December 07, 2010 | | Comments 17

Pho Van on Fraser and Kingsway, Vancouver

Two weeks ago I took a full week off work. I was forced to.

You see, I had accumulated 3.5 weeks of vacation days this year. Normally I would use up my vacation days by taking a long vacation in summer but we did not go anywhere this summer. So the company issued a “use it or lose it” notice and it appears that this time they are serious. So I took a week off but I felt it is such a waste taking a week off and not going anywhere.

I stayed at home. And it snowed. And I did not want to be stuck at home.

So while the boys were at school, Suanne and I took a drive in the snow in search of soupy food. It was supposed to be the day when they say the snow will be 5 inches.

It was a long slow drive from Richmond to Kingsway in Vancouver. We had no preference on which restaurant to go to because we know there will be a lot of Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsway.

Everyone was driving so carefully that it took like almost forever to get there. Moreover, I took the “scenic” route through all the major roads. Not sure about you but I love to drive in the snow. The city looks a lot different under snow.

We stopped at Pho Van. We had never blogged about Pho Van before but before the days of chowtimes we used to come here quite a lot of times. It must have been 10 years ago when we first visited this place. This is one of the Vietnamese places we eat in after church. Yeah, back then money is tight and pho gives us the biggest bang for the buck. I could feed the whole family for $15 by ordering two bowls of pho. The boys back then were still willing to share mum and dad’s noodles.

We parked the car by the curb right in front of the restaurant on Fraser and Kingsway. The street is practically empty. Not many people are that crazy to go out when the forecast is predicting more snow. It was a good thing it was just about to open at 10AM. We were the first customer and ONLY customer that day. LOL!

The waitress (maybe the owner because she looked like the bossy type) told us that we had to wait for 10 minutes. I think it’s perhaps because they had not quite heated up the broth yet. Oh man … the room was freezing cold.

Is it true that neon lights are … popular in restaurants in Vietnam. I am asking because I don’t see many restaurants have neon lights and the ones I remember seeing is in Kim Penh Xe Lua on Broadway and Gold Train Express on Kingsway. I see the same type of multi-color neon lights here. They are switched on even in day time. It bothered me a bit because it is difficult to take pictures with these lights on. Am just being petty. :-)

But otherwise, this place is clean and they have black marble tables and partitions. This is one of the few well maintained Vietnamese restaurants around town.

The menu is nothing exciting. It is just the basic pho taking center stage with other familiar supporting casts like rice, stew and vermicelli. I guess you can’t get anymore basic than that.

We kept our jackets for a good part of our time there. It was that cold. It was so cold that even the tea cooled down very fast.

We thought it is just sad to order two bowls of noodles. So we decided to order an appetizer. Or at least we thought it was an appetizer.

No wonder their deep fried spring rolls is so expensive ($6.30). This appetizer is like a full meal by itself. It has two rather long spring rolls and it came along with some vermicelli too.

Pho Van’s deep fried spring roll is pretty good. It was long right? And that also means it is narrower. I personally prefer spring roll that is fatter and has more fillings.

But anyway, this one had good minced fillings and the rice paper skin was crisp. Yeah, it crackled loudly biting into it.

You know what I think? I think the waitress (lady boss?) knew how to handle customers with camera and notebook.

You see, the pho was fantastic that it was soooo full of meat that it is unbelievable. We had never had so much meat like this before. We could barely finish the meat. Maybe it is just the way they serve it … maybe they gave us extra meat.

Suanne ordered the Well Done Flank with Rice Noodle in Soup. She opted for a small version which is just $6. It is really cheap considering what we had in the bowl.

We like that they served this with raw onion slices, cilantro and chopped green onions, particularly the raw onions. The meat, there are lots of nice fatty flank too. Those meat were good.

Here, a little bit about pho. It is pronounced as “fer” not “foh”. Pho is distinctly Vietnamese and originated from North Vietnam and popularized by the south. So, how do one differentiate a northern pho with a southern pho?

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe northern pho uses fatter rice noodles and served with green onions. The people in the south uses thinner rice noodles and serves them with bean sprouts and herbs. So, I guess most of the pho we normally find in Vancouver is the southern variety.

Correct?

For me I had the Bun Bo Hue. This dish is a specialty from central Vietnam, specifically from the imperial city of Hue.

I got a large serving which is less than $7. What a deal.

The broth is spicy enough for me and it has lots of ingredients.

This bowl has even more meat than Suanne’s … lots of beef slices, pork hock … and … 3 very thick slices of Vietnamese ham. I thought the ham slices were thicker than the ones we normally find in other restaurants.

This restaurant is cash only. I like Pho Van because of the value for money and their pho is very decent too. I hope they expand their menu soon.

Here is the take out menu.

