Noodle soup (Pho) is one of the most common and famous foods in Vietnam which brings Vietnamese cuisine to the international friends. It could easily be called Vietnam’s national dish. Most often served in the early morning, it is available on any street corner, everywhere in Vietnam, all day, and is a staple of most Vietnamese restaurants outside of the country.
Pho appeared the first time at the beginning of the 20th century then was spreaded to Central and Southern Vietnam in the mid 1950s. As for the birthplace of Pho, someone said that it came from China but a couple of theories pointed to the small impoverished village of Van Cu in Nam Dinh province, southwest of Hanoi. However, Van Cu villagers don’t know who created Pho. They only know that in 1925, a villager named Van became the first person move to Hanoi and open a pho stall on Hang Hanh street. About 70% — 80% pho vendors in Hanoi today are from that village. First, there was only beef noodle soup – “pho bo” – and it was hawked around the streets – “Pho ganh”. During the 1940s, people started to make Pho with chicken because the beef was very rare. At that time, Pho had been become the quintessence of Hanoi cuisine and many people addicted to it.
After Vietnam’s partition in 1954, the north was under the control of communist party while the south recieved the support of the United States that formed a new government, thousands of people migrated from the north to the south and Pho was also along the step of the northern immigrants to the south. The southern people quickly adopted Pho and changed the flavor of this dish for their taste. In general, Pho in the south is sweeter and spicier.
There are several regional variants of pho in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called “pho Bac” or “northern pho” or “pho Hanoi”), central (Hue) and southern (Saigon). One regional pho may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor. “Northern pho” tends to use some what wider noodles and green onions. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese people generally use thinner noodles and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their pho instead.
A famous Vietnamese writer – Mr. Thach Lam (1909 – 1942) considered Pho a delicious speciality food of Hanoi. “There are many pho restaurants around the country, but Hanoi’s pho is the best”, he wrote.
Nowadays, Pho is so popular that it is available on any street corner, everywhere in Vietnam, all day from the early morning to the late night. Almost no street in the city of Hanoi is without a Pho restaurant, especially in the small old streets of the city. But not every restaurant can satisfy the strict requirements of Hanoian gourmets who eat Pho every morning or late at night during the four seasons
A good bowl of Pho must have tasty yet clear broth, supple but not crumbly noodles, the herbs and spices, and lemon, chili, and onion. The broth is the star of Pho and is in some cases a closely guarded family secret. The flavor of broth must come from simmering the beef (and sometimes chicken) bones, not from seasoning. Noodles must be fresh, soft and plastic. Next, brown beef is dipped into the hot soup, and finally spices, including onion and fines herbs (rau thom). The southerners love to eat Pho with various types of vegetables like bean sprouts or Thai basil (hung que) but Hanoian gourmets do not eat it that way. Looking at a bowl of Pho, you can see the white of noodle, the pink of rare beef, the green of herbs and the red of chili peppers, etc all mixed together. Wow, what a colorful delicious picture!
Hanoi’s Pho has a specific flavor that you will never forget if you have an opportunity to taste it. For sure, Pho noodle soup made in Hanoi has the special attraction that is found no where else in Vietnam. It’s really different.
Some types of Pho in Hanoi: Pho bo tai (rare beef noodle soup or half done beef noodle soup), Pho bo chin (well done beef noodle soup), Pho bo vien (beef meat balls noodle soup), Pho nam bo (beef flank noodle soup), Pho sot vang (beef stew noodle soup),Pho ga (chicken noodle soup), etc.
Pho is extremely an iconic dish in Vietnam that is associated its mission to bring the Vietnam cuisine to the whole world. You can easily find Pho in many cities outside of Vietnam with many versions of Pho, but Vietnamese Pho, and especially Hanoi’s Pho is truly the best one and deserves the soul of nation. If you want to try the best Pho, please come to Vietnam tours. Thank you!