I first tasted Vietnamese Pho in the US, a delightful, comforting dish that closely resembles the KueyTeowTeng back home in Penang. Immigrating in 2018, my fondness for pho increased, and Vietnamese restaurants became my top choice for dining out. In the US, these eateries, primarily run by Vietnamese immigrants, served pho for less than $10 back in 2012 when I was there.

Leap to the present day, and imagine this – my wife recently savored a bowl of pho at a California restaurant. The price tag? Hold onto your seats because it was a whopping $25, and with tips, the total rocketed up to around $30! RM135 for a bowl of noodle?!
It’s a steep climb from the humble amount we used to pay!

At my son’s suggestion, we visited a pho place in Taipei a few days ago. Despite a long queue, we were served an exceptional bowl of pho, and it was evident from the bustling outlets that it was a profitable business. However, the cost, NT$270, equivalent to less than US$9, translates to about RM40, still hefty in Malaysian currency.

Back in Malaysia, a bowl of pho in a high-end shopping mall costs less than RM30. For a more budget-friendly option, hawker stalls offer it for less than RM15. Still, nothing quite compares to the culinary charm of Penang, where you can enjoy a steamy, flavorful bowl of ??? (KueyTeowTeng) for under RM10.

Eating out in Malaysia is cheap and enjoyable – it’s one of the best parts about our food-loving nation. We get to taste great food without spending a lot of money.

Contrast this with other parts of the world, notably the US, and the disparity becomes apparent. While Malaysia offers many inexpensive, delicious meals, dining out in the US often comes with a higher price tag. The cost of food, whether it’s a bowl of pho or a simple sandwich, is significantly steeper. In the case of pho, it could be 10X the price, arguably the same quality. It’s a stark reminder of the differences in living costs across the globe, and the economic realities we face when we step out of our home turf.

Inflation is Real

These real-life experiences highlight the undeniable reality of inflation. Inflation, the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, gradually erodes the purchasing power of money. When we ignore inflation, we risk misjudging our financial capacity and future planning.

Malaysian Ringgit Depreciation

Another concerning economic factor is the depreciation of the Malaysian Ringgit. Earning in ringgit but spending overseas becomes a financial pinch. The result is an unsettling feeling of impoverishment during overseas vacations, where everything – food, accommodation, even public transport – feels exorbitantly priced.

The Silver Lining

So, what can we do to navigate these economic challenges? One strategy is investing in foreign assets, which can offer protection against local currency depreciation.

Consider global stocks, particularly those belonging to giant businesses or well-known brands. When our currency depreciates, the value of these assets in foreign currency terms increases, serving as a hedge against domestic inflation and currency risks.

Interestingly, currency depreciation isn’t all bad news. One advantage is the boost it gives to export businesses, making them more competitive on a global scale. As the ringgit depreciates, our exports become cheaper for foreign buyers, increasing demand for Malaysian goods.


In conclusion, whether you’re slurping a bowl of pho in a fancy Californian restaurant or munching on KueyTeowTeng in a humble Penang hawker stall, remember this – the flavours of finance can be as diverse as our palates! And just like adding too much chilli to your pho, ignoring the impact of inflation and currency depreciation can leave a burning hole in your wallet. So, here’s a fun thought to chew on: the next time you’re enjoying your favourite meal, don’t just savour the flavours, also consider the economics of your soup. Bon Appétit and happy budgeting!

I’m on a mission to taste the best Vietnamese pho in Malaysia, and I need your help! Do you know of any lip-smacking, utterly unmissable pho spots that I simply must try? Don’t keep it a secret, spill the broth and share your recommendations in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!


Personal finance author and trainer

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