Tom Nguyen feels pressure as he works in the kitchen at Pho Delite.
“I love doing the cooking, but it is very hard,” said Nguyen, the owner and chef at the Vietnamese restaurant on Shaw Avenue. “I want to make sure that the customer has the food come out fast and the food is good.”
That food is likely to be pho, a noodle soup from Vietnam. The restaurant also offers other selections, including rice and stir fry dishes.
But the pho, pronounced “fuh,” remains the most popular choice for customers.
The noodles made from rice are long and thin. They are served in broth along with vegetables and a choice of chicken, beef, seafood or tofu.
Nine different pho selections are on the menu.
“I create more varieties so the customers can choose,” Nguyen said. “Parents might not want to eat meat and the kids do. But I want the whole family to be able to sit together and eat.”
Among the pho selections, the seafood-beef combination is the most popular. The seafood is shrimp, squid, fish balls and imitation crab.
Nguyen makes the broth for his beef pho dishes — which include rare beef, well-done beef and meatball — by cooking beef bones for 17 to 20 hours.
“If you cook that long, your broth will come out really good,” he said.
Pho Delite offers three serving sizes of pho — small for $6.25, medium for $7.75 and extra large for $7.95.
“I know from my experience that some people don’t finish the extra large,” Nguyen said. “The small is good for new customers to see if they like pho.”
(A personal note: the small is quite generous, and most people ordering it won’t go away hungry from the restaurant in the Walmart shopping center at Shaw and Peach avenues.)
Each pho selection is served with a side of bean sprouts, jalapenos, basil, cilantro and lemon. Customers can further customize with a variety of condiments — hot chili sauce, hot chili oil (spicy), fish sauce (salty), soy sauce, peanuts and sugar.
Pho Delite also serves rice plates for $7.75. The plates come with grilled beef, chicken, pork or prawns.
In addition, one-item vermicelli bowls for $7.75 come with one of the above grilled selections or tofu or egg rolls. Two-item vermicelli bowls are $8.50 and three-item vermicelli bowls are $9.75.
Vermicelli — which means “little worms” in Italian — is a pasta used in the cuisines of many countries. Nguyen said vermicelli is popular in Vietnam, and people eat it for breakfast, lunch and a late-night snack.
Stir-fry dishes at Pho Delite include ginger chicken, orange chicken, and vegetables with chicken or shrimp. Nguyen stir fries his chicken with the juice and rind of the orange.
Another house specialty is lemongrass chicken, which is among the most popular dishes, Nguyen said.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Who is the cook who did this?’” he added with a smile.
House specialties range from $7.75 to $11.95.
Nguyen, 36, was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1996. His family settled in the Bay Area, and he graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in electrical engineering. Before opening Pho Delite in February 2011, he worked in equipment maintenance for a solar company in Santa Clara.
Pho is part of his family’s food tradition. His grandmother cooked it, as did his parents, who prepared the dish when he would visit after leaving home.
“They cooked good for me. So I decided to try,” Nguyen said.
Pho Delite is a family operation. His sister and brother-in-law help Nguyen in the kitchen, and his nephew is a server and host.
The restaurant’s beverages are worth noting.
▪ Vietnamese coffee — a combination of condensed milk and coffee that mixes bitterness and sweetness. Pho Delite serves it hot and cold for $3.50.
▪ Thai iced-tea — a light brew sweetened with milk and sugar. It’s $3.
▪ Young coconut juice — clear, slightly sweet and found inside young green coconuts. It’s also $3.
▪ An assortment of smoothies ($3.50) and slushies ($3), which can be ordered with boba — black tapioca pearls — for 50 cents extra.
On a recent afternoon, Stephen Wan of Clovis enjoyed an extra-large bowl of pho.
“It was delicious,” he said. “There was a lot of seafood in the noodles, and the meat also was delicious.”
Pho Delite is at 393 W. Shaw Ave., Suite A14. The phone number is (559) 322-8688. Takeout is available. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is on Facebook at facebook.com/Pho-Delite
Dining with Doug appears every other week in the Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org