Traveling is always enriched by the foods of the culture. The foods of Vietnam are no exception. What is Pho you ask? Learn about this amazing dish and how to eat Pho like a pro.
If Vietnam isn’t on your bucket list it should be. Vietnam is safe, the people are friendly, and it’s incredibly affordable. Not to mention it’s one of the most beautiful places.
Pho is not only complex in it’s history but also how it’s made. Let’s dive in and have a look at what makes this such a special dish.
Banh Pho The Noodle
The word Pho literally means “rice noodle.” These noodles are made with white rice flour and usually, at least in Vietnam, are purchased fresh from a market. They should have a smooth slippery texture but not be too soft or doughy. A perfect noodle for slurping.
While the word Pho points us to the noodle the real magic is in the broth. Pho
In addition, the broths contain cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardamom to name a few. Charred onions and ginger top it off. These broths simmer for 3-6 hours before serving.
Just prior to serving, a choice of meat is tossed into the boiling broth. Usually
Herbs and Garnishes
The herbs and garnishes are what really make this a special dish. It can be quite the head turner for people that haven’t seen Pho. The pile of herbs and veggies are usually on a separate plate alongside your steaming bowl of Pho.
The most common sides in Vietnam include Thai basil, bean sprouts, and lime wedges. In the States, you often see green onions, sliced jalapeno, and even cilantro in addition to the standard garnishes.
The herbs are best torn into small pieces and sprinkled on the Pho. Adding enough bean sprouts to give it that wonderful crunch. If spice is your thing don’t forget the hot chili sauce. This is all that a good Pho should need and will taste wonderful.
A what is Pho guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hoisin sauce. This popular sauce will be tableside at every restaurant in the states but rarely seen at a proper street cart in Vietnam.
Hoisin sauce has the consistency of a syrup and a sweet and salty taste. While I do like the taste of Hoisin it’s easy to
How to Eat Pho
The bowl arrives – Take a second and taste it before dumping everything into it. Just because you have all this stuff doesn’t mean you have to use it all. Take several tastes and really focus on the broth as that is what makes or breaks this dish.
Add Veggies/herbs – Let them steep for a minute as the oils from the herbs are released. Now taste again. You get the picture right? Just a little at a time. Don’t just dump the plate of extras in and go. Make it how you like it. That’s the beauty of Pho.
The physics – The bowl will be served with a large soup spoon and chopsticks. The noodles are long and slippery so don’t be shy. All traditional etiquette goes out the door. Slurping is a must. As the noodles and meat come to an end you are left with a delicious bowl of broth. Take both hands and just drink from the bowl. Don’t worry it’s perfectly fine.
Pronunciation, is it Foe or Fuh?
I left you hanging on this one didn’t I. This might be the only reason you’re even here. Well, the short answer is “
History of Pho
The soup became popular in the mid-1800’s in the northern city of Hanoi. The actual origins, including its pronunciation, are widely disputed. Some scholars believe the French are responsible for this soup based on the following two points.
The French are credited with the introduction of beef in Vietnam, a country that previously favored pork and shrimp. Another rationale for the French origin is related to the dish pot-au-feu, a classic beef stew. Some believe this dish was adopted under colonial rule and the word Pho comes from the word
Here’s a video to settle the debate,
Eating Pho in Vietnam
As the cities come to life, full of motorbikes and absolute commuting chaos. The street stalls can be seen from blocks away with their billowing steam. Breakfast Pho is everywhere. In fact, Pho is primarily a breakfast meal for the Vietnamese.
When traveling in Vietnam don’t expect to find a “real” bowl of Pho in the evening. Make it a point to grab a seat on a busy street cart and enjoy this magical dish. I have pages full of Pho experiences in my travel journal. If travel to Vietnam isn’t in the cards anytime soon then just open your eyes and look, as there is probably a Pho spot just blocks away.
Now that we’ve convinced you to visit Vietnam, be sure to read out Travel Planning Guide which covers everything from passports/visas to cheap flights.
If you like Pho as much as we do here are a couple cookbooks worth checking out. They have some great info on making Pho but also many other delicious Vietnamese dishes.