In Saigon, enjoy a bowl of pho without the bowl

By Di Vy   August 5, 2019 | 06:26 am PT
In Saigon, enjoy a bowl of pho without the bowl
In lieu of all-in-one-bowl tradition, pho in Co Di restaurant is served on tray with new ingredients that do not exist in the traditional version. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.
A Saigon eatery has pioneered a completely new way to savor pho, the noodle soup that epitomizes Vietnamese cuisine.

Without doubt, the dish that comes first to anyone’s mind at the mention of Vietnamese cuisine is pho, the steamy rice noodle soup served typically with beef or chicken. 

But one restaurant in Saigon has put a completely new spin on the traditional dish by serving all its different ingredients on banana leaves on a bamboo tray and giving customers the most unusual choice - of two different kinds of broth, and of no broth at all, which would make the dish a non-soup.  

The culinary pioneer is the Co Di (Aunt Di or Ms Di) restaurant on Cong Quynh Street in District 1.

Le An Di said her pioneering innovation stemmed from a desire to bring people with different tastes and needs to the same table, whether it is the meat, or the broth or the absence of all meat.

The basic ingredients of the dish remain traditional. The noodle strings are the typical flat, thin type. The meat ingredients have a bit more variety – to the traditional meats of beef and chicken, the choice of pork, crab and fish is added. Another path-breaking change is the vegetarian option with tofu and a vegetarian broth, which is next to impossible to get in a similar establishment elsewhere.

The difference of Co Di’s pho tray also comes from its sauces. There are four to choose from: regular, sour, savory, and wasabi. Traditionally, there are just two sauces that go with a bowl of pho, a sour and spicy chilies sauce, and garlic and chilies in vinegar.

 A one-person portion with all kinds of meat is on the menu for VND120,000 ($5).

To fully enjoy the dish, first put a bit of noodle on a plate, then add ingredients laid out on the bamboo tray, and top everything with a spoon or two of your sauce of choice.

Instead of noodles, diners can also make a small mix of ingredients on top of crackers served in each portion. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy

Diners can also place a small mix of ingredients on top of crackers that come with every serving. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

After the sauce, add the greens served on the tray, including minced spring onions and laksa leaves, slices of chilies and some basil. These additions add great flavor to the dish.

Co Di is situated in a small alley that’s easy to find. The ambience is cozy, peaceful and family-friendly. Besides its signature pho-on-a-tray, it also serves cow tail soup, stewed beef, salad and several beverages.

How to eat pho on tray

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