Restaurant Reviews

No-frills Pho Hien a top choice for soup – like hoanh thanh

James Kelly
James Kelly

As part of the Eagle’s dining panel, I’m charged with trying new things and reporting on what’s good. So I recently steeled myself, stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered … chicken noodle soup. A Vietnamese version of it, anyway.

This was my first experience with hoanh thanh, a soup made with chicken and pork broth, egg noodles, freshly made wontons and a collection of herbs and spices. I tried it at Pho Hien on North Broadway. Wichita is a town that knows pho. In my three years here, I’ve been impressed both by how many places there are to get it and that there are so many excellent variations.

For those who aren’t yet devotees, pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a Vietnamese soup traditionally made with rice noodles, thinly sliced brisket, meatballs and/or tripe served in an herb-infused beef broth. And while the ingredients are usually the same around town (and the world), the soup tends to be slightly different at each restaurant, depending on the technique used to make the broth.

For my money (cash, that is – they take debit or credit cards), Pho Hien serves the best pho in town. They pay careful attention to the broth, simmering beef bones for hours with star anise, cinnamon and other spices to get a flavorful, velvety base to which the usual components are added. You may already have a favorite pho restaurant, but if you want to try something that is both exotic and familiar, the hoanh thanh is a triumph of complex flavors and hearty ingredients. And what could be more satisfying than a bowl of chicken noodle soup on a chilly winter’s day?

The atmosphere at Pho Hien is as straightforward as the soup-only menu: no frills, but very authentic.