Pho, considered to be the national dish of Vietnam, is one of our favourite meals. For what may seem to be a deceptively simple dish, pho has complex beef and herb flavours, completed at the table when the diner adds bean sprouts, Thai basil, a squeeze of lime and a dash of chilli.
Whether you are dining in the old town in Hanoi or in the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City, this traditional beef noodle soup varies from province to province. What is a constant in the dish is the length of time it takes to cook the broth, a minimum of overnight; labour intensive enough to encourage us to seek out great pho rather than cooking it ourselves.
Bay Pho owner and chef Paul Nguyen and his family have owned restaurants in Byron Bay since 2000, including the Bus Stop Café, Lemongrass, Byron Viet, Wokalicious and Bay Pho in Jonson Street.
In November 2019, Paul opened Bay Pho in The Cove precinct of Tweed City Shopping Centre, a modern Vietnamese restaurant specialising in several of our favourite Vietnamese dishes. Its authentic meals, all priced under $20, have proved popular with locals.
“Our menu includes the fundamental dishes of Vietnamese cuisine,” Paul tells us. “They’re mostly the simpler dishes with less ingredients to cope with the seasonal produce we have in Australia,” he says, leading into a discussion of produce differences due to soil and climate.
Using fresh local ingredients, every dish is made from scratch, including entrées of wontons, rice paper rolls, dim sum and pork skewers, as well as wonton and egg noodle soups with fresh Asian vegetables.
For mains, ‘Bun’, or vermicelli noodle salad, is a favourite one dish meal, the noodles topped with chicken or beef, pork or vege spring rolls, pork skewers, or tofu as well as fresh salad vegetables and a pour-over sauce.
Stir fry dishes are also a standout with salt and pepper squid and softshell crab available for dinner, crispy chicken and roast pork with fried rice as well as chilli lemongrass beef and chicken with cashews among the offerings for lunch.
When a restaurant is named after a particular dish, you’d expect it to be a standout, and it is; the pho is magnificent!
“We cook our pho broth for 15 hours to get the depth of flavour,” Paul tells us. “The brisket is cooked in the soup, but the rare beef version with noodles has the hot soup poured over the beef.”
The soup is hypnotic, its ‘layers of meaning’ not often found in pho in Australia. Besides the two beef versions, there’s also a chicken, tofu and the Bay Pho combination noodle soup available.
In the end, despite the menu’s variety, it’s the pho that you can’t do without.
“You can even eat it cold,” Paul tells us. But come sunshine or rain, to me there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of pho. It’s food for the soul.
The Cove, Tweed City Shopping Centre, 54 Minjungbal Dr, Tweed Heads South, NSW Ph: 07 5513 0202
Open: Mon – Sun 10.30am – 9pm
NOTE: Bay Pho is BYO. Many dishes can be made vegan or gluten free to order. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Bay Pho.