May Pho Culture: The best Vietnamese pho & spring rolls I’ve ever had, hidden in Chinatown

Despite coming to Chinatown aplenty for my fill of xiao long bao and other hawker eats, it took me a couple of turns before I finally located May Pho Culture, an authentic Vietnamese restaurant with pho seemingly so good that even Vietnamese locals endorse it. No wonder— its lady chef hails from Ho Chi Minh!

May Pho Culture - exterior
May Pho Culture - exterior

May Pho Culture is located at Fook Hai Building, a quiet commercial building nestled at the corner of Upper Hokien Street and South Bridge Road. It faces a side road, so you’ll have to walk along the building to get to it.

May Pho Culture - interior
May Pho Culture - interior
May Pho Culture - second floor
May Pho Culture - second floor

May Pho Culture has two separate dining areas— a smaller, homely space on the first floor, and a second floor with bar seats that face the outside world. 

As I chose a table on the first floor of the restaurant, I started to appreciate how bright and cosy the entire dining space was. I could smell pho broth and freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee, there was upbeat Vietnamese music playing in the background, and the good vibes were undeniably infectious. I couldn’t wait to start eating!

What I tried at May Pho Culture

May Pho Culture 08 - pho
May Pho Culture 08 - pho

After flipping through its menu, I decided to try the most expensive thing on May Pho Culture’s menu: Beef Tenderloin Pho (S$17.90). “Go big or go home,” I told myself.

I noticed that there wasn’t any beef combination pho on the menu. Upon enquiring with the staff (who seem to be Vietnamese), they tell me that I can top up S$1 to enjoy an additional portion of beef, which is made up of a combination of cuts. 

If you’re not inclined to fork out close to $20 for a bowl of pho, there are other more wallet-friendly options such as Beef Brisket Pho (S$12.90), Beef Plate Pho (S$10.90), as well as chicken variations such as Chicken Supreme Pho (S$11.90) and the cheapest option, Chicken Meat Pho (S$8.90).

May Pho Culture 14 - soup
May Pho Culture 14 - soup
May Pho Culture 15 - soup
May Pho Culture 15 - soup

The first thing that I did was take a sip of the soup, and I was immediately blown away by how delicious it was. Letting out audible sounds of approval, I spent a good minute or two just sipping soup, because it was just. So. Good.

Each sip was so robust and full of flavour. It was savoury and salty, but it was packed with such a deliciously earthy richness that I resisted the urge to lift the bowl up by my hands, and slurp it up as if I was a thirsty savage. 

I loved how it was peppered with a herby fragrance from what must have been the addition of mint and Thai basil, such that it lifted the entire flavour profile of the soup towards the end of each sip, making this a perfectly well-rounded soup that I’d gladly come back for again.

To cater to all types of customers, May Pho Culture even provides cut chilli and a wedge of lime on the side, as well as a full range of condiments for those who’d like to jazz up their soup. For me, I didn’t even need any of them— the soup was perfect on its own.

May Pho Culture 12 - beef
May Pho Culture 12 - beef

The minute that my Beef Tenderloin Pho had been served, I noticed that several slices of beef were still slightly pink. However, after a good stir, I was mildly disappointed to find that the beef slices had continued to cook, albeit slowly, in the warm broth, such that all of them were thoroughly cooked by the time I picked my first slice up. Would this mean that the beef wouldn’t be as tender?

Thankfully, the thin slices of beef tenderloin remained juicy and tender, even after sitting in the soup for some time. While I couldn’t taste the natural beefy sweetness of the beef tenderloin because of how overpoweringly savoury the broth was, I still thoroughly enjoyed its texture. 

If anything, the soft beef slices continued to absorb the soup, making each bite burst with the robust broth’s flavours.

May Pho Culture - spring rolls
May Pho Culture - spring rolls

I wanted to order their Spring Roll (S$11.90 for large, S$6.90 for medium), which was a traditional Vietnamese fried spring roll with a rice paper crust rather than typical spring roll wrappers, but unfortunately it was not available.

I ended up going for May Pho Culture’s Fresh Spring Rolls (S$9.90) instead.

May Pho Culture - spring rolls
May Pho Culture - spring rolls

Despite being slightly disappointed that I was unable to try their fried Spring Roll, these Fresh Spring Rolls didn’t let me down either. 

Most fresh spring rolls I’ve had were either too raw or too green, which made me feel like a rabbit for a second, but May Pho Culture’s were wonderfully light and crunchy, with a good amount of non-vegetable ingredients inside, such as pork slices, shrimp and rice noodles.

May Pho Culture 05 - chill sauce
May Pho Culture 05 - chill sauce

The entire flavour profile of the Fresh Spring Rolls changed the minute I dunked it in the chilli sauce that had been served on the side. It was a sweet and tangy chilli sauce that complemented the light and fresh spring rolls perfectly, with a good amount of ginger, shallots, and just the right hint of spice.

May Pho Culture 11 - coffee
May Pho Culture 11 - coffee

As a bona fide coffee addict, I couldn’t resist finishing off my undeniably delicious meal with a cup of Vietnamese Iced Coffee (S$3.80)

I had expected it to be overly sweet, but surprisingly, May Pho Culture managed to strike that perfect balance between sweetness and the roastedness of the coffee beans. I could still taste the nutty, chocolatey-like notes from the coffee, while the condensed or evaporated milk added that addictive sweetness that made this drink velvety smooth.

Final thoughts

May Pho Culture 09 - pho
May Pho Culture 09 - pho

This was such a lovely meal, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single thing that had been served— yes, even that odd basket of rice paddy herb that had been given to each table as an appetiser or palate cleanser. While May Pho Culture’s pho might be slightly pricier than other pho joints, the quality of the broth and meat made it worth every cent.

Even before I was done with my meal, I was already sending photos of the delicious pho to my friends and family, telling them that we should come back for a meal. That’s how you know that this place has truly won you over.

Be sure to come early or avoid the peak lunch and dinner crowd, as seating can be quite limited!

Expected damage: S$8.90 – S$20 per pax

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