It’s not often that street food ends up getting much global recognition. When they do, these foods become fads craved by many around the world and reinterpreted over and over again. The Vietnamese pho, a noodle soup bowl typically prepared by street vendors, is one such fine example.

Pho’s international fame is no accident. As Vietnamese refugees took off to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War, they brought along their customs and recipes with them. Amongst these was the comforting bowl of rice noodles that can be had for breakfast or dinner. Behind this humble-looking dish is a massive amount of preparation and effort. The clear broth is the flavoursome result of laboriously simmering beef bones or chicken bones, herbs and spices all day. Rice noodles are typically the noodle of choice in pho, and diners can choose to have beef balls or chicken slices with it.

But as the dish grew more mainstream, others attempt their own interpretations with modern techniques and ingredients. In Singapore, a thriving Vietnamese community continues that legacy with their authentic recipes. Nothing is watered down for diners. After all, each delicious bowl of pho represents so much more than just comfort food for the Vietnamese. It’s a memory of home and better days. Though far away from Vietnam, those craving for a taste of familiar flavours in Singapore won’t be disappointed. For curious locals, it’s a glance at a largely unknown migrant culture through warm bowls of pho. 

Little Vietnam Restaurant & Cafe


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Grandlink Square is one of those old strata malls that have been left forgotten in favour of newer shopping centres, like Paya Lebar Quarter just down the road. But for the Vietnamese living and working in Singapore, Little Vietnam is a quiet stamping ground for home-cooked food. The menu has everything from spring rolls, stir-fries with morning glory and grills, satisfying any cravings its homesick diners may have. Pho is definitely one of the best-sellers here during lunch and dinner. The broth is much lighter in flavour, accentuated with fresh herbs. Diners can choose to add rare beef slices and brisket or chicken with their noodles. If you’re peckish, add on a couple of chả giò (deep-fried spring rolls) and order the tamarind juice, a sour drink topped with salted peanuts.

Long Phung


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Over the years, Joo Chiat has gone from notorious red-light district to wholesome Vietnamese enclave. One can find many Vietnamese stalls, selling a similar line-up of grilled pork chops with rice, noodles and spring rolls. Long Phung is often considered to be the best of the lot. Despite the notoriously bad service (the waiters are often swamped and speak little English), the restaurant is immensely popular with the lunchtime crowd. At noon, Long Phung is filled with hungry diners digging into bowls of pho and sipping on traditional Vietnamese coffees. One of the specialities here is the pho dac biet which is beef pho with an additional soft-boiled egg for a more indulgent touch. There’s also pho tai (with rare beef) or pho nam (well-done beef brisket) to go for here.

Moc Quan


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Vietnamese restaurant Moc Quan’s chef-owner Jeff Koh is passionate about bringing more than just a sliver of Vietnamese culture to Singapore. Koh spent three years learning recipes from Ho Chi Minh’s street stalls, dutifully recreating dishes like goi cuon (fresh spring rolls) and dau hu chien xa (fried tofu with garlic and lemongrass) in his restaurant. On top of that, Koh personally flies in produce from Vietnam every week to ensure authentic flavours. The chicken and beef pho are both flavourful and fragrant, best with a small spritz of lime and a dash of fish sauce.

Mrs Pho


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Mrs Pho’s founder Hoang Ha spent his childhood as a refugee in Australia, growing up on his mother’s Vietnamese comfort food. In an attempt to preserve these traditional recipes, Hoang started Mrs Pho in a humble shophouse along Beach Road. Recipes are kept as authentic as possible, with the kitchen using only Vietnamese ingredients such as beef and herbs. As the name suggests, pho is the signature dish here. Those with bigger appetites should go for the pho bo dac biet which has a combination of beef flank, brisket, balls and tripe gently cooked in beef broth. The restaurant also throws in fresh beansprouts and onions on top for texture.

Pho 99 Vietnamese Delight


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Telok Ayer has plenty of stellar bistros and fine-dining restaurants, but its time to throw some limelight to the unsung heroes in the enclave. Pho 99 is one such eatery, with its nondescript storefront and an equally dingy set-up dining room. Despite this, Pho 99 draws in massive lunch crowds every weekday. The kitchen has a small menu but offers huge portions of their hearty dishes. The pho is the most popular dish here, with generous portions of beef slices and beef balls. Every bowl of pho gets a small platter of fresh garnishes like basil, mint, beansprouts and cilantro — something picky diners will appreciate.

Jasmine Tay
Senior Writer
Jasmine Tay is the dining, culture and jewellery writer. She makes fine silver jewellery and causes mini-explosions in the kitchen when she can't afford fancy dinners. Sometimes she tells people what she thinks about art, and binges on the music of Danzig when they don’t agree.