Pho Van (Fraser) on Urbanspoon

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  1. mike says:

    ben just to let you know the owners rarely works there. If so its usually a man. I use to do deliveries to them all the time lol.

  2. HM says:

    Haven’t been to this place for a long time, maybe time to visit again. I like the looks of the Bun Bo Hue you had & for that price & size, very reasonable!

  3. LotusRapper says:

    Pho Van is one of my regular haunts. Not spectacular food, but always cheap and reliable. Plenty of parking. Open late. I always order the dry vermicelli with bbq pork and fried roll, and ask them to skip the beansprouts and shredded lettuce at the bottom of the bowl so I get more vermicelli :-D

  4. Kevin says:

    Man, I have such vivid memories of this restaurant as a kid!

    I think back in 1993 my uncle gave me a slice of jalapeno and told me it was green onion and I should eat it.

    When you’re 4 years old and you eat something spicy like that, you tend to remember…

    I still go with my parents from time to time when we want Pho. :)

    • Ben says:

      LOL! So do you still love your uncle today? :-) Wow, it seems like Pho Van has a very long run already. I wonder if they will still remain relevant given that they had not changed the menu for a long time and people are getting more sophisticated when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Ben

  5. Mark says:

    I’ve been here a few times and this place does give a lot of meat in their soup, so I don’t think you were getting special treatment. It’s way more meat than other pho places. I would definitely go here more often if I didn’t live on the other side of town.

  6. LotusRapper says:

    “Pho” is believed by some to be derived from “feu”, French for fire. It’s a legacy of the French colonial occupation of Vietnam.

    Wiki has quite a detailed write-up:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BB%9F

    “The origin of phở is uncertain, and is mostly culled from oral histories.[2] While a distinctly Vietnamese dish, phở has French and Chinese influences.[2] Still, the consensus among academics, diners and restaurateurs is that it originated about a century ago in northern Vietnam.[2] The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (local rice noodles – originally of Chinese origin) and French tastes (cattle before the French arrival being beasts of burden, not frequently sources of beef).[2][3] It was originally sold by venders from large boxes, until the first phở restaurant was opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.[3]

    The origin of the word was one subject in a seminar on phở held in Hanoi in 2003.[2] One theory advanced at the seminar is that the name comes from the French feu (fire), as in the dish pot-au-feu, which like pho uses the French method of adding charred o­nion to the broth for color and flavor, one of the techniques which distinguishes pho from other Asian noodle soups.[2][3][4] Some believe the origin of the word to be the Chinese fen (粉).[5] In addition to rice noodles, multiple spices (such as star anise and cinnamon) are staples of Chinese cuisine (although the cinnamon used in phở, Saigon Cinnamon, is not a true cinnamon and is a local ingredient).

    Linguistically, the etymology of the name is not likely French. In the Vietnamese language, the word phở carries a non-flat category, whereas most French loanwords carry a flat tone, sắc or nặng tone, depending on the end consonant except the loanwords are ended with -t, -p, -c, -ch consonants. Phở does not match this rule.[6]

    Some observers[2] believe phở may come from the Cantonese rice vermicelli Hofan (河粉) which are interchangeably abbreviated as either fan2[7](粉, phấn in Tự Hán Việt) or Ho2[8](河, Hà inTự Hán Việt ), the two sounds giving the name “phở”.[2] Both fan and pho refer to the same rice noodles found in Vietnam and Guangdong, China, suggesting that rice noodles may have been brought to Vietnam by Cantonese immigrants from the Guangdong province in the early 20th century. “

  7. iPanda says:

    I had been to this one too and Rockia especially loves their grilled chicken rice there.

  8. LS says:

    Hi Ben,

    I’m really curious about the noodles I saw in the two bowls especially in yours, because they look more like Yi Mien (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_X60ewjhV9Aw/SHzR1_e4YcI/AAAAAAAAAqI/W9kBUc0OTJc/s200/13July2008+006.jpg) then the rice noodles I’m used to in Pho restaurants which is flatter and more transparent: http://images.smh.com.au/2010/06/28/1652002/Pho-Noodles-Ho-Chi-Minh-420×0.jpg (or dried, before they were cooked: http://www.lovingpho.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/banh-pho-noodle.jpg)

    I wonder why!?!

    • Ben says:

      Hi LS: Those are round rice noodles. Lai Fun is what I think it is called. It is certainly not yee mein as it is totally white. Yee mein is brownish/yellowish. Ben

      • LS says:

        Gotcha, Ben! Thanks! I know what Lai Fun is, just didn’t know that counts as Pho as well. I wish we have a choice here in the USA, I’m in Colorado.

  9. Susan says:

    I love Pho! I always feel so healthy and good after I eat it. Those ones are so cheap too!

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