll with tofu, fresh basil and cilantro called Goi Cuon Chay which is served with a house-made peanut sauce. Little Saigon offers some exquisitely authentic Vietnamese delicacies that go perfectly well with Hana Ho’s interesting stories from her homeland.

Cost: Just right for the experience and the food at INR 1300 for two.

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