Pho Cong Ly, Ho Chi Minh City
It was great to have gotten a tip to come to this shop, which was established by northerners ages ago to serve pho like they do in Hanoi, where it technically originated from. It was clear that the northern version took on much more of a purist approach, as was evident by the absence of any of those leaves that apparently southerners grew in abundance and used to localize pho to their palates. The only garnishes in this northern version were scallions, cilantro, and a bowl of raw onion slices on the side. I watched some of my neighbors squeeze hot sauce onto the onions, mix it up, and throw it all into the broth, so I followed suit.
After a squeeze of lime for good measure, this thing really lit up, with beef so tender that it practically melted in your mouth. The broth also spoke of a very pronounced beef flavor...almost like French beef bouillon, which wasn't what I was expecting, but I loved every single part of it. No, there weren't any of my favorite bean sprouts, but this was so good that it really didn't matter in the end. Nice one. That was a really unique and unforgettable bowl.
This place can be pretty hard to find though, especially since there aren't really any signs around. As best as I could make out, it was at 288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia ("P8," whatever that means) in District 3, although it is tucked away into a back alley off the main street. I suppose that one way to locate it is to look for the Reetech showroom on the northern side Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, walk east until you come to the first alleyway, and then go north towards the back of the alley to where the huge crowds are, slurping away. Perhaps even more importantly, do note that they are only open from 5 AM to 10 AM (remember that pho is technically a breakfast dish), but if you've got a midday flight scheduled, then this wouldn't be a bad place to stop at on the way to the airport, luggage issues aside of course.