Looking for something warm and filling to eat after your never-ending class at East Hall? Instead of stopping in at one of your usual noodle places like Tomukun or the stir fry station at  South Quad Dining Hall, tap into your adventurous side and try the pho tai chin at Saigon Garden on South U.

The word pho literally means “rice noodle”, and the dish is a classic and casual Vietnamese meal that comes in many varieties. Beef pho can be made from beef that is well-done, rare, formed into beef balls or any combination of the above. The particular pho tai chin that I ordered comes with rice noodles and a combination of the rare and well-done beef. This dish is my must-try for your first visit at any Vietnamese restaurant because it is a true measure of the restaurant’s authenticity. And let me tell you, this place did not disappoint.

The dish itself comes in two parts: The rice noodle bowl with rare beef and a side dish with extra ingredients to add extra flavor.


Photo by Angel Tang

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Now hold on a second… before you throw all of the sides into your Pho, let’s make sure you know what you’re doing.

Lime wedges:
The lime gives the broth a refreshing tartness that balances the taste of the broth if it is too salty, too spicy, or too bland (this is also why you want to taste the broth first).

Bean sprouts:
The raw bean sprouts add crunch to your pho so you don’t get bored of the tenderness of the beef and the rice noodles. I’d call it true perfection.

Diced red peppers:
You must special request this side dish from your waiter. Beware though: I can tolerate very spicy foods and these even gave me a run for my money… Add with caution.


Photo by Angel Tang

The fragrance of the beef broth is irresistible as soon as the bowl is within proximity of your nose, so make sure to try that first. The broth itself is made from beef stock that is simmered with spices, and the owner of Saigon Garden has a secret recipe that none of the waiters even know (so curious).

After taste-testing the broth and adding the sides, the final step is to try the rice noodles. The verdict? This dish overall is chewy, sour, spicy, and just plain awesome. Consider it your new go-to dish to fight that finals stress and Michigan chill. I know that this clear, flavorful soup cured my Asian food home-sickness after just the first bite… I will definitely be stopping back in.

PS: Don’t freak out when you walk into Saigon Garden and see the menu…they have English translations for the newbies out there!
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Location: 1220 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours of operation: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm

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