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Hẻm Gems: Phieu Ky’s Fantastic Phở Sa Tế

While Pho Phieu Ky’s white walls and fluorescent lighting are nothing special, the hideaway shop in District 5 makes up for its bland color scheme by pasting neon characters – Roman and Chinese – across the glossy tiles along with wall calendars, rotating fans and a particularly jovial, glitter-covered cartoon rendition of Ong Tao riding a fish to heaven. The bright whites are certainly harsh, but on a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon this is not necessarily unwelcome. Nor, mind you, is the meal for which we’ve come: phở sa tế.

Phieu Ky’s most famous offering is the type of robust, stick-to-your-ribs dish that puts people to sleep. If ever you should feel the need to subdue someone, phở sa tế would not be a bad idea: a rich, hearty bowl of noodles, tomato, cucumber and your choice of meat doused in sauce does the trick.

To be clear, this is not a soup; it is a bowl of sauce. Mouth-watering, gluttonous sauce. Phieu Ky’s sa tế is not especially spicy, instead it tends toward a richer taste that lies somewhere in the realm of savory but with a hard-to-place flavor that’s almost reminiscent of Mexican mole. As for the other ingredients, you’re free to choose between phở and noodles as well as a range of meats, namely venison and beef. Additional accoutrements include hoisin sauce, chili oil and the standard basket of Vietnamese herbs. But be warned: around the halfway mark, your blood will become sa tế sauce.

Phieu Ky’s proprietors recognize this and are practiced in the art of patience when it comes to Instagram-happy patrons experiencing food comas. As we photographed our dinner from all angles, a young woman working gave a brief overview of the shop’s history. Her grandparents began selling phở sa tế well before 1975, a tradition which her mother carried on for another 43 years before handing the business over to the next generation. Though she wasn’t exactly sure how long they’d been in business, the venture began as a mobile street cart and only moved to its brick-and-mortar location in the 1990s.

A bowl of Phieu Ky’s trademark dish is not exactly cheap – portions come in around VND85,000 each – but when it comes to a good, hearty helping of comfort food, this phở sa tế is hard to beat.

Pho Phieu Ky is open from 2pm-11pm daily.

 

To sum up:

Taste: 4/5

Price: 3/5

Atmosphere: 4/5 

Friendliness: 5/5

Location: 4/5

 

Dana is 70% caffeine, 50% fish sauce and hasn't taken a math class since 2004.

Pho Phieu Ky

21 Nguyen An, P. 11, D5

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