A Tasty Visit to Pho 33 in Midvale, Utah
Last week I turned my attention to that culinary gift from Japan: ramen, writing about two newish SLC ramen spots—Ramen 930 and Ramen Bar.
This week, I’m heading a bit south and west in Asia from Japan to Vietnam, which is renown for its own contribution to world-class soup: pho.
In case you’re not familiar with pho, here are the Cliff Notes: Essentially, pho is a popular Vietnamese street food, but also found in restaurants.
It’s usually a hefty serving of meat broth and rice noodles in a large bowl, typically made with either beef or chicken.
Alongside servings of pho is usually a plate of garnishes such as scallions, Thai basil, bean sprouts, lemon or lime wedges, cilantro, fish sauce, sriracha, Thai chili peppers, etc.
Spices used in the broth—such as cloves, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, coriander seeds, and such—lend pho its beautiful aromas and fragrant flavors.
If you haven’t tried pho yet, now’s the time!
A good place to indulge in not just pho, but also an array of other Vietnamese dishes, is Pho 33, which has been pleasing customers at their Midvale location since 2011.
The owner, Chi, and the staff at Pho 33 are very friendly and outgoing, not to mention quite helpful in navigating the extensive menu. My visits to the restaurant have been very pleasing.
Prior to any pho feast, I like to enjoy an appetizer or two, and Pho 33 offers some starters that you might not find on most Vietnamese restaurant menus.
For example, Canh Ga Chien Bo ($5.95), which is translated as “butter wings”—chicken wings marinated with fresh garlic and deep-fried until golden and crispy. There is also a very tasty filet mignon beef salad ($9.95) where tender beef fillet cubes are served with cucumber, tomato, onion, celery, and spicy chili-lime dressing.
Skip the made-for-Americans cream cheese wontons ($4.25) and instead, indulge in an order of freshly made spring rolls with a choice of shrimp or tofu ($5.50). I especially enjoy the spring rolls with shrimp, where cooked shrimp, lettuce, mint, vermicelli-style rice noodles, avocado, and sprouts are rolled up sort of burrito-style in rice paper. There’s a scrumptious peanut sauce for dipping served alongside.
Pho 33 offers a nice selection of vegetarian menu items, including tofu with lemongrass ($7.95), vegan “chicken” with broccoli ($7.95), vegetarian stir-fry ($8.25), Mongolian-style tofu ($7.95), and others.
Maybe predictably, I tend to skew toward the less healthy vegetarian dishes like dau hu me ($4.25), which is firm tofu coated in batter, deep-fried until crispy, and served with garlic-soy dipping sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. What can I say? I love fried stuff.
In an attempt probably to cater to customers no so familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, Pho 33 offers a wide selection of pan-Asian dishes such as kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef, chicken or beef with broccoli, clay pot options, pad Thai, walnut shrimp, Malaysian and Singapore rice noodles dishes, and others.
But I suggest sticking with Vietnamese fare, like the delicious com ga xa ot ($7.95).
This was boneless strips of lemongrass-infused chicken, stir-fried with hot dried chili peppers and onions, served on a bed of steamed rice with a shredded carrot and lettuce salad on the side.
As with virtually all of the Pho 33 menu items, bowls of pho seem to be underpriced compared to many other similar restaurants.
Simply put, you get a lot of bang for the dining buck here.
Pho prices range from $3.95 for a bowl of kids’ pho to $12.50 for a serving of pho with Kobe beef (which seems ridiculously cheap for Kobe beef). Standard regular-size pho runs from $6.75 to $7.75, depending on ingredients.
If you’re adventurous and want to sample every cut of beef that Pho 33 offers, all in one big bowl, order the “Pho 33” ($8.50), which includes regular brisket, rare beef, meatballs, tripe, flank, shank, fatty brisket, tendons, and oxtail.
Personally, I prefer the more straightforward pho bo, which is pho with rib-eye ($7.75).
Pho is all about the broth, which should be clear, not cloudy. The broth at Pho 33 is excellent—beef bones simmered slowly and infused with fragrant flavors of onion, ginger, black cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon. Thinly sliced rib-eye was added to the steaming broth right before serving—just enough time to heat the beef and cook it rare—done perfectly.
The generous portion of rice noodles were also perfectly cooked, just slightly firm—al dente—swimming in that wonderful beef broth with sliced onions and scallions.
So if you’re in the market for pho at a fair price, not to mention a wide array of other Vietnamese and pan-Asian menu choices, I’d drop into Pho 33, pho sho’.
Culinary quote of the week:
I live on good soup, not on fine words. — Molière
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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