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Beyond Pho

Tiffany Alexandria | May 10, 2022

Food

Pho Tai is a little Vietnamese restaurant tucked away on a corner of an unassuming strip mall in Rochester, Minn. The owners of Pho Tai didn’t spend their energy on $1 million décor. Instead, they’ve poured their hearts and souls into making food from scratch, and offering an extensive menu that’s so much more than pho.

Pho has become popular in America, and for good reasons. Think about a hot steaming bowl of aromatic broth with silky, soft flat rice noodles (which is where the dish got its name; pho is the type of noodles used in the dish), topped with your choice of beef, tripe, tendon, meatballs or all the above. Fresh herbs, lime and mung bean sprouts are served on the side for you to create your own adventure. Pho Tai’s menu is a mix of both southern and northern Vietnam, where the original family members were from. Their pho broth is made from scratch daily with beef bones, slow braised for 12 hours. It’s hard to not fall in love with pho. Pho Tai’s sells out every day.

But enough about pho. We’re here to tell you much more about Pho Thai.

Pho Tai

For starters, it’s a family-owned and -run restaurant. Ann is the front-of-house manager, while her husband, Vinh, cooks in the kitchen, and daughter Emma serves the customers. When Ann’s family members moved from Houston, Texas, to Rochester, it was quite a culture shock for them. They are big foodies who enjoy dining out as well as cooking at home. Rochester doesn’t offer the same culinary experience as Houston, and the culture is dramatically different.

Ann and Vinh took over Pho Tai from Ann’s brother-in-law. He didn’t speak much English, and that made it hard for him to communicate and educate customers about the wonderful dishes made at Pho Tai, some of which aren’t pho at all. “Once I stepped in to help, I was trying to educate people more and help people understand that our culture and cuisine have so much more to offer than just pho. I encourage people to branch out and try other dishes on the menu.” Through the five years Ann has been here, seeing the changes in the restaurant’s customer base, she is very proud of what they’ve achieved. People are trying new foods and loving the fish sauce.

Once I stepped in to help, I was trying to educate people more and help people understand that our culture and cuisine have so much more to offer than just pho.

Ann, Pho Tai manager

Sharing food is a big part of Asian culture. Ann brought the flavors she and her family love from their dinner table to the menu at Pho Tai to share with their customers.

Rice and pork are essential to food culture in Vietnam. Many dishes consists of rice in different forms and all cuts of pork prepared in countless ways.