Phở Saigon In The Past

Phở is a special dish with origins in North Vietnam. It is said that Phở appeared in Saigon in 1951-1952 along with Tally Card Songs theaters (also known as hát ả đào – an ancient genre of chamber music featuring female vocalists), one in Monceau hamlet and one in Dai Dong hamlet.

Phở and Ả Đào

Phở and Tally Card Songs were strange with Saigon people. Finding artists for this kind of art wasn’t easy in the city. The theaters stopped working after two years. Those days Saigon people don’t like Phở, they preferred clear rice noodle soup and wonton soup…The only Phở restaurant that had survived was “Phở Tuyec” on Turc street (in Dong Khoi area nowadays).

pho in saigon

Phở was born in Northern Vietnam during the mid-1880s

After 1954, Phở has become more and more popular in Saigon. Until mid-1960s there were many Phở restaurants on Pasteur and Hien Vuong streets.

Phở and Poetry

There were countless Phở restaurants in Saigon in those days. Phở Minh in Casino alley was one of the top 5 Phở among Saigon people. At the end of Casino alley, could be found various street food stalls where Phở, Snail Rice Noodle Soup, Pork Chop Rice Noodle Soup…were sold. The alley always crowed with foodies, some were eating, some were going out, some were going in. Phở at Minh stall was especially delicious. It wasn’t like candy that you could eat more if you wanted. Enjoying a bowl of Phở, customers had to come back tomorrow for the second because the stomach was full. There was a man named Vu Hoang Chuong who addicted Phở Minh. Vu Hoang Chuong also addicts reading cloak-and-dagger of Kim Dung (a famous Chinese writer). The owner of Phở Minh – Tran Minh and Vu Hoang Chuong had become better friends. Vu Hoang Chuong had written Chinese style poet about Phở Minh:

Being famous all around the city
Tran Minh Phở was very delicous
Topic: rare medium, well-done, sinew, omasum…
Spices: green onion, black pepper, chilly, fish sauce, lemon…

Tran Minh had calligraphy master rewrite these 4 sentences and hung on the wall of the stall.

Phở and Parallel Sentence

pho in saigon

Phở Y

The only Phở restaurant where sold Phở with rare medium beef, rare medium beef omasum, mix of ginger and fermented soybean paste was Phở Y. It was a great flavor eating soft rare medium beef, tough beef omasum and amazing Cự Đà fermented soybean paste. The recipe was special so that it attracted many people came to try the dish. The business of Phở Y became better and better. From a poor house, Phở Y had been rebuilt into a new house. The owner had become a rich person. But he died soon, his wife continued running the business. There were many men who came to seduce the wife for years but all of them didn’t succeed. One of them was angry and wrote the first sentence of a parallel sentence to blame the widow: “Meat or fat, both are well-done, why don’t you remarry?”. It was so difficult that for over 30 years no one could write the second of this parallel sentence.

Phở Neuter Cock

Phở Neuter Cock appeared in Saigon at the beginning of 1960s in Vuon Chuoi market. Soft and smelling meat of neuter cock and the clear soup base built great flavor. People came here not only enjoy the succulent Phở, but also to meet the beautiful daughter of the owner – YV. During the day, she worked in the kitchen with chicken heads, legs and wings… At night she worked as a singer. Suddenly, she disappeared and people said that she went abroad. The business of the restaurant was going down and it had to be closed.

Pho in saigon

Phở Neuter Cock

Phở without veggies and bean sprout

Phở Ba Dau was located in a large alley of Cong Ly – Yen Do (Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Ly Chinh Thang nowadays). There were no veggies and bean sprout and the soup base was clear and the smell of Phở noodle. Beef was sliced thinly and Phở noodle was thick. Most the customers were Ha Noi people who enjoyed the taste very much. For over 30 years, Phở Ba Dau had become more and more crowded although the price was expensive.

Pho in saigon

Phở without veggies and bean sprout

Phở Testicle

Those days, in Saigon the only Phở where Phở with testicle could be found was located on Ly Thai To street. The owner was from Quang Dong, China. He opened a Phở restaurants in Hanoi and Hue before starting selling Phở in Saigon. Phở with testicle was a strange dish of Phở Saigon and certainly ladies never came to try it.

pho in saigon

Phở with testicle

Phở after 1975 and Phở Bac Hai

Phở has reached its top since the end of 1980s. Phở is everywhere on Saigon streets except Chinatown (Cholon) where most popular foods were still clear rice noodle soup, wonton soup, steamed wheat cake, Chinese meatball. It couldn’t be miss Phở Bac Hai because there were dozens of restaurants were named Bac Hai those days.

pho in saigonPhở Bac Hai

Phở Teacher

Because the salary of teachers was not enough to make living, 5 teachers opened a Phở stall on pavement X., near the back gate of the school M. C. At this stall Phở with chicken was sold in the morning. The dish wasn’t as fantastic as at famous restaurants but it tastes as special as home meal. The customers could imagine that the Phở was cooked by their mothers or grandmothers. The price at Phở  Teacher was reasonable and the bowl was full of Phở noodle and chicken.

Phở T.D. on Dien Bien Phu street

T.D. was the name of the owner who was a singer with a beautiful voice. Most of the customers were artists. The owner only sang once a year on Christmas Eve, the song was always “Silent Night”. The customers were dancing in the spacing restaurant while he was singing. The special dish at Phở T.D. was Phở “Breast Milk” with fat and smelling breast meat.

Above are not all about the Phở Saigon in the past but I think the blog can give you some information about the most popular food of Vietnamese cuisine. Do you want to enjoy the best Phở Saigon? Do not hesitate to contact Scooter Saigon Tour to book a Saigon food tour.


Warmest Greetings To All from Tracy Do! If you have any questions about Vietnam including Vietnam tours, do not hesitate to contact me.

Tracy’s team is proud to provide excellent Ho Chi Minh City Day Trips including Ho Chi Minh Motorbike Tour, Ho Chi Minh Food Tour, Mekong Delta Tour, Cu Chi Tunnel Tour, Ho Chi Minh Transfer Service and Shore Excursion to thousands of guests for nearly 10 years. Let us have a chance to show you South Vietnam to the fullest.


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