The Spot: Cnr of Lan Ong and Cha Ca streets, this alcove requires motorcycle-commuting patrons to circle precariously around the intersection until such time as there is a slot of tarmac in which to park. It’s a creative process, a gruff nod from the pho pa signalling success and a soup ticket.
Space and Atmosphere: Sadly lacking in space, this soup joint has one stainless steel table around which ten or twelve customers can sit. Everybody else is camped along the step up to it, their backs a metre from the gutter, a clutter of motorbikes providing a barrier from the moving ones.
Shop-front Style: Pho Ma is squatting in a doorway, lodged beside a glass cabinet, her handbag hanging above her, a fan cooling the sweat on her brow on this hot morning. The signage is to the point: address, the three available dishes and the trading hours. No flowery slogans or superfluous details here.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Slightly newer and fancier chopsticks than the usual soup shack, varnished, etched around the top and pointier, which can be problematic for the inexperienced user. Problems include the 'drop back in splash' and noodle scorch on a bare leg. Nothing much out of the ordinary in terms of the additives, except for a little ramekin of my chinh (MSG) mixed with salt, just in case there isn't enough in the soup on arrival.
Serving Station: Like all professional pho vendors, this pho Ma has everything at her fingertips and during my short stop, she didn't lift her backside off the stool. She swivelled to each part of the process, handling ingredients and implements with ease. Around her are cleavered chicken pieces, diced up hearts and livers, sliced fillets of breast covered in lime leaf needles, a huge pile of fresh pho, a pot, a sieve, a ladle and some bowls.
Meat Generosity: No complaints on this front. Plenty of very tender chicken meat, almost but not quite as good as the current number one pho ga purveyor. It's a big serving of noodles here, excellent if a carbo hit is required. Some pho places can be stingy with the noodles, crazy considering they are the cheapest ingredient.
Order to Delivery Gap: Didn't notice, so must have been fairly standard. If pho is not delivered within five minutes, something's up.
Stock Factor: Clear with the odd fleck of missed scum. Flavour is there. So is MSG. Mind you, the latter is everywhere so no surprise. Pho Ma is not the most heavy handed MSG spooner I've come across.
Cost: 10,000VND (USD62c, AUD82c) a bowl, a bit under the average. Good value.
Rank: Three of
Still on the look out for recommendations and apologies for the recent lack of sticky action. This was due to the Independence Day long weekend, a move of abode and lack of an internet connection. Oh, and that necessary evil otherwise known as work!