Vietnamese Noodle House in Nam Hai Oriental Market
4 min read
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit down with Quan Do, the hardworking owner of Tulsa’s Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Nhi. There is nothing I love more than meeting people from around the world, especially when it involves experiencing how they express their native cuisine in Tulsa. Quan and his wife, Linda, opened the doors of their restaurant just a few months ago next to the Nam Hai Oriental Food Market, and it has already become a hit! When I sat down with Quan, I asked him about where they got the name, and he let me in on a little secret: Quan and Linda named the restaurant after their daughter, Nhi, who loves pho, and at just 12 years old, can finish an entire bowl by herself!
This Vietnamese dish usually consists of thin rice noodles flash-cooked in a savory beef or chicken broth. Most other Pho restaurants will also serve you a plate of garnishes like bean sprouts, limes, fresh basil and cilantro. In my experience, if you prefer your Pho on the spicy side, simply let your server know and they will adjust the broth to your liking.
I have been a fanatic of Pho since childhood, but because I had Quan as my personal guide for the experience, I wanted to go for the most traditional bowl at Pho Nhi. He recommended the Pho Dac Biet or The Special. This soup of thin rice noodles came with what I am accustomed to: round steak and beef meatballs, as well as a few types of meat traditionally found in pho: brisket, tendon and tripe. Listen, I like food adventures but when it comes to proteins, I definitely fear “weird textures.” This was nothing of the sort! The traditional additions only made the broth richer as the fatty parts of the meat quickly melted into it. I recommend trying The Special at least once before making a final decision on your favorite style of Pho.
The broth at Pho Nhi has a story all its own. Quan and his wife spent months tweaking and testing it to make sure even the most outspoken traditionalists of the family would approve. Seasonings include star anise and cinnamon, which give out a sweetness through the opulent and savory notes of the beef broth. Quan also brought out a plate of all the meats that go into The Special to showcase how fresh they really are.
When I entered the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was a unique wooden cart, which sparked my curiosity. Quan explained that, in a way, it is a welcome sign to their Vietnamese guests, letting them know the Pho Nhi family is proudly authentic. This food stand, imported straight from Vietnam, is what locals use to serve the soup on the streets. There are tiny stools all around it, shelves for bowls and utensils, and a big pot separated into three compartments: hot water for the noodles, spicy broth, and regular broth. I truly hope to visit Quan’s country someday and have an amazing street food experience of my own.
We had the opportunity to taste some of Pho Nhi’s appetizers as well. The Banh Mi, a grilled pork sandwich on a French baguette, can make a delicious lunch all on its own. Freshly baked bread stacked with char-grilled pork, cucumbers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, and fresh Jalapeños, topped with cilantro and house-made sauce makes for a winning combination. The sandwich feels fresh with all its herbs and veggies and offers an array of flavors between them and the sweet and spicy pork.
In this section of the menu, you will also find golden-fried Vietnamese Egg Rolls filled with ground pork, taro, veggies and clear noodles, as well as Summer Rolls filled with lettuce, mint, shrimp and pork wrapped in rice paper. Both are an absolutely delicious way to start your meal!
Next we were offered Nhi’s Special Noodle Bowl. I immediately thought that this could become my go-to meal during our hot summer days. Oh yes… the cold vermicelli noodles topped with char-grilled pork, chicken and shrimp, seasoned pork patties, fresh mint, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, pickled carrots and daikon, sprinkled with peanuts and served with a chilled traditional sauce are hard to deny. This bowl, with its bountiful ingredients, is an experience you won’t want to miss. But the quality meats truly make this dish what it is. Seeing the char lines from the grill and tasting the smoky finish and crunchy edges…yum!
Now with my little belly stuffed and full, it was time to wake myself from the food coma. I began to sip a Vietnamese Iced Coffee, which pushed me back into action with rich espresso shots and sweetened condensed milk. There is also the classic Thai Tea, as well as a selection of Ramune Japanese Sodas, which are great for kids. Soon to come, Quan disclosed, are boba teas. At the time of our interview, Linda was away visiting Los Angeles, busy training with professionals on how to use the boba machine they are importing to Pho Nhi!
Pho Nhi is open 7 days a week for your convenience and offers ample space for large groups. While you’re there, visit the Nam Hai Oriental Market, a perfect place to stroll around and shop for many items exclusive to the establishment.