How Chinatown’s Xe Lua Turns Out 500 Bowls of Pho Every Day


Every day, Danny Chu turns out 500 bowls of pho at Xe Lua. That’s no easy feat. Chinatown food writer Joshua Johnson went behind the scenes to learn how Chu does it for the first longform video on his newly debuted blog The Pho-Tographer. I caught up with Johnson in time for the release of “Making 500 Bowls of Pho.”

Tell us about the filming: why choose Xe Lua, what was the process like?
I definitely have not tried every pho joint in NYC but I have hit an unproportionate number. Xe Lua has been my number 1 for a few years. One night after work, I walked over with a friend. I started talking with the owner about my blog and he got really excited. He swept my friend and I  into the kitchen for a tour. The next Saturday, I was in there shooting.

What sets The Pho-Tographer apart from other food blogs?
I’m pretty nosey and good at gaining access to people and their spaces. I think that helps me get the camera into some unique places.

How often can we expect new content at The Pho-Tographer?
I post photos and short videos daily on Instagram (@the_pho_tographer). As for long-form docs, they take a long time to edit, so every few weeks if I’m feeling prolific.

What are three of your favorite New York City restaurants and what should we order at them?
For pho, Xe Lua.

Soup dumplings, Shanghai Cafe Deluxe in Chinatown.

Best meal I know how to get in town is at Bunker Vietnamese in Brooklyn. They have a rotating menu and you can’t go wrong. Burnt into my memory are their durok short ribs, surf and turf Vietnamese style with lemongrass gulf shrimp and beef cubes, sautéed greens with garlic, and papaya salad.

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