What is Pho?

Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Pho is a Vietnamese soup that originated about 100 years ago in Nam Dihn Province near Hanoi during the French colonial period. In its infancy the dish consisted of rice noodles, beef broth, and boiled beef. But Pho...

Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that originated about 100 years ago in Nam Dihn Province near Hanoi during the French colonial period. In its infancy the dish consisted of rice noodles, beef broth, and boiled beef. But Pho has since evolved to include onions, ginger, and spices. It can contain various cuts of beef, pork, or even chicken. There are even vegetarian recipes available. Most purists define it as strictly a beef soup.

For its first few decades, pho remained a street food in the northern part of Vietnam, with peddlers serving bowlfuls out of mobile kitchens. When the 1954 Geneva Accords split Vietnam into two countries, many Vietnamese fled the communist ruled North Vietnam to South Vietnam, taking their pho culture with them. It was in the relatively free south that pho began to be embellished, with the inclusion of bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, and lime. Some diners in Saigon started adding bean sauce and hoisin sauce directly into the soup. This caused a split between northern cooks who stuck to the more traditional, simpler version of pho and the southerners who liked to experiment.

With the fall of South Vietnam to the communists, Vietnamese refugees migrated to the United States and brought pho with them. Pho has since become a favorite noodle dish in America, a staple of any Vietnamese restaurant. Its popularity stems from the fact that, unlike some Asian cuisine, pho is not mysterious and is comprised of ingredients familiar in the West. It is also tasty, either as a main meal or a first course.

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