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What the Pho?

South Florida foodies have long enjoyed world-class Thai and Japanese cuisine — case in point, the four Thai and sushi restaurants located on a four-block stretch of Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors.

Just a year ago, chef and restaurateur Huey Nguyen introduced the exotic tastes of Vietnam to the neighborhood when he opened What the Pho, a fun pun on the name of the noodle soup, pho (pronounced /fuh/), that is a daily staple for millions of people in the Southeast Asian nation.

Vietnamese cooking is influenced by the philosophy of the five elements (ngũ v): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth), corresponding to five organs (ngũ tng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves. Some gastronomes may also detect the lingering flavors and techniques from the country’s days as a French colonial province.

Nguyen learned to cook alongside his mother, Gai, who was born and raised in Vietnam.

Gai can still be found daily in the kitchens of the family’s Miss Saigon Bistro location in Pinecrest. Huey relies on many of his mother’s recipes at What the Pho, including the hand-rolled spring rolls, many varieties of pho and puffy donuts drizzled with sweetened condensed milk syrup.

Nguyen will tell you that the secret of pho is in the broth, but don’t discount the other ingredients. His own namesake creation, the Huey Special ($16.95), is an aromatic, heaping bowl of noodles topped with grilled shrimp and sauteed chicken perfumed by green onion, lemongrass, garlic and just a touch of curry. But that’s not all, the dish also includes crunchy spring roll bites stuffed with shrimp, pork, carrots and vermicelli noodles, all neatly rolled together inside freshly made rice paper and fried until crisp.

Taste the magic of Vietnamese cuisine yourself at What the Pho, 2033 Wilton Dr. in Wilton Manors. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. for dinner and on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner. For more information or reservations, call 754-779-7769.


“Cheater” Pho

Prep Time: 15 min.

Cook Time: 15 min.

Serves 4



8 oz. dried rice noodles

2 T. olive oil, divided

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. freshly grated ginger

6 cups chicken stock

2 T. hoisin sauce

1 T. fish sauce



1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cups bean sprouts

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

2 limes, halved



In a large pot of water, cook rice noodles according to package instructions; drain well and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Add garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Whisk in chicken stock, hoisin sauce and fish sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice noodles and chicken, garnished with onion, bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, jalapeno and limes, if desired.