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Cover Story

Dreams Come True at Pho My Lien

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
December 16, 2012

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The husband-and-wife team of Tommy and Lien Dang are living the American Dream. As owners of Pho My Lien, an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Aiea, this dynamic duo is well aware of the value of hard work and dedication. Originally from Vietnam, the Dangs have the ultimate recipe for success, along with the freshest of ingredients that are incorporated into Pho My Lien’s cuisine.

Conveniently located in Westridge Shopping Center, Pho My Lien offers its customers delicious home-style cooking at great values. Quite a simple concept, yes, but one that has been without fail for more than a decade.

“What we try to achieve here at Pho My Lien is good family dining at reasonable prices. We’ve been in business in Aiea going on 13 years now and we’ve gained great support from local families as well as the military,” says Walter James, a longtime friend of the Dangs, who also serves as the restaurant’s financial adviser and marketing planner. “I’ve known Tommy for 30 years. He was one of the original boat people who came over from Vietnam many years ago.”

“Lien would often cook for us and we would always say, ‘You should open up a restaurant.’ We kept joking with her because her food was so good. So, one day she came to me and said that she and Tommy would like to open up a restaurant, so, of course, I gladly offered my support and helped them.”

Pho My Lien originally opened its doors in 1999 in Waikiki before relocating nine years later to its current location. According to James, the move has offered nothing but success for the Dangs.

“There’s nothing better than partaking in comfort food within a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Hawaii is a melting pot when it comes to food, and upon your first visit to Pho My Lien, I know that you’re going to like it. We haven’t changed the menu in almost 10 years,” explains James, adding that Lien does the majority of the cooking from her own family recipes that she’s tweaked a bit over the years.

Tried-and true favorites from Pho My Lien’s expansive menu include Crispy Spring Rolls ($7.50 for four pieces) — filled with pork, chicken and shrimp along with shredded carrots, long rice and mushroom, then deep-fried until golden brown, and served with lettuce, mint leaves, rice noodles and a homemade sauce; and Summer Rolls (two for $4.95) — with rice vermicelli, mint leaves, bean sprouts and your choice of boiled shrimps, shredded pork, barbecue beef, barbecue pork, barbecue chicken or tofu wrapped in a rice sheet and served with a special peanut sauce or fish sauce.

“What sets Pho My Lien’s cuisine apart from other restaurants is its commitment to absolute freshness,” James says. “Tommy goes to Chinatown almost every day to purchase fresh, locally grown vegetables. You’ll notice every dish has a nice crisp, wholesome and fresh taste.”

The taste James speaks of is very much apparent in the restaurant’s Chicken Salad ($7.50) and Green Papaya Salad ($7.50).

“This Papaya Salad is the best that I’ve ever had,” James says of the dish, which comes with shredded green papaya and shrimp mixed with mint leaves and peanuts, and is splashed with a house special salad dressing.

Best known for its exorbitant array of outstanding dishes, Pho My Lien’s ever-present deals have always drawn in crowds of eager diners as well. Every month, the establishment offers an unbeatable special for $4.99 or less. This month’s special is Vietnamese Chicken Salad ($4.99).

“Coming up next month, we’ll be featuring three in-house specials, each priced at $7.99, including Shrimp Fried Rice; Barbecue Chicken, Summer Rolls and Spring Rolls with Rice Vermicelli; and Summer Rolls and Spring Rolls with Rice Vermicelli,” James says.

Yet, it’s the pho that will always remain a signature item on the menu. This traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup is said to be a daily tonic and elixir that clears the head and warms the heart. Each bowl of pho is served with herbs, mint leaves, bean sprouts, chili pepper, lemon wedges and special sauces. And customize it just the way you like it by selecting from as many as five choices of meat to accompany the dish: slices of rare steak, well-done beef flank, soft tendon, tripe and beef balls. Other popular pho dishes are Pho with Chicken Meat, Pho with Mixed Vegetables and Pho with Shrimp and Squid.

“The pho has a great, refreshing taste. It’s almost like shabu shabu,” James states, noting that while Vietnamese cuisine has gone mainstream on the local dining scene, Lien has been able to make her own cuisine.

“We attribute all of Pho My Lien’s success to the food and hard work that Tommy and Lien put in every day. They are here seven days a week, 10 hours per day, 360 days a year,” he adds. “We have a bunch of repeat customers, and we’d like to thank all of our loyal customers for always coming back to dine here. We couldn’t be happier.”

For the Dangs, what once was a dream is now a “phobulous” reality.

Pho My Lien

Westridge Shopping Center
8-150 Kaonohi St., Ste. B213-B, Aiea
488.4900
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.