Now that the weather is getting colder, it’s an excellent time for pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup that’s a hearty meal in a bowl.
One of the top places for pho [pronounced fuh] in Annandale is Pho Hot, 7224 Little River Turnpike (near Blockbuster in the Little River Plaza Shopping Center). The spacious restaurant offers several different kinds of pho: beef brisket, steak, chicken, meatball, and seafood, along with other items, like spring rolls, Vietnamese beef stew, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, and bubble tea.
“Pho is a very healthy and affordable dish,” says Manager Mimi Nguyen. “We want to bring it to the mainstream.” There are several vegetarian options on the menu, and Mimi says some people come from as far as Maryland for the vegetarian pho chay made with soy protein.
Pho Hot’s owner, Tu Nguyen, Mimi’s mother, had been one of the original “boat people” who fled Vietnam following the fall of Saigon after the Americans left and the communists took over.
|Tu and Mimi Nguen at Pho Hot.|
Tu Nguyen, along with Mimi and her brother, escaped on an 11-foot boat with 62 people aboard. “It was very risky and very scary,” she says. “We were lucky we were not attacked by pirates.”
They were rescued during a storm on the sea and taken to a refugee camp in Singapore and then to another camp on the Indonesian island of Galang where they spent a year in barracks with thousands of other people. It was a horrible experience, recalls Tu. “There wasn’t enough food or water. Half the people didn’t make it. They either drowned at sea or were killed by pirates or land mines.”
They were eventually aided by a relief organization, which helped them relocate to the United States. Tu Nguyen worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week while learning English and caring for her young children. She eventually went to school to train to be a dental technician.
During all those years, her goal was to start a business “and live the American dream,” Mimi says. Like so many other immigrants, “we believed if you do hard work, it will pay off. There are so many more opportunities here, so much more freedom here.”
Eventually, Tu Nguyen saved up enough money to open a small nail salon and later launched Pho Hot. She is now also part owner of another Vietnamese restaurant, Present, at 6678 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church.
Pho Hot is open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-midnight. Mimi says a lot of people come in early Sunday morning because “pho is a good cure for hangovers.”