POST-CHRISTMAS, guilt and an expanding waistline prodded me to look for lighter cuisine at lunch time while I was out with a friend at PJ’s Tropicana Mall recently.

As luck would have it, we came across Pho Hoa, a halal Vietnamese Noodle house specialising in pho (pronounced fuh), traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup.

Who knew that this noodle restaurant chain was 30 years old and operated the largest Vietnamese fast-casual dining chain in the world, with over 70 restaurants in seven different countries?

What I like about Pho Hoa is you get to choose what goes into your bowl of noodles, from meat toppings to the accompanying fresh herbs that you add to the soup.

Meat toppings that diners can choose from include tripe, tendon, flank, brisket, beef balls or steak, while choice of herbs include fresh coriander leaves, bean sprouts, hot chili peppers, lemon wedges and Thai basil.

Not being big fans of offal, me and my friend opt for the pho bo vien, steak with beef ball noodle ( RM20.90 for large).

The outlet also serves a regular size bowl of noodles (RM19.50) for those with smaller appetites.

When our noodles arrived, I was ridiculously happy to note that Phoa Hoa entertained my request for more Thai Basil.

That’s how I like to eat my pho, with lots of aromatic Thai basil and mint, which according to my friend, looked as if I had dumped an entire garden into my steaming bowl of noodles.

She, on the other hand, preferred to eat her noodles without the herbs or the raw bean sprouts, as she believes they mask the true flavour of the broth.

Despite our different approaches to eating the noodles, we both agreed on one thing; it was good with a capital G.

The broth was rich and clear, plus there was a generous amount of meat and beef balls per individual portion.

I counted seven beef balls and six thinly-sliced small pieces of beef in my broth.

Because the beef noodles were great, we decided to try the Hot and Sour Seafood Pho (similar price to the beef pho) but were disappointed with its flavour.

Although we liked the addition of pineapple to the broth, it wasn’t spicy or sour enough for either of us.

Besides noodles, we also sampled three appetisers — the Gỏi Cuốn summer and Chả Giò imperial rolls, and Cha Trung Hap, Vietnamese Egg Cakes (RM 7.95), which was described as home-style steamed chicken and egg pie in the menu.

Fresh and healthy summer roll. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid
Fresh and healthy summer roll. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid

Although we thought RM4.95 was pricey for a solitary roll, both the summer and imperial rolls were delicious.

The summer roll — moistened rice paper filled with cold rice noodles, iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts, barbecue chicken and shrimp — had a clean, fresh taste which was boosted by its sweet hoi sin, plum and peanut dipping sauce.

Tasting like a super crunchy spring roll, the fried imperial roll with its minced chicken, vermicelli and vegetable filling was complemented by its sweet and sour fish sauce, sugar and vinegar dipping sauce.

We both also enjoyed the egg cakes which had almost the same ingredients as the imperial roll.

Except for the egg and crunchy covering, it was packed with more vermicelli strands which provided an interesting contrast, taste-wise, to the soft egg custard.

Coconut flan with brown sugar. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid
Coconut flan with brown sugar. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid

To complete our meal, we had the outlet’s coconut flan with brown sugar (RM5.95).

Big on flavour, the firm coconut flan with palm sugar was a winning combination.

Our plates were completely clean when we were done with dessert. You can visit Phoa Hoa at:

Lot L1-52, First Floor, Tropicana City Mall, 3, Jalan SS 20/27, 47400 Petalling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan Tel: 03-7728 1714

Pretty lanterns are part of the decor. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid
Pretty lanterns are part of the decor. — TRP pic by Anita Ems Rashid

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