Phở

Phở is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup with beef or chicken in an aromatic broth.

Lastest Updated February 16, 2024
Verified by A-Z Cuisines Team
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Fact: Phở is considered a national dish in Vietnam.

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Basic Information

Phở: Basic Information

Pronunciation

UK: /fɜː/
US: /fə/
Vietnamese: [fəː˧˩˧]

Alternative Name(s)

No

Dish Type

Noodle Soup

Course

Main Course

Mealtime

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Origin and Region

Phở: Origin and Region

Origin

Vietnam

Continent’s Region

Southeast Asia

Country’s Region

Northern Vietnam

Associated Region

Nam Dinh
Vietnam Map
A Deep Dive

Popular Phở Variations

A Deep Dive

More About Phở Dishes

Ingredients and Preparation

Phở: Ingredients and Preparation

Main Ingredients

Broth, rice noodles, herbs, beef or chicken

Main Cooking Method

Simmering

Preparation Process

  1. Prepare the ingredients
  2. Simmer broth
  3. Cook rice noodles
  4. Assemble foods in a bowl
A Deep Dive

Phở: A Deep Dive

Cultural Significance

Vietnam’s national dish

Taste

Savory

Texture

Soft noodles, tender meat

Aroma

Rich and fragrant

Color

Clear to brown broth, white noodles, green herbs

Serving Style

Typically served in medium to large bowls

Serving Temperature

Hot

Accompaniment

  1. Garnishes: Bean sprouts, basil, culantro, cilantro, onions, green onions, chili peppers
  2. Accompaniments and Add-ons: Hoisin sauce, sriracha, pickled garlic, lime wedges

Occasions

On any occasions

Seasons

Year-round

Special Diets

N/A

Calories

About 638 kcal, according to data of Nutritionix for 1 bowl (710g) of pho

Popularity

  1. United States (Especially in areas with large Vietnamese communities)
  2. Canada
  3. Australia
  4. France
  5. And other countries with a Vietnamese diaspora

Popular Similar Dishes

  1. Ramen
  2. Bún Bò Huế
  3. Soto Ayam
  4. Kuy Teav
  5. Taiwanese Beef noodle soup
  6. Caldo de Res
  7. Laksa

Popular Dining Area

Households, street vendors, and restaurants

Phở, or Pho, is a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles (bánh phở), and meat, primarily made with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà). This dish is a staple in Vietnam and can be found in households, street stalls, and restaurants throughout the country. Pho is so integral to Vietnamese culture that it’s often considered the national dish of Vietnam.

Pho Overview

There are distinct styles of phở, notably the Hanoi (northern) and Saigon (southern) versions. These styles differ in aspects like noodle width, broth sweetness, and choice of herbs and sauce.

Let’s uncover the history and origins of Phở, chart its rise to global popularity, and break down its key ingredients. You can also explore its diverse variations, weigh its pros and cons, and find out places to taste authentic Phở. Also, delve into frequently asked questions and other similar delicacies.

Key Points

  • Originating from northern Vietnam, Phở has become a beloved dish not just in its homeland but also worldwide.
  • The broth, which can take hours to prepare, is the soul of the dish.
  • A national “Day of Pho” is held on December 12.
  • Phở is traditionally a breakfast dish in Vietnam but is enjoyed all day.
  • There are various versions of Phở, but the two most popular are Phở bò and Phở gà.

Phở Images

Where Did Phở Originate?

Phở is believed to have originated in the early 20th century (between 1900 and 1907) in Northern Vietnam, specifically in Nam Định Province, southeast of Hanoi. The Vân Cù and Dao Cù villages in Đông Xuân commune, Nam Trực District, are traditionally considered its birthplace.

The name “Phở” is believed to have been derived from the French dish “pot-au-feu,” a type of beef stew. Additionally, Phở’s origins in Northern Vietnam were influenced by Chinese cuisine, especially from Yunnan and Guangdong. The southern version of Phở typically features a sweeter broth and a wider variety of herbs and accompaniments.

While Phở began its culinary journey in Northern Vietnam, it has not only traveled from north to south but, in the era of globalization, has found its way to dinner tables across the globe.

How Was Phở Globalized?

The globalization of phở can be attributed to several factors:

  • Vietnamese Diaspora: After the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees settled in various parts of the world, particularly in the United States, Australia, and France. They brought their culinary traditions with them, leading to the opening of Vietnamese restaurants and introducing phở to a global audience.
  • Travel and Tourism: As Vietnam became a popular travel destination, many tourists got introduced to phở and its unique flavors. Many returned to their home countries with a love for the dish, further popularizing it.
  • Cultural Exchange: With globalization, there has been a significant exchange of cultures and cuisines. The global trend towards trying diverse foods and the health benefits associated with Vietnamese cuisine further propelled phở’s popularity.
  • Culinary Innovation: Around the world, chefs frequently reinvent traditional dishes, merging ingredients from diverse cuisines. Phở, for instance, has been transformed into variations like Phở-flavored tacos, burgers, and pizzas.

