Queens boy to Pho king

By Andrea Park, Ayanna Runcie, Jason Pham

As New Yorkers make their way through the nauseating smell of garbage wafting through Lower Manhattan Chinatown’s Baxter Street, the aromatic scent of pho filtering out the doors of Nha Trang One provides a breath of fresh air. Inside the restaurant, one of three Vietnamese eateries on the street, chef and owner Andy Ha shifts between the kitchen and the cash register. Ha has a come a long way from home since moving from his seaside abode in Nha Trang, Vietnam to his current home in Astoria, Queens nearly 35 years ago.

Ha tells his story of how he came to America.

Ha, who learned to cook from his parents when he was 15, says he wants to “bring more home” to his restaurant. One way of doing this is by cooking dishes from his hometown, which he says should appeal to the tastes of everyone and, especially, remind Vietnamese immigrants like him of their origins.

Ha discusses the cooking techniques he utilizes when making Vietnamese cuisine.

Inside of the humble-sized restaurant, a handful of customers await authentic Vietnamese fare inspired by Nha Trang, a seaside city in south Vietnam where chef and owner Andy Ha grew up.

Ha preps all his ingredients, including meats and vegetables, before he opens the doors to customers. Some ingredients pictured include sliced tomatoes, wedges of lime and fresh green onion.

Ha blanches hollow greens before stir frying the vegetable with garlic in preparation for the Vietnamese dish rau muon xao toi, better known as morning glory.

Ha fills the kitchen with the aromatic smell of garlic as he prepares a fresh plate of morning glory.

Rau muon tao toi, which consists of stir fried hollow greens and garlic.

Tom chien giong consisting of crispy fried shrimp over onions and lettuce.

Bun bo nuong which consists of barbecued beef over rice vermicelli.

Pho dac biet, beef noodle soup consisting of delicate slices of beef brisket, tripe and beef broth stewed for over six hours.

Nha Trang One, which is surrounded by a plethora of city courts, is frequented by jurors, judges and lawyers, as well as Chinatown visitors.

Nha Trang One, is one of the most frequented Vietnamese restaurants in New York. Here are some other popular Vietnamese eateries, according to these local food experts.

Patty Lee of Thrillist recommends Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen in Brooklyn while Dan Q. Dao of Time Out New York touts Thai Son and Nha Trang One in Chinatown.

Robert Sietsema, food critic for the Village Voice and editor of Eater, picks Pho Vietnam 87 as Chinatown’s best-tasting Vietnamese restaurant.

Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair gives her recommendation on the best pho in New York.

Here are some other experts on Vietnamese cuisine in New York City.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of the making of this project.

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