Once upon a time … almost 10 years ago … when Arkensen and Nanzaro were just toddlers, Pho Hong was the family favourite restaurant. We used to eat there once a week, without fail. Always on a Sunday.
That was when we were attending the church nearby. So after service, we always go there for lunch … and always got the same thing. The #1 Special.
We were also quite poor then. We rarely spent more than $20 for eating out … a week!! So Pho Hong fits the bill.
Pho Hong is cheap. Pho Hong is delicious. Most importantly Pho Hong serves very big bowls of pho. Between the four of us, we just need to order two pho specials and we would find it hard to finish. And all that for just $15. Those were the days when Pho Hong was the #1 restaurant to Suanne and I. Those were the days before chowtimes when it was OK to eat at the same restaurant week after week, ordering the same item over and over again. Those were the good days!
It must have been at least 5 years already since we last went to Pho Hong. Last week we drove all the way to Kingsway and Imperial in Burnaby for old time sake. The place looked the same as we remembered them … but showing a bit more age … rundown even.
The interior still has that ghastly maroon wall paper. The booths at the center of the restaurant is still there. We like those booths which has overhanging plastic vines of grapes. I was told that Pho Hong used to be an Italian restaurant eons ago.
We were such regulars that the owners knew us. That was then. After all these years, we are just another customer to them. They don’t remember us anymore. Arkensen and Nanzaro is no longer the cute toddlers they once knew.
The one great thing about Pho Hong was the smell. Every time we go there, we end up having our clothes smelling of the beef noodle soup for the entire day. We had never come across another pho restaurant which does that even today.
The #1 Special was what we order all the time. It used to be just $7.50 for a big bowl and it even came with a deep fried spring roll. Today it is $8.50. Inflation, I guess.
The #1 Special was always MY order and I always shared this with Nanzaro, being the younger one. Nanzaro would hate that I squirt Sriracha chili sauce into the bowl making it all red. I like it that way. So I always separated Nanzaro’s portion into a separate bowl before I do that.
This time Arkensen said he wants the #1 and it goes without saying that he is not going to share this with anyone anymore.
The #1 Special tasted just as good as it was back then. They serve the beef pinkish raw but with the soup close to a boil, it needed just second to cook the meat. The soup was flavourful but we felt the bowls were smaller … or maybe our appetite are now bigger. I am not sure.
The reason why we ordered the #1 was because it had everything … beef slices, beef ball, tendon & tripe.
The spring roll which came with the “special” was good. It was served hot like they had just made it to order. We prefer the coarse kind of wrapper … I think the rice paper kind. But no complains because we like this too.
The bean sprouts were OK — just OK. We had super fresh ones before.
I ordered salted plum with Soda ($2.95). I like this because it is a very good thirst quencher and the glass was bigger than normal.
I had never thought of this until now … Suanne does not order drinks at all. She does not like flavoured drinks; opting for water or tea if she can help it. The thing is our boys did not order drinks too. They always asked for iced water and I did not think much about it.
So when I was sitting here writing this blog post, I asked them why. Gosh … now I know why but am not at liberty to tell you the reason. This because you-know-who said she will knock my head if I tell anyone. LOL! You ask you-kn0w-who if you want to know.
For a person who used to stop me from squirting Sriracha Chili sauce into the pho, Nanzaro had graduated to eating spicy food.
His order was the … slice beef and pork with Giaang Xi vermicelli in spicy hot soup. This is $8.50 with the special (extra spring roll). The soup was hot and spicy enough. There are substantial meat in Pho Hong’s noodle soup.
Suanne tried something different. Something we had never ordered before.
This is called seafood and egg noodle with vegetable in soup. It costs just $7.50 and has good sized prawns , squid and imitation crab meat. To supersize this, it is just 50 cents and so I supersized this for Suanne.
The noodles served here are thin egg noodles like those you see in wonton noodle soup.
That left me with little choice. I wanted the #1 Special too but since we are chowtimes we cannot break the rule that we order the same thing.
So I chose something new … the pork stewed in coconut milk and steamed rice ($8.50). The portion are disappointingly small. It only has 5 pieces of pork cubes which was quite tough too. There is even a hard boiled egg.
They provided me with chopstick and soup spoon. I find that it is really hard to eat with these utensil. They should have given me spoon and fork instead. So I asked for them.
We used to spend just $15 here. Today it is $35!
Pho Hong is always special to Suanne and I because it reminds us a lot of simpler days when the boys were young. We used to have the same ritual every Sunday … going there for lunch after service, ordering the same thing over and over again.
Suanne and I missed those days we did not have to go to new places all the time just so that we have something to blog about.
Anyway, enough of nostalgia … here is Pho Hong’s take out menu.
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Great write-up, Ben. Such a personal “from-the-heart” retrospection.
BTW: which church were you going to in that area ?
Hi LotusRapper: We used to attend the ECBC. Know that church? We don’t attend that church anymore. Ben
I do. Went there in mid ’90s a few times with friends for some drop-in table tennis and badminton. But didn’t go to the church.
gosh… i’m very curious about the drinks thing!
ahh, the oldies… for me that’s stephos in vancouver before it was discovered! with vancouver changing so quickly i think that we need to be grateful for the ones that last 🙂
Sorry Trisha. I can’t tell you. Suanne gave me that death stare when I showed her the draft … warned me NOT to tell. So, YOU ask her. LOL!
Haha about drinks – I’m curious too, but I’ll leave her personal space. For me and my partner, we try to aviod drinks because it adds unnecessary calories, especially for cream or milk based drinks. Like a bubble tea could be 300-400 cals, and I’d much rather have an appy for that! Just my thoughts.
LOL Ben. I know your pain. You might have to pace yourselves or else suffer the dreaded Blogger's Burnout.
On the bright side, Arkensen and Nanzaro are only a few years away from being your scouts. Just give them a camera, some cash and then tell them – "don't come back until you discover a hidden gem!"
Haha, even if I do now have a food blog my family still is acquainted to eating the same restaurant week after week! Instead of having tons of places to write about I am ending up with less and less :(. Some restaurants for us end up being like Pho Hong. Once we had a streak of eating on a Sunday at one particular restaurant.
I don’t order drinks as I just like to keep it simple and they are a pricey addition when everything gets totaled up. Sometimes I do order drinks at HKSC like you do though.
The Pho #1 sure looks like #1 to me! The broth’s color looks so beautiful.
As for what FMED said, Arkensen and Nanzaro should start that now ;). I did at about their age (ok, minus the cash part).
there is a Pho Hong on Fraser between 49 and 48th ave. I would say there Pho soup is waaay better. Smaller restaurant, similar menu. My favorite Pho place in Van.
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