What Ingredients Go Into Phở?

Common Ingredients To Make Pho
Common ingredients to make pho

Below is the detailed breakdown of ingredients and options for a traditional pho dish, categorizing them into broth, noodles, meat, garnishes, and accompaniments/add-ons:

IngredientsDescription
BrothBones, oxtail, star anise, charred onion, charred ginger, cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove
NoodlesFlat, thin rice noodles called “bánh phở”

2 types: the fresh “bánh phở tươi” or “kuay tiao,” and the dried one.

Their width varies regionally in Vietnam
MeatOptions include beef (often thinly sliced), chicken, or even seafood in some modern versions
GarnishesBean sprouts, basil, culantro, cilantro, onions, green onions, chili peppers
Accompaniments and Add-onsHoisin sauce, sriracha, pickled garlic, lime wedges

In this traditional pho dish breakdown, while the flavorful broth and various garnishes play a pivotal role, the central choice between meat types significantly determines the dish’s profile.

What Kinds of Meat Are Used in Phở Bò?

There are various types of meats commonly used in Phở Bò, here are the types of meats and a brief description for each:

BeefDescription
Tái bămBeef patty from freshly chopped rare beef
TáiBeef cooked to medium rare
Tái sốngRare meat
Tái lănBeef lightly sauteed before being added to the broth
Tái nạmMedium rare beef combined with a side of flank
Tái chínCombo of medium rare beef and fully cooked beef; standard in many pho places
NạmSlice from the beef flank
Nạm gầuThe brisket cut
GânBeef tendon
SáchThe inner lining of a cow’s stomach, or beef tripe
TiếtCubes made from solidified beef blood
Bò viênBalls made of beef meat

Just as the options for Phở Bò are diverse, the chicken version, Phở Gà, offers an equally varied selection of ingredients and preparations.

What Types of Meat Are Used to Make Phở Gà?

Uncover details about different types of chicken meat and parts used in Phở Gà:

ChickenDescription
Gà đùiThe thigh portion of the chicken
Gà lườnThe chest or frontal part of the chicken
Lòng gàInternal organs of the chicken
Trứng nonEggs from young chickens or undeveloped eggs

What Are the Different Variations of Phở?

Besides the two main types, beef, and chicken, vegan pho and seafood pho are widely savored.

Pho Bo

  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Phở bò is a Vietnamese noodle soup with phở noodles, beef, fresh herbs, and beef broth.

Pho Ga

  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Phở gà is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of tender chicken pieces, aromatic herbs, and phở noodles in a clear and flavorful broth.

Seafood Pho

Seafood pho contains various seafood items like shrimp, squid, and scallops.

Vegetarian Pho

Vegetarian pho version contains tofu and/or a variety of mushrooms and vegetables.

Within these variations of Phở, there are multiple regional styles and cooking variations.

What Are the Regional Variations of Phở?

Phở boasts regional distinctions such as:

Hanoi Pho

A tasty, clear soup paired with freshly parboiled whole scallions. Typically, it’s topped with bits of diced cilantro and green onion, chili sauce, pickled garlic, and crunchy quẩy.

Saigon Pho

The broth has a sweeter, cloudier appearance compared to North Pho. This version is enjoyed with crunchy bean sprouts, slices of fresh chili, rich hoisin sauce, and an assortment of fresh herbs.

Pho Nam Dinh

Another northern phở’s style. The broth is made with a greater amount of fish sauce and opt for wider noodles.

How Does Phở Vary in Other Provinces?

Across the country, you’ll encounter different flavors and styles, each unique to its region:

Pho Chua

A tangy version of the classic pho, seasoned with souring agents for a unique, puckering flavor.

Pho Kho Gia Lai

A regional pho dish where dry pho noodles are served separately from a rich broth.

Pho Vit

A traditional pho noodle soup featuring tender duck meat as its main protein.

Pho Gan Chay

A pho version with grilled liver pieces, offering a smoky and meaty depth.

Pho San

A unique pho variant that incorporates root vegetables or tubers

Pho Sate

A version of pho noodles drenched in a spicy chili and creamy peanut sauce for a rich, bold taste introduced by Teochew migrants in Vietnam’s south.

In short, each variety of pho dishes from different regions showcases the creativity of Vietnamese cuisine through different cooking methods.

How Do Different Cooking Methods Create Variations in Phở?

Explore the diverse variations of Phở that have emerged through varied cooking techniques:

Pho Ap Chao

Pho noodles are pan-fried until they’re crispy, then topping or mixing them with a combination of meats, vegetables, and sauces.

Pho Tron

Phở trộn is a Vietnamese noodle dish in Hanoi with phở noodles, chicken or beef, roasted peanuts, herbs, and a sweet and sour sauce.

