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Phở is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà). The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Asian basil, mint leaves, lime, and bean sprouts that are added to the soup by the person who is dining. The dish is associated with the city of Hanoi, where the first phở restaurant opened in the 1920s.
Phở originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. The specific place of origin appears to be southeast of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (with local rice noodles, of Oriental origin) and French tastes (cattle were beasts of burden before the French arrived, not usually a source of beef). It was first sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first phở restaurant opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.
The origin of the word was one subject of a seminar[which?] on phở held in Hanoi in 2003. Some[who?] believe the origin of the word to be Chinese fen (粉). In addition to rice noodles, many of the spices (such as star anise and cinnamon) are staples of Chinese cuisine.
Some observers believe phở may come from the Cantonese rice vermicelli hofan (河粉), which are interchangeably abbreviated as either fan2 (粉, phấn in Tự Hán Việt) or Ho2 (河, Hà in Tự Hán Việt ), the two sounds giving the name "phở". Both fan and pho refer to the same rice noodles found in Vietnam and Guangdong, China, suggesting rice noodles are a food item common to both Cantonese Chinese and Vietnamese for centuries. The noodles are cooked the same way in both places and are likewise often seasoned with fish sauce, garnished with bean sprouts, and served with meatballs and sliced beef. Vietnamese phở, however, is further garnished with fresh mint, cilantro (coriander leaves), basil, bean sprouts, limes, sliced chili peppers and, in some varieties, sliced raw beef; this is especially true of Saigon-style phở. Furthermore, the broth of phở is made from beef and beef bones and fresh onion, whereas the Cantonese broth of fan is made from dried flatfish and other seafood. In some regional varieties, the Vietnamese broth may also have a mildly sweet flavour from Asian yellow rock sugar, but the Cantonese version does not.
The variations in meat, broth and additional garnishes, such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (culantro), húng quế (Thai/Asian basil), and tương (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) appear to be innovations introduced in the south. Phở did not become popular in South Vietnam until 1954.
Possibly the earliest reference to phở in English was in the book Recipes of All Nations, edited by Countess Morphy in 1935. In the book, phở is described as "an Annamese soup held in high esteem ... made with beef, a veal bone, onions, a bayleaf, salt, and pepper, and a small teaspoon of nuoc-mam."
With the Vietnam war and the victory of the North Vietnamese, phở was brought to many countries by Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam from the 1970s onwards. It is especially popular in large cities with substantial Vietnamese populations and enclaves such as Paris, major Canadian cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, Texas, New Orleans, The Upper Midwest, Orange County CA., Orlando, Florida and Washington, D.C. in the United States, and the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. Pho is listed at number 28 on World's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go in 2011.
Ingredients and preparation
Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở') in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, or meatballs in southern Vietnam. Chicken phở is made using the same spices as beef, but the broth is made using only chicken bones and meat, as well as some internal organs of the chicken, such as the heart, the undeveloped eggs and the gizzard.
The broth for beef phở is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. For a more intense flavor, the bones may still have beef on them. Chicken bones also work and produce a similar broth. Seasonings can include Saigon cinnamon or other kinds of cinnamon as alternatives (may use stick or powder), star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. the broth takes several hours to make. For chicken phở, only the meat and bones of the chicken are used in place of beef and beef bone. The remaining spices remain the same, but the charred ginger can be omitted, since its function in beef phở is to get rid of the "cow's smell".
Vietnamese dishes are meals typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, it may also be served with a black substance called Hoisin Sauce. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, Thai basil (húng quế) (not be confused with sweet basil, Vietnamese: húng chó or húng dổi), fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts