Just thought we share some interesting facts about Vietnamese pho at the University of Montana, Missoula. The UM is not (yet) a conventional market for pho, and Ui-Cha! is not a conventional pho restaurant. But this place is turning pho upside down. Literally. Where Vegan Pho is giving beef pho a run for its money everyday.
Here’s what I mean. Beef pho has long been the grand daddy of Vietnamese pho, the original, the tastiest, the most fragrant and versatile of all pho types. Among pho traditionalists and newbies alike, in Vietnam and abroad, beef pho is the king. In large Vietnamese communities around North America, Australia and Europe, beef pho is the one on top of restaurants’ menus, the choice with the most variety of ingredients, the one that sells by far the most volume. In Vietnam, it’s likely to find only beef pho on many menus. When people mention Vietnamese pho, it is assumed that they’re talking about beef pho. Beef pho alone is responsible for 70-80% of many pho restaurants‘ take-ins. Except for a few vendors specializing in chicken pho in the states, the poultry pho variety normally comes in a distant second in sales.
And vegan or vegetarian pho? Well it’s not that you won’t ever find one on a typical menu offering. It’s just that if it’s there, it’s normally more miss than hit. It’s like a second thought, just so that non-meat or vegetarian diners can still join their friends for dinner at a pho restaurant.
Not on campus here in Missoula. For one thing, Ui-Cha! Pho developed our vegan pho specifically for this market as we believed in offering fresh, healthy pho like the rest of our menu items. Sure, we have the trusty beef and chicken pho, but we wanted vegan pho to be our extra special signature dish. We created it with fresh and truly non-meat ingredients from the get-go. It is on our menu everyday side by side with beef and chicken. Ui-Cha! customers come in just to have our vegan pho, we were told by many who stopped by and eat here everyday. We’re very proud and confident of our vegan pho’s quality, we’d be happy to serve a Buddhist monk our vegan pho any day! The chart below says it all.
Even before we opened last Fall in 2011, I said to Pei, one of our employees, that don’t even try to tell me chicken pho may outsell beef pho. Don’t even think about it. In the history of Vietnamese pho, beef has always been the most popular, anywhere. Yet as I am sharing these thoughts with you right now, Ui-Cha!’s chicken pho is holding strong against beef pho. And more amazingly, as beef pho’s share is dropping, vegan pho is steadily increasing. I do believe our beef pho is very good, but when the customers really want the vegan pho, or order beef pho toppings with vegan broth (!), you know something else has got to give.
I love my beef pho with tripe, but I must say, I’m giving vegan pho and Griz diners some serious respect.
So which pho type are you? Take our pho poll below or drop us a comment.