Pho Chien Phong

Pho noodles are deep-fried until they puff up, often served with vegetables and beef on top.

Pho Cuon

Phở cuốn is a Vietnamese rolled dish from Hanoi consisting of phở noodles, beef, and vegetables.

Pho Sot Vang

Pho noodles are cooked with a wine-based sauce, often including beef and aromatic spices.

Pho Cham

Phở chấm is a Vietnamese dish with phở noodles, chicken, herbs, broth, and dipping sauce kept on separate plates.

Pho Xao

Pho noodles are stir-fried with a combination of meats, vegetables, and seasonings.

Pho Chien Trung

Pho noodles are deep-fried with eggs.

With every regional and cooking variation, Phở offers a unique set of pros and cons to the dining experience.

Pros and Cons of Eating Phở

Below are the pros and cons of Phở:

Pros

  • Taste: Renowned for its unique and delicious flavors
  • Nutritional Value: Contains protein, vitamins, and minerals
  • Dietary Flexibility: Can be adapted to various dietary preferences
  • Balance: Offers a balanced combination of protein, carbs, and veggies
  • Satiety: Can be quite filling and satisfying

Cons

  • Caloric Content: Some versions can be high in calories and sodium
  • Preparation Time: Traditional preparation takes several hours
  • Ingredient Availability: Authentic ingredients might be hard to find in some areas
  • Consistency: Quality and taste can vary based on where and how it’s made

Given its taste and nutritional advantages, despite some preparation challenges, it’s worth finding a place to try pho.

Where to Try Authentic Phở?

Next, let’s explore the top destinations where you can try authentic Phở:

In Hanoi

Phở Bát Đàn: A classic spot for phở lovers.
Phở Thìn Bờ Hồ, Phở Thìn Lò Đúc: Not just popular in Vietnam, Phở Thìn Lò Đúc even boasts branches in Japan, Australia, and the United States.
Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư: Given a nod by the BBC in 2016 as one of Vietnam’s best.

In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Pasteur Street: The go-to place for beef phở aficionados.
Hiền Vương Street: Best known for its Phở Gà.
Phở Bình: A location steeped in history.
Phở Hùng, Phở Hòa Pasteur, and Phở 2000: Notable mentions with the latter even hosting U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000.

In the U.S.

Phở Hòa: The U.S. claims the largest chain with more than 70 locations across seven countries.
Pho 75: For those in Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia, Pho 75 is a must-visit.

For those eager to explore the rich tapestry of phở establishments, this list provides a starting point. Let’s dive into further insights available in the next FAQs.

Phở FAQs

Northern pho (Phở Bắc) vs. Southern pho (Phở Nam):

  • Broth: Northern has clearer, more delicate broth. Southern’s is sweeter with more spices.
  • Noodles: Northern uses wider noodles; Southern uses thinner ones.
  • Garnishes: Northern uses fewer, mainly green onions and coriander. Southern offers more variety (bean sprouts, basil, lime).
  • Meat: Northern can mix raw and cooked beef; both styles use beef or chicken.
  • Sauces: Northern pho typically isn’t served with added sauces. Southern pho is served with hoisin and chili sauce.
  • Accompaniment: Northern pho is sometimes paired with ‘Youtiao’ (fried dough sticks), which diners might dip into the broth. This is less common in the South.

Both are delicious noodle soups, but they have distinct flavors and ingredients.

Yes. Pho noodles, traditionally made from rice, are generally gluten-free. However, always check labels or ask the chef to ensure no cross-contamination or use of gluten additives.

The two common sauces that come with pho are hoisin sauce and sriracha.

Use chopsticks for noodles and meat, spoon for broth. Slurping is acceptable. Don’t stick chopsticks upright in the bowl.

Yes, pho can be good for you when you’re sick, as the hot broth can be soothing and it’s a source of hydration and nutrients.

Here are some tips for cooking pho at home:

  • Skim off fat and impurities during simmering.
  • Longer simmer time will contribute to a richer taste.

Similar Dishes of Phở

Ramen

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup, often flavored with soy sauce or miso and topped with sliced pork and seaweed.

Bun Bo Hue

Bún bò Huế is a Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup hailing from the city of Hue in central Vietnam.

Truc Tran (Kris)

Truc Tran (Kris)

Senior Food Editor

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Vietnamese Food Evaluation Expert

Education

  • Hospitality (Commercial Cookery) at TasTAFE
  • Culinary Arts at Kendall College (Australia Branch in Sydney)
  • Vietnamese Cuisine Head Chef at HNAAu School (Vietnam, International Joint Training Program)

Truc Tran (Kris), an experienced food writer and editor, is great at exploring and describing global cuisines, from simple street food to fancy dining. In her writing, she skillfully mixes different flavors, cooking methods, and culinary traditions, showing the unique character of various cultures through their food and drinks. On azcuisines.com, Kris highlights her knowledge, especially in Asian cuisine and worldwide traditional dishes.

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