Get to know the story behind the Vietnamese beef noodle soup and then visit for the 14 best restaurants for pho in Phoenix.


Correction: A previous version of the story listed the competitors for the pho and sidekick dishes from 2018. The competitors are not announced until a week before the event. 

An interactive and tongue-in-cheek cooking competition and tasting has made its way back to the Des Moines metro.

The 4th annual Pho King Cook-Off takes place on Nov. 9 at the Val Air Ballroom, located at 301 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines.

The event includes pho cooking competitions, eating contests, a people's choice award, cash bar and music. Plenty of pho will be available for tasting.

Named Iowa's best cooking competition by Delish, this one-of-a-kind event is sure to satisfy your pho fever or introduce you to all the possibilities when it comes to this signature dish.

According to the Iowa Asian Alliance's website, pho is the "king of all Asian noodle soups. This beloved comfort food is rooted in Vietnam and is so popular that many Southeast Asian ethnicities have their own version and way to eat pho. And the Pho King Cook-Off wants to help spread that love."

For those unfamiliar with pho, the dish is first and foremost an elevated street food based with a rich, sumptuous broth.

The broth is usually beef-flavored and enhanced with toasted spices like cinnamon, star anise and clove. Chicken and vegan pho have also been introduced in recent years. 

The comforting soup includes cuts of meat or tofu, bean sprouts and rice vermicelli noodles and is served with fresh lime, bean sprouts, thinly-sliced chilies and Thai basil leaves on the side for garnishing and flavoring.

In many Asian countries, pho is eaten for breakfast. 

Participating Pho King and Sidekick Chefs

Restaurants, food trucks and chefs are invited to compete in the Pho King competition.

These participants will make their signature pho dishes to be tasted and judged by a serious panel of celebrity judges and for a People's Choice award. 

Nu Huynh, executive director for the Iowa Asian Alliance said a few new rookies such as local private chef Jennifer Baccam and new kid in town, Pho Real, are expected to compete in this year's ev. 

In addition, Pho King SideKick Chefs will create an Asian dish to complement the pho.

Past competitions have included Lao green papaya salad, a traditional spicy salad made from shredded green papaya, chilies, fish sauce and lime.

Returning this year will be Judges' Choice winner, Pho 85, and Suki Yuki — People’s Choice winner — to defend their 2018 titles.

Pho and sidekick competitors will be announced one week prior to the event. Past competitors have included Lemon Grass, Aroy-Dee, Lucky Bamboo and Pho 85.

Pho King Event Schedule

Here is the schedule of events for the Pho Kink Cook-Off on Nov. 9:

  • 10:45-11 a.m. - All Chef Stations Ready for Serving
  • 11 a.m.-12 p.m. - Pho King Judges’ Award, Celebrity Judging for VIP ticket holders only
  • 12-4 p.m. - Pho King People’s Choice Award – Open to all ticket holders; Pho & Sidekick Tasting; Pho & Sidekick Eating Contest; drinks and music
  • 2-3 p.m. - Pho King Awards Announcement

Who will be crowned the 2019 Pho King Chef by the panel of celebrity judges or take home the 2019 Pho King People’s Choice award? A competitor could win both prizes.

Tickets are $35 plus a $1.74 service fee for regular Pho King admission from 12 to 4 p.m. VIP tickets are $50 plus a $3.49 service fee for admission one hour early at 11 a.m., a Pho King goodie bag and a Pho King T-shirt.

Both ticket packages include plenty of Pho King tastings. Tickets sell out every year.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Iowa Asian Alliance. For tickets and more information on being a competitor or an attendee, visit

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