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Pho Bac Hai Duong

What’s the first suburb in Sydney that comes to mind when you think of pho? I’d be willing to bet that the majority of you went with Cabramatta.

Granted, Cabramatta is one of the places in Sydney to go for a steaming bowl of rice noodle soup, served with the standard cadre of garnishes and condiments. Arguably the best pho in Sydney*, Pho Tau Bay, can be found there.


I say this because I’ve been there, had a great bowl of pho, but I don’t recall it ever being as good as one at Pho Bac Hai Duong, Marrickville.

For some, this would be one hell of a call to make. Perhaps even a somewhat controversial statement to make.  However, I stand by it.


Other than being a great bowl of pho at a reasonable price, it was the first bowl of pho that I didn’t feel the need to add any condiments to augment the flavour of the soup. To do so would have been unnecessary at best, and at worst, would have done it a disservice.

Pho Bac Hai Duong is located on Illawarra Rd, Marrickville; a long stretch of road that I’m starting to think outdoes the better known Marrickville Rd as the place to go to get great food.

There you can find the criminally cheap Banh Mi at Marrickville Pork Roll, fantastic kourabides (almond shortbreads) at Hellenic Bakery, IMHO the best yeeros shop in Marrickville (unimaginatively called The Yeeros Shop), the highly regarded Let’s Eat Thai, and supposedly good Chinese too, according to Urbanspoon.

Back to “the best bowl of pho in Sydney”.

All the bowls of beef-based pho are built around the standard Pho Tai; pho with slices of medium rare beef. Variants include the option to add beef brisket, beef balls, tripe or tendon.

However, if you’re somewhat indecisive like I was that day, you can also opt for the full combo, namely the Pho Rice Noodle Soup with Special Beef Combination ($9/$11). The regular sized serve at $9 is plenty for most people. Only go the $11 option if you’re a really big eater, as I found the regular size to be more than enough.

As I’d said earlier, I think the pho here is better than the one at Pho Tau Bay, voted best in Sydney*. The noodles come out at the right soft & slippery texture. The soup is full flavoured and really doesn’t need the addition of the usual condiments of hoi sin & chilli sauces. The standard garnishes of bean spouts, basil leaves, chilli & lemon wedge are fresh and plentiful.

The only criticism that I have is that the soup is a tad greasy. However, if that’s the price for a full-flavoured stock as good as this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert ($4.50), which is known as Che Ba Mau in Vietnamese, consists of layers of crushed ice, coconut milk, red azuki beans, crushed yellow mung beans, green jelly topped with crushed peanuts.

Sounds like a nice dessert in principle. However, between the pasty azuki beans & mushy mung beans, I found this to be overbearingly starchy.

I can’t say if it was this particular version of the dessert or whether it’s meant to be this way, as it’s the first time I’ve ever tried it. Though, were it not for its starchiness, I would have enjoyed the flavour combination and its modest sweetness.

If Marrickville wasn’t the suburb that came to mind when you thought pho, perhaps it should be. At the very least give it a try and see if you, like me, start to think Marrickville when you think pho.

Pho Bac Hai Duong
304 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville
(02) 9559 5078

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*Pho Tau Bay was voted best in Sydney for 2010, according to a popularity poll conducted by the food blog Noodlies. Check out the breakdown of the best pho by region here.

Side note for my regular reader, if things look somewhat different, it’s because I’m not working with my usual setup & files as I’m away from home. Apologies if the photos are not up to their usual standard, as I can’t really tell with the monitor that I’m using.

Pho Bac Hai Duong on Urbanspoon

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • yewenyi December 15, 2010, 9:44 am

    Not to mention that great lemon grass chicken and a brilliant durian drink.

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:36 am

      You mean Cabramatta? Can vouch for the durian drink. Dunno about the lemon grass chicken. Never had it there.

  • Betty @ The Hungry Girl December 15, 2010, 9:46 am

    woohoo!! my hood. yeah, illawarra rd is definitely the place where it’s at. i hardly ever eat on marrickville rd! so glad that you’re getting to try some of my local faves. i love the pho here, but i also love pho 54 in cabra! and che ba mau isn’t supposed to be starchy, i don’t think?!

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:37 am

      I’m starting to think the same thing. Not had much success yet on Marrickville Rd. Still early days though :)

  • Clarissa @ Eat My Shots! December 15, 2010, 10:55 am

    oh my dear tummy just sunk reading that! now i’m craving phoo and che ba mau! too bad i’m stuck at work today!

    *adds to list of must-eat-at-places!*

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:38 am

      Sorry to hear it.

      If you ever get the che ba mau, it’d be nice to get a second opinion about whether it’s starchy or not.

  • Margaret | fangirlish December 15, 2010, 11:12 am

    LOL I like how you prefaced it with the Cabra implications – it’s rare to find awesome pho outside South Western Sydney, but it looks like you may have hit the jackpot. I do think it’s a matter of taste though. Bummer about the starchy che ba mau – thanks for the beautiful pics =]

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:40 am

      Certainly agree with taste preferences. Though, kinda feel that I should go back to Cabra to see if my position is justified.

  • Wendy @ Obesebaby December 15, 2010, 11:59 am

    Went to marrickville once and not sure which one is good, should have read this blog beforehand. Went to Ben ngu instead, will try Pho Bac Hai Duong next time! =)

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:41 am

      I think it’s well worth it. Would be curious to know what you think.

  • Sara @ Belly Rumbles December 15, 2010, 12:32 pm

    Marrickville is where I head as it is closer for me than Cabramatta. Feeling sick with flu atm some pho would go down really well.

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:42 am

      Pho is awesome sickness food, esp. with lots of chili! :)

  • MelbaToast December 15, 2010, 7:31 pm

    I’ve not ventured down to eat on Illawarra Road yet…silly me as I always stick to Marrickville Rd! The Pho looks great – I’ve only ever had Pho once, so I need to get out there and try it again. Your photos look lovely by the way.

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:43 am

      Make the trip down sometime. There’s so much goodness I’ve come across in such little time. Bet there’s more there to discover too!

  • john@heneedsfood December 15, 2010, 9:44 pm

    I was here recently for dinner and am yet to return for the pho. I really enjoyed the 3 colour dessert. So sweet!

    • Simon December 16, 2010, 12:44 am

      Dinner huh? Sounds nice. Wouldn’t mind seeing what the rest of their dishes are like.

  • Gianna@TheEmptyFridge December 16, 2010, 12:10 pm

    I haVe herd nothing but good things about this marrickville gem, but I am still yet to try the pho here.
    Maybe because when we visit the suburb, we leave overfed by the grandparents! Must definitely organise a stealth mission!
    So many great finds in the ‘ville

    • Simon December 17, 2010, 11:55 pm

      I’ve been finding while I’ve been here that there’s a lot of decent places about. Making a deliberate effort to check out some of the food in the area would be well worth it.

  • mademoiselle délicieuse December 18, 2010, 10:13 am

    I grew up in and around Marrickville but haven’t properly set foot in it for maybe 20 years now…my, how things have changed from the Greek and Italian-influenced places which used to dominate the suburb! I really do miss the Vietnamese bakeries though, and I’m sure my first taste of a proper croissant was from one of them.

    • Simon January 2, 2011, 10:21 pm

      Things have indeed changed. Didn’t notice much Italian, if at all, with more Chinese & Vietnamese than Greeks nowadays by the looks of it.

  • joey@FoodiePop January 13, 2011, 9:11 pm

    I live nearby but is yet to explore Illawarra Road. A travesty I know! Very keen to try this place now as I enjoy a hearty pho as much as anyone. :-)

    • Simon January 14, 2011, 1:15 pm

      Oh man… so long as your regular haunt isn’t Marrickville Rd.

      Not to say that there aren’t any good places there. I’ve just yet to find one.

  • Susan January 14, 2011, 1:08 pm

    We used to eat here at least once a week when I was living in earlwood. The Son and Daughter are always helping out in the restaurant which is really nice too.

  • Wendy @ Obesebaby March 4, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Three Colour Dessert looks pretty damn good ! not those watery one for sure!
    Wendy @ Obesebaby recently posted..Thai grilled pork neck – Moo Ping

    • Simon March 4, 2011, 10:57 pm

      Aside from the pastiness, it was alright. Just wasn’t what I was expecting so wasn’t too sure if it was meant to be this way or not.

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