Pho Vinh Ky Sells Fish Pho

You've had beef pho, of course, and probably chicken pho. Maybe you've even had the version of the soup with meatballs in it, and you've definitely tried the tripe and naughty bits once just to show off to the cute Vietnamese girl (or boy) you were trying to impress. But I'll bet you a sinh to to your nuoc mam that you've never had fish pho before.

I don't blame you, as fish pho is a rarity in Little Saigon. The ostensible reason is because Vietnamese cuisine has far more famous seafood soups (bún riêu, bánh can cua), but I think there's a working-class stigma attached to the meal as well. When I told Weekly staffer Charles Lam I had just gone to fish pho's most famous local purveyors, Pho Vinh Ky and Pho Vinh Ky 2, he wrinkled his nose the same way I do whenever people eat at Taco Bell—except I'm right in my disdain, and Clam is dead-wrong. Take beef pho stock, throw in thicker-than-usual noodles, add a bunch of parsley and raw white onions, and you have the base. Then comes the fish, a type of catfish called basa (better known in the U.S. as swai) that's light in flavor and almost as tender as lobster tail. Both Pho Vinh Kys (the only real difference between the two is the awesome neon sign outside the second location featuring a giant fish and “PHO CÁ”!) offer heaps of it—pound-for-pound, the most bountiful bowl of pho in all OC. Add a ginger sauce on the side that you're supposed to dunk each slice of fish into, as well as the customary Mekong delta of herbs, and fish pho is a glorious meal: settling well on the palate and stomach, and probably the most accessible ethnic fish stew you'll ever taste.

Are there other dishes at the Pho Vinh Kys? Of course: beef and chicken pho, bowls of bún so large they can easily host footballs, and a whole list of dac biets. But stick with the fish pho, and screw any haters who'll look down on you for eating it—the roomful of Vietnamese around you is all the backup you need.

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