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
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.