100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 26: Pho Ga at Pho Ga Dakao

The Pho Ga "Dac Biet" at Pho Ga Dakao is perfect on a rainy, cool day.
The Pho Ga "Dac Biet" at Pho Ga Dakao is perfect on a rainy, cool day.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.

Credit goes to Katharine Shilcutt for making me aware of this one. Back during her own tenure as restaurant critic and lead food writer for the Houston Press, she wrote up the pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao and included it on her own 100 list.

Pho ga had never really sounded particularly interesting before. Really, it’s just the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup and that didn’t sound compelling enough to have instead of beefy pho tai. At least that was the case until Shilcutt wrote up her discovery of the pho ga dac biet (or “special chicken soup”) at Pho Ga Dakao.

The “special” part is that the restaurant includes just about every part of the chicken. My server looked at me a little quizzically when I ordered it last week. “The liver, too?” “Yes, please,” I replied. “Do you want the skin?” she continued. “Indeed,” I said. Really, that’s one of the best parts.

The exterior of Pho Ga Dakao isn't exactly sexy, but don't let that get between you and a big, hot, nutritious bowl of chicken soup.
The exterior of Pho Ga Dakao isn't exactly sexy, but don't let that get between you and a big, hot, nutritious bowl of chicken soup.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

There’s also chopped gizzard, dark meat, white meat and an egg yolk all just waiting to be found in the rich chicken stock. The egg yolk admittedly gets a little rubbery since it spends so much time in the stockpot, but that’s part of the charm. As it turned out, I was trying to get over a cold the day I went in and was ever so thankful that the 100 List timing worked to my ultimate advantage. There was nothing I wanted more than a hot, steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Pho Ga Dakao is in a beyond-modest strip mall in Alief, but it’s not hard to find. Don't let the exterior put you off. Service is good and the soup comes out of the kitchen quickly. 

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 27, Veruca Salt Cake at Fluff Bake Bar
No. 28, Seafood Demi-Tower at Julep
No. 29, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings at Fung's Kitchen
No. 30, Fried Chicken & Waffle at The Breakfast Klub
No. 31, Risotto with Veal and Parmesean at Mascalzone
No. 32, Burnt Ends at Southern Goods
No. 33, Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
No. 34, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake at Vic & Anthony's
No. 35, Pozole at El Big Bad
No. 36, Bacon Mochi at Izakaya
No. 37, Nasi Lemak at Banana Leaf
No. 38, Make Your Own Gyro at Helen Greek Food & Wine
No. 39, Spicy Blue Cheese Burger at Alamo Drafthouse
No. 40, Pizza at Dolce Vita
No. 41, Grilled Shrimp at La Grange
No. 42, Duck With Two Moles at Arnaldo Richards' Picos
No. 43, Stuffed Pepperoncini at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 44, LH Gumbo at Holley's Seafood Kitchen & Oyster Bar
No. 45, KG's Double-Brined Cast Iron Chicken at Harold's
No. 46, Ceviche Mixto at Andes Café 
No. 47, Sunday Gravy at Liberty Kitchen & BRC
No. 48, Tonkotsu Ramen at Tiger Den
No. 49, Charcuterie at Kris Bistro
No. 50, Cauliflower Steak at Backstreet Cafe
No. 51, Telur Balado at Rice Bowl II
No. 52, Green Curry at Asia Market Restaurant
No. 53, Foie Gras Breakfast at Triniti
No. 54, Korean Fried Chicken at ToreOre at Super H Mart
No. 55, Bulgogi Bibimbap at BiBiJo Express at Super H Mart
No. 56, Vegetable Plate at Hugo's
No. 57, The Cured Plate at Revival Market
No. 58, Simply Grilled Fish at Ibiza
No. 59, Tonkotsu Black Ramen at JINYA Houston
No. 60, The Rancor Burger at The Petrol Station
No. 61, Heritage Sampler Platter at Rudi Lechner's
No. 62, Oxtails at Le' Pam's House Of Creole
No. 63, The 420 Slice at Pi Pizza Truck
No. 64, Frenchy's Fried Chicken On Scott Street
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co. 
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex 
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed 
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

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