Sunday, 29/10/2023 10:00

Phở Việt: a taste of home in Mozambique

By Hồng Minh

Upon arriving in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, for a four-day business trip, I quickly rushed to Phở Việt, a restaurant owned by a Vietnamese, so I could be sure about the food I was going to eat in the Portuguese-speaking country.

'Phở' broth was clear and hot and the chef was generous enough to offer a big portion of green onions. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh

Phở Việt, located in the heart of Maputo, has become a familiar spot for diners who love Vietnamese cuisine. From the outside, the restaurant looked basic. Diners can recognise it thanks to a twinkling digital LED billboard running in Portuguese “Pho Viet - Restaurante Vietnamita”.

The main shop billboard is a modestly carved name on a wooden plate. But once inside, the ambience with simple decorations in a small space gave me the vibes of an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. And to my surprise, after learning my nationality, a Mozambican waitress tried to speak in Vietnamese to introduce the dishes. I felt at home.

True to its name, Phở Việt offers a wide selection of phở (rice noodles) served with chicken or beef. In addition to phở, the restaurant also serves other Vietnamese popular dishes like bún (rice vermicelli), miến (glass noodles), spring rolls, stir-fried rice and even hotpot.

A local staff works at Phở Việt in Maputo, Mozambique. For many Vietnamese expats, Phở Việt is somewhere they can enjoy the taste of home and ease their homesickness. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh

With an empty stomach, I decided to order a bowl of hot beef noodles. The first sip of the broth told me that the taste was not at a level to impress me, a phở addict who has tried almost every phở shop in Hà Nội over the course of my life. It was pleasing that the broth and noodles were in big portions, but to me the fillings were redundant. Still, the broth was clear and hot and the chef was generous enough to offer a large portion of green onions. This was something to cheer about after a long day of driving.

The next day I came back and decided to give bún chả (grilled pork with rice vermicelli) a try.

Luckily, the dish this time did not leave me disappointed. The pork was well grilled with a smokey caramelised taste but still juicy and full of flavour inside. The fish sauce brought a balanced taste to the meal. And the dish was served accurately with noodles, pickles, vegetables and herbs. Though it was simple, it still impressed me as this is not a typical find in most African countries.

The last day in Maputo, I was invited to Phở Việt for lunch by a friend who is a local. And this time, I had the opportunity to taste many other Vietnamese dishes, such as stir-fried vegetables, grilled chicken and vegetable soup. My friend told me that he loved going to Phở Việt for phở and hotpot, and was very excited to learn how Vietnamese people eat hotpot together.

'Bún chả' (grilled pork with rice vermicelli) did not make me disappointed. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh

I talked to Ngọc Anh, the owner and the chef of Phở Việt. She told me that many Mozambican diners loved Vietnamese noodles with broth like phở, bún, and soup. She said that the locals especially loved phở as they said the dish had a rich flavour and taste. Many believed that the dish was good for health because it was hot and had special spices such as ginger, cinnamon and anise.

As phở and bún are the signature dishes of the restaurant, Anh has to make a bulk order of dried noodles from Việt Nam every one or two months to meet demand.

'Bún mọc' (noodle with meat balls). Phở and bún are the signature dishes at Phở Việt in Maputo, Mozambique. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh

Anh said she had many regulars of Vietnamese, Mozambican, Portuguese and other nationalities. The owner and chef, who is in her 20s, took over the restaurant from one of her Vietnamese compatriots about four years ago.

She said she was lucky as the restaurant had had a good reputation among local diners, and many cooks, after coming to work in her restaurant, had fallen in love with Vietnamese food and learned to cook with Vietnamese spices, herbs and other ingredients. Many waiters and waitresses were trying to learn Vietnamese so that they could introduce Vietnamese dishes better.

The young chef is still trying to create new dishes for the menu so that she can introduce more Vietnamese cuisine to the locals. She also dreams of opening other branches in other cities in Mozambique to bring the dishes to reach more overseas Vietnamese and international customers across the country.

Goat meat hotpot served at Phở Việt in Maputo, Mozambique. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh

There are many Vietnamese studying, living and working in Mozambique, and in Maputo alone, there are said to be around 200 Vietnamese. For many of these expats, Phở Việt is somewhere they can enjoy the taste of home and ease their homesickness. VNS


Address: Kenneth Kaunda Avenue (near the corner with Vladimir Lenine Avenue), Maputo, Mozambique

Opening hours: normally from 7am to 9pm with a break from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Monday.

Price: Phở is 400MT (US$6.25)

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