Pho Guru Tom Vu Explains What Separates
the Standard Fare from Culinary Greatness
Pho is absolutely having a moment– a definitive foodie moment– as this popular Vietnamese dish has established itself in the current culinary zeitgeist. It is no surprise that restaurants featuring pho (pronounced phuh), have been popping up all over Southern California and throughout the United States. As with most food crazes, photos of this much-loved dish posted on social media sites have also helped to fuel this literal feeding frenzy.
While there are hundreds of pho eateries throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties, chef/owner Trong “Tom” Vu of Pho Akaushi in Westminster, Calif., has emerged at the top of the pho food chain. Famed restaurant critic Brad Johnson of the Orange County Register noted that he’s consumed about 90 different bowls of pho over the years. He singled out Vu’s pho as, “Best thing I ate: a Vietnamese pho that stands out from the crowd.” He described Vu’s broth as “a textbook consommé.. highly fragrant.. and it tastes beefy and rich.” Vu’s restaurant was featured in Eater.com’s “21 Incredible Vietnamese Restaurants to Try in Orange County’s Little Saigon,” as well as “The Top Pho in Every State” from Yelp’s Community Blog.
Vu has taken this soul-satisfying bowl of comfort food known as the national dish of Vietnam and recreated a delectable, more sublime version. Vu uses extraordinary, high-quality ingredients, most notably American wagyu beef– which includes a pedigree of Japanese Akaushi wagyu– that comes from a ranch in Texas. The taste of this marbled beef is far superior to most of the beef that is used in other restaurants. Akaushi wagyu beef is also much healthier because it is devoid of hormones and antibiotics. This beef infuses the layers of flavor in his pho, thanks to Vu’s proprietary recipes, which he has perfected over his lifetime. Vu’s pho stands out from the competition because of the savory, melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef; the long-simmered, freshly made bone broth, which is strained of fat numerous times until it is clear and pungent. He uses fresh rice noodles (wide or thin) which add body and texture. Other ingredients include: the roasted ginger; the caramelized onions, fresh cilantro, star anise, coriander, and other herbs and spices.
A former mechanical engineer, Vu has cooked pho for his family and members of his church over the past 40 years. It is also noteworthy that he hails from Nam Dinh, Vietnam, which is recognized as the birthplace of pho. When Vu realized he had found his calling, he opened his first pho restaurant in Westminster’s Little Saigon in 2012. In addition to several iterations of hearty pho, the menu also offers favorites such as flaming wagyu beef, which is torched tableside, and served on a hot lava stone. There’s also wagyu fried rice, chicken or pork egg rolls, and crispy truffle fries.