A hot and comforting soup with an unmistakable Asian touch that is ideal at any time of the day. Pho VietNam has come to stay.
It is a pleasure to see more and more open places dedicated to this delicious soup in our country. I discovered the pho (phở, pronounced “fo”) at the first breakfast I tried as soon as I arrived in Vietnam. So suddenly, it seemed a bit blunt to take this Vietnamese noodle soup with beef as soon as I woke up at 6:30 in the morning. However, as the saying goes: “Wherever you go, do what you see.”
All Vietnamese ingest this national dish first thing of the day (currently also for lunch or dinner, whether it is cold, thunder, or heat a thousand demons). There you can not only find it in restaurants or elegant bistros but in any street food stall. And this is how I got used to this delicious, perfect soup to regain strength. No Vietnamese forgives a day without pho. It is a versatile, simple, and popular dish.
The soup offers a combination of intense and delicate flavors unlike any other; A little sweet, a little bitter, something sour and spicy. The Westerners also find it attractive and original for its combination of ingredients and condiments, which can be experienced once served at the table.
There is nothing you fancy more than a pho soup on a cold day. Whenever I am lucky to taste it, it moves me as if by magic to those latitudes with each sip, and I feel not only the heat of the soup but the tropical spell in my memory.
The pho was born in northern Vietnam in the mid-1880s. The dish received many influences from Chinese and French cuisine. Rice noodles and spices imported from China and the French popularized eating red meat. It believed that “phở” derives from “pot au feu,” which means “pot on the fire,” about the long hours required to make the soup with meat bones.
Vietnamese chefs mixed Chinese, French, and indigenous influences to make an exclusively Pho Vietnam. The popularity of pho extended southward from 1954 when the country divided into northern and southern Vietnam. As the dish became popular in the south, chefs added additional ingredients until it became the version currently served.
The pho was nutritious enough to give strength to the workers during the morning and light enough to not weigh them.
The main ingredients are broth, vegetables, spices, noodles, and meat. The key is the rich and intense beef broth, the combination of spices and herbs, the tender slices of beef, and the glutinous rice noodles. Thanks to its aroma, we can perceive ginger, garlic, onion, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom, star anise, and lemongrass or citronella.
Not only spices and herbs are part of the creation process, but also a variety of side dishes almost included: a plate of chives and white onions, mint, lemon, or lime Thai chili peppers. They usually accompany any bowl of pho along with hot and spicy pasta and sauces. Each diner can season the soup to taste. Sauces are typically added, such as hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and Thai sriracha sauce.
The pho style of northern Vietnam tends to be simpler and made with fewer ingredients. There are some meat and small slices of ginger on the soup that not served with bean sprouts or herbs. Green peppers and limes accompany it. The southern version, a little sweeter, has about a dozen ingredients and different side dishes.
There are varieties of chicken (pho ga), seafood, pork, or vegetarian have emerged. The connoisseurs of this soup do not consider it pho (pho bo, with veal) in the strict traditional sense.
How is it taken?
Ideally, do it with a spoon in the left hand and some chopsticks in the right. First, we try the broth, and if we want to season it more, we can add chili peppers, hoisin sauce, squeeze the juice of a lime wedge (which we will not leave inside the soup) and black pepper. We will find in another plate separate bean sprouts and Thai basil that we will serve to taste.
The pho tends served when the meat is not yet fully cooked. That is why it is essential to push it with the spoon towards the bottom of the bowl.
The pho is also a very healthy soup that provides several vitamins (C and A) and essential minerals such as iron or calcium. The spices it contains, such as coriander, anise, and ginger, are delicious to fight against all types of colds. On the other hand, it is a good source of protein, low in fat. And as if that were not enough, a medium bowl only has between 350 and 400 calories. Of course, you should pay attention to its high sodium content and try to make homemade versions with a smaller amount.