The benchmark for west-side phở, but not for vegetarians
The big daddy of the Footscray phở scene, Hung Vuong Saigon has been a key player on Hopkins Street for forever and a day. With 20+ tables, it is like a loud bustling food hall, packed with families, couples and friendly for the single reveller. It’s light on ambiance, but the food delivers and you’re not here for a first date, right.
Service is a well-(chilli)oiled machine, not particularly friendly, but easily forgiven for being so highly efficient. The food will be on the table before you have time to ponder: hoisin or no hoisin?
There is more on the menu than just phở, but why would you bother? You’re here for one reason only – great tasting phở – and so is the horde of Vietnamese and others. If the adage ‘go where the locals go’ holds any truth, this is the place to be. If you manage to get a table. Luckily the wait is never too long.
Phở comes in 3 sizes (small $8.50, medium $9.50, large $11) and with some variety, but the hero is the beef. All the classical variants: brisket, tendon, sausage and tripe for the more adventurous. Leave the vegetarians at home, these guys specialise in the authentic stuff, you won’t find a vegetarian option in sight.
You can tell they have been making this favourite staple in big steaming batches for a long, long time. The stock is perfectly balanced with uncompromising clarity. The flavour is strong, yet not overpowering, enhancing the overall experience without dominating it. I usually order the beef brisket. The finely-sliced brisket is added at the very last moment, so that it cooks as the hot soup is poured over it. Whilst the thicker-cut beef – with a little fat still left on – is added earlier allowing it to cook for longer. The fat may not be too healthy, but it adds to the flavour.
Noodles are the standard flat rice variety and you have to get in quick or they are prone to getting soggy. The bowl comes with little else beyond the beef and the noodles making personalisation a central task and there is plenty of ingredients to do so. Perfectly fresh greens are served on the side: cut chilli, Vietnamese mint, basil and bean sprouts.
Sauces are all the usual suspects’ including chilli sauce and chillies in oil, vinegar and hoisin. In addition to the usual sides, Hung Vuong also offers pickled sliced onion, which adds a tang and is well worth a try.
Hung Vuong doesn’t break from tradition or offer anything too unique, but what it does do, it does well. In many ways, this is the benchmark for west-side phở. Highly recommend.
- Stock: 5 – the stock is the benchmark for what all stocks should be compared against, it doesn’t do anything different, but it does it really well.
- Inside: 4 – good tasting meat, but the cut could be a little better.
- On the side: 4 – chilli is fresh with bite, crunchy sprouts and fresh herbs.
- Extras: 4 – good noodles, an extra point for the pickled onions as something different, the tea is decent and I’ll be back (again and again).
Address: 128 Hopkins St Footscray VIC 3011
(03) 9689 6002