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Delicious Dishes from the Pho East

Columns Order of the Day

May 8, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

For delicious, authentic Vietnamese cuisine at reasonable prices, one does not have to look further than Pho My Lien, according to Walter James, a close friend and business partner with the restaurant’s owners, Tommy Dang and his wife, Lien Bui.

  • Owner Tommy Dang with the Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.
  • Green Papaya Salad featuring shredded green papaya and shrimp, mixed with mint leaves, peanuts and a house special salad dressing ($7.50).
  • Summer Rolls ($4.95) with rice vermicelli, mint leaves, bean sprouts and your choice of meat wrapped in rice paper and served with a special peanut sauce or fish sauce.
  • Crispy Spring Rolls ($7.50) are filled with pork, chicken, and shrimp, along with shredded carrot, long rice, and mushroom. Spring rolls are served with lettuce, mint, rice noodles and a special sauce.
  • Won Ton Soup ($4.95)
  • Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (regular, $6.95; large, $7.95), served with your choice of meat, herbs, mint leaves, bean sprouts, chili pepper, wedges of lemon and sauce.
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“We give a good-quality meal, a good-tasting meal and a meal that is bountiful at a very reasonable price,” summarizes James.

Tommy and Lien, who have owned Pho My Lien for the past decade, came up with the restaurant’s name as a combination of their names and “pho,” a Vietnamese beef noodle soup often considered a staple of the Vietnamese diet.

“It’s ‘Pho,’ ‘My’ and ‘Lien,'” James explains. “‘My’ is for Tommy, but in Vietnamese, his name was My Dang, and his wife’s name is Lien (pronounced ‘Lin’).”

Pho My Lien was originally located on Ala Moana Boulevard in Waikiki, but moved to Westridge Shopping Center across the street from Pearlridge last year.

“We opened up (there) in mid-November, so we’ve been there a little over six months,” James affirms.

Pho — pronounced “fa” in Vietnamese but often read as “fo” in America — is one of the eatery’s signature dishes. For $7.95, customers can place large orders of pho, which comes with an assortment of vegetables as well as up to five choices of meat, including beef balls and beef tripe. When asked what makes Pho My Lien distinct from other Vietnamese restaurants, James is quick to answer.

“The pho … the taste,” he says, immediately. “Lien is a very good cook.”

In addition to pho, the Crispy Spring Rolls, Summer Rolls and Green Papaya Salad are menu favorites. The Spring Rolls include ingredients such as chicken, shrimp and long rice, while the Summer Rolls feature bean sprouts, chopped cucumbers and a choice of meat. The Green Papaya Salad is a combination of mint leaves, shrimp, shredded green papaya and a peanut and house special salad dressing.

“The Spring Rolls are only four for $7.50 and the Summer Rolls are two for $4.95,” James says. “You get all the vegetables that go along with it (the rolls), plus all the sauces. Because we ran a special on the Green Papaya Salad, that has become very popular also.”

Pho My Lien promotes different specials every month; the May special is Won Ton Soup. For the entire month, customers can enjoy this shrimp and dumpling soup for $4.95 instead of the original $7.50. Besides the ongoing monthly specials, Pho My Lien advocates its reasonable prices through “Pho-to-Go Tuesdays,” which is a recent innovation.

“Our slowest days are Tuesdays; that’s why we like to do our ‘Pho-to-Go’ (special),” James explains. “Our regular bowl of Pho ($7.95) is only $5.95 for takeout. We just started it (‘Pho-to-Go’) about two months ago; we’re getting a nice response on that.”

While Pho My Lien has not altered its menu immensely during the past decade, Shabu Shabu — Japanese-style hot pot, with vegetables and meat cooked at each table in a simmering broth then dipped into various sauces — will be added in the near future, according to James.

“We have electrical plugs into all the tables now and we have the pots; we’re looking to start that either late summer or early fall,” he confirms.

While the restaurant’s monthly specials may change and new dishes may be added to the menu, the mission behind Pho My Lien remains the same.

“We are giving you good portions of food at reasonable prices,” he emphasizes. “It’s (Pho My Lien) family-style eating, a family-style atmosphere … it’s a great restaurant built by two hardworking people.”

Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant

  • Where
    • Westridge Shopping Center
    • 98-150 Kaonohi Street Suite B213-B
    • Aiea, HI 96701
  • Call
    • (808) 488-4900
  • Hours
    • 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Sundays