I just spent two weeks eating my way round Vietnam and am having a bit of a craving for their national soup Pho (pronounced fuh – kind of like fur) so the other day I nipped into Vietnamese chain Pho Cafe to get my fix – and left stuffed. Which was interesting because my meal of a massive bowl of chicken Pho complete with noodles and beansprouts was only 397 calories – my normal homemade salad at lunch contains more calories than that and I have to eat again at 3pm!
I know this because the nice people at Pho have now analysed all the dishes on their menu and put their nutritional information on their website making it easier for anyone who is counting cals to make their best choices – and there are 15 main courses that weigh in at under 400 calories.
However, I know what it’s like when you’re sitting looking the menu and the ‘fried crispy spring rolls’ starter calls your name – or in my case the Banh Xeo – a pancake stuffed with chicken and prawns containing almost 500 calories that makes the friend spring rolls look saintly! So, as per past posts of this nature (see the one on Wagamama here) I’ve pinpointed the lowest cal choice for each option on the menu…..
NB: I’m using the British descriptions as I don’t know where the accent thingies are on my keyboard. While I was away I got told that one Vietnamese meat dish said without the accent actually translates as human flesh. Who knows what I could be saying if I type without them – and I don’t want to offend any Vietnamese readers. I’ve taken enough of a risk with the Banh Xeo!
Starters and Sides
Veggie Summer rolls – 99 calories a portion (add 69 if you eat all the chilli sauce, 80 if you eat the peanut)
I don’t like Summer rolls but now I know I can choose the Large Crispy Spring roll of tiger prawns, crab and pork – 134 calories (sans dip). I rejected it before thinking it would be a diet buster on a plate. However, I’d skip the dip and use a dab of Sriracha chilli sauce instead which is on the table and only contains 5 cals a serving.
Spicy green mango salad with pork, dried shrimps and peanuts – 175 calories
Wok Fried Noodles
Beef – 393 calories
Tiger Prawn – 362 calories
Tiger Prawns with veggie stock – 307
If you don’t like prawns, the thinly sliced steak is 337 calories
Hot and Spicy soups
Tiger Prawns again – 394
Tiger Prawn Stir Fry with rice contain 543 – do not confuse this with the Tiger Prawn curry which is 758.
If you want to find the rest of the information, here’s a link to the table on the PhoCafe website
Oh, and if you’ve never tried Pho – here’s five reasons why you should
- It’s said that the mix of spices within it help tackle colds and flu. It does clear your nose for sure.
- Traditional Pho is a breakfast food and is therefore said to be an awesome cure for hangovers – I have also tested this one. It’s true.
- A good pho stock is made by boiling bones for hours and skimming off the fat. This accounts for its low calorie count but also ensures it’s high in minerals. Pho Cafe say their phos are high in folate, iron and magnesium. One warning, some phos are very high in sodium (Pho Cafe don’t list theirs) so keep that in mind if you are watching your salt.
- Pho was once described to me as a ‘democratic’ food – ie you add your own flavouring ingredients like mint, coriander, fish sauce and chili to create your own perfect bowl. This makes it good for groups with different tastebuds.
- The fact that I don’t have tastebuds means what I add most is liberal amounts of chilli and Sriracha. This in turn means Pho is amazing at giving your skin a glow. I was off to a photoshoot after my lunch and didn’t need blusher!
Prefer to whip a bowl of steamy magic at home, here’s a great book full of Pho recipes to try*.
*This is an affiliate link