What is Pho? How to Eat it & Where to Eat?

Last Updated: November 29,2019

Have you ever come across to hear about a kind of Vietnamese food called Pho? It is the most popular food throughout Vietnam and it appears everywhere from breakfast table to the curbside. What is pho on earth? Whether this is the first you are hearing about it or you just want to learn what it is, I hope this makes you are eager to eat it, as there is no trip to Vietnam is complete without having a bowl of Pho. 

What is Pho?

Pho, pronounced "fuh" is a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. The noodle made from rice is different from Japanese ramen which is made of wheat noodles. The soup is normally made with bone-beef broth. When eating the noodle, thinly sliced beef, bean sprouts and other fresh herbs are often served together. Pho also has many variations. The most common is pho nam, originated in Southern Vietnam, and pho bac from Northern Vietnam is considered to be the original pho. 

Vietnamese Pho

Brief history of Pho 

Although the exact history and origin of pho is highly disputed, it is believed that pho originates in Nam Dinh and Hanoi regions in North Vietnam in the late 1880s, after the French colonization of the country. It is said pho is developed from French dish pot au feu and the pronounce of "fuh" is from "feu" which means fire. Traditionally, Vietnamese consume more pork and chicken but with the demands for beef of French, beef became more common and at last, it has become one of the important ingredient in Vietnam cuisine. Initially, Pho called Pho bac, was made by boiling beef bones for several days and has a heavy emphasis on the delicate and simple broth. The dish came out only the broth with rice noodles and thinly sliced beef without any other vegetables and herbs. After the World War II, lots of people from north of Vietnam moved to south to escape the rule of communist in the north. Pho nam was created during the merge of the culture of north and south. Pho nam is usually made with a broth is seasoned with a lot of spices and heavily garnished with fresh herbs such as bean sprouts, cilantro and basil. As time goes on, Pho nam has become popular in southern Vietnam and is commonly sold by street side restaurants due to its convenience so far. After the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnamese conflict, many Vietnamese lived in the south fled to various of the worlds with their famous food – Pho. You are easily found it in many places of the world. 

How to eat Pho in right Vietnamese way?

Pho is usually served with a large bowl of broth with rice noodles dipped in it and some thinly sliced beef. When your pho hits the table, how do you eat it?

1.Sample the broth: the first thing you should do is sample the broth. If you want your broth more flavor, you can add some common pho condiment to it as your like. Frequently, an entire lime wedge will be squeezed into the broth. 

2.Put in some herbs and bean sprouts you like: The authentic pho is serviced with bean sprouts but the amount of it you add to your pho will depend on your preference. After adding bean sprouts, use your spoon to submerge them into your broth. If you like spicy, you can add some chili paste which will give your pho a potent smolder. Some restaurants or street side food shops may serve pho with saw herb, if you like, you can tear 2-3 of these into pieces and put into your bowl. 

3.Mix your dipping sauce: To make this bowl of pho more delicious, you can add hoisin sauce, soy sauce to it to make a dipping sauce. You can sample your dipping sauce by putting the tip of your chopsticks into it and tasting the sauce on your chopsticks to see whether it is enough, if not, you can add more.

4.Eat your pho: It is time to eat! Use your chopsticks and spoon to mix all the ingredients of your pho evenly. In between you bite the pho with the help of your chopsticks and spoon, remember to scoop up broth with your spoon and sip it until your pho is done. 

Eating Pho

Variations of Pho

Do not like beef? It doesn't matter, pho has lots of variations. The most common variations are Pho Ga (chicken pho) and Pho Chay (vegetarian pho). You may find some rice noodle soup with pork or with seafood but they are not pho. It is very important that not all Vietnamese noodle soup are pho. For example, a dished call Bun Bo Hue is a pork base broth with rice noodles from the Hue region in central Vietnam and another dish called Hu Tieu that is popular in south of Vietnam is pork and seafood broth with rice noodles. They look similar to pho, but they differ in their flavors are not always served with pho noodles. 

Popular Pho street side restaurants 

Pho 24 is very popular pho noodle chain restaurants you can find throughout Vietnam and also can find them in other countries such as the United States and Australia. 

Pho Hoa is one of the most authentic pho shop in Ho Chi Minh City, which has been run in the city by quite a long time by successive generations of a same family and their broth recipe is a family secret. 

Pho 2000, near a local market called Ben Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City is another famous shop. American former president Bill Clinton had his first bowl of pho during his visit in the city in the year of 2000. It was said he enjoyed it so much that he ordered a second bowl. 

If you are in Hanoi, the Old Quarter is the best place for you to find the authentic pho. Pho 10 on 10 Ly Quoc Su is one of the most popular pho restaurants. Except the amazing taste, they serve very quickly and the prices are cheap. 

Bun Cha Huong Lien in Hanoi is a street side Pho restaurant where the former president of US Barack Obama once had dinner with chef Anthony Bourdian in May 2016, so that people refer to it as Bun Cha Obama now. To preserve its claim to fame, the restaurant sealed off the table that the two men sat along with staged plates, chopsticks, and beer as a sort of shrine to present to customers. 

Obama Enjoyed His Pho

Explore the most delicious Pho with UME Travel 

UME Travel will take you to explore the most authentic and delicious Pho during your trip in Vietnam. Contact us now and let our travel advisors help you to start your exploring tour of Pho in Vietnam. 

Check out the following itineraries which will give you a starting point for your trip to Vietnam could entail.

South - Central of Vietnam Unique Foodie Tour: 7 days Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Da Nang - Hoi An

Essence of Vietnam: 9 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Da Nang - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh

Simply Vietnam: 7 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Ho Chi Minh - Mekong Delta

Best of Vietnam Culture & Nature Tour: 15 days Hanoi - Ha Long Bay - Hue - Da Nang - Hoi An - Nha Trang - Ho Chi Minh - Mekong Delt

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