Using the dish as a distraction to her children, she starts preparing the beef bones and oxtail. In the distance, water clashes into the sidewalls of a gigantic 60-quart stockpot which is placed onto a gas burner. If you dare to sneak in a spoonful of this broth during the 24-48 hours of steeping time, you will be ousted from the kitchen. Or worse, you'll be blamed for spoiling the process that leads to a perfect morning filled with scents of cinnamon and ginger as mom serves up a piping-hot bowl of homemade Pho.

Vietnamese cuisine was first introduced in the late 80’s/early 90’s when the first group of immigrated Vietnamese settled in Worcester. Present day, we can count at least two handful’s worth of restaurants that serve their own variation of authentic Vietnamese food. As a Worcester native, I can contest that these food spots will not disappoint you if you come in with intentions to leave with a pho-coma. In this City, you will come across many hidden gems — some as a large seating-area eatery, others are a hole-in-the-wall that easily could fit inside your pocket. Conveniently nestled within a 7-mile radius, Worcester’s Vietnamese community welcomes a solo traveler or a hungry entourage to their world-renowned dishes and hospitality as a display of their Quê Huong (native village). If you find yourself surrounded by a young crown of Vietnamese patrons, it has become their regular go-to spot or scouting for a consistent bowl of Pho that could merely compete up against their aging mother’s secret recipe.

A great way to indulge in the culture is to try the most popular, Pho d?c bi?t (special). Don’t underestimate this comforting bowl of soup as the bone broth, itself, carries an ordeal number of health benefits such as promoting joint health, the charred ginger will help reduce inflammation, and oh, did I mention that it’s the hangover remedy? Options array over a number of locations: For homemade meatballs (without a spongy texture), C&N Vietnamese Cuisine; Dig into a heap-load bowl of meat (sliced eye-round beef, flank, fatty brisket, tendons, and tripe), scoot on by the café-inspired shop at Hien Vuong; Make it super d?c bi?t with the filet mignon at Pho Sure; Vegans...! Both Loving Hut locations serve a precious bowl of vegan Pho with a phenomenal broth. By popular demand, it is very common to find a chicken version of Pho for those who love their white meat protein. 

Not a fan of soup? Immerse yourself into a family-style dish that is infused with natural flavors of soy, ginger, tamarind, lemongrass, and curry. Dalat Restaurant and Anh Thu II offer an extensive menu that will not disappoint. A stapled appetizer, summer rolls, are made out of rice paper and hand-filled with rice noodles, fresh herbs and choice of protein (pork belly, shrimp and/or tofu) served with a side of peanut sauce. A rare accouterment when it is wrapped in with juicy pork sausage and a wafer-like crunch is served with a signature orange sauce and it is locally offered at My Sister’s Crawfish II (open daily at 10 am); Loving Hut offers the vegan version. A more dense app: Indulge into a French-influenced street food item called Banh Mi. Served in a baguette, the spread of hand-whisked mayo on one side of creamy pâté on the other, laid in with a variety of selected cold-cut or grilled protein, topped with pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, green chili, and soy sauce. A few places offers their own rendition of Banh Mi — you can find them at Anh Thu II, C&N Vietnamese, Saigon Restaurant, and Pho Sure.

Head over to Pho Dakao where they offer a stellar grilled shrimp paste covered sugar cane sticks... and literally, it’s out of this world when it’s placed on a bed of vermicelli noodles, garnished with scallion and oil, served over a medley of fine cut lettuce, mint, and sliced cukes, drenched with their homemade sweet fish sauce. Wrap your meal up with a sweet cold dessert treat called chè ba màu (three-color dessert). The colors of each layered ingredient make the dessert eye-catching but as your spoon dives to the bottom layer of sweeten red kidney beans, up towards the green pandan-flavored gelatin, to the crystalize yellow mung bean paste and finished off with a thin coat of coconut milk sauce, you’ll be begging for one more! Swing over to Yoway Café & Frozen Yogurt as they have completely nailed the creamy taste and tartness of an authentic Vietnamese yogurt. Resurrect from your pho-coma? Café Sua Da (exquisitely-brewed Vietnamese coffee) will do the trick after it has been pressed through the traditional Phin stainless steel filter.

When your parents have indoctrinated you to their mysterious taste buds, you seek authentic displays of hospitality through the way of food. The City of Worcester continues to support the generations of the Vietnamese community and in return, the community continues to serve their love in the form of delicacies like they were meant to be pho each other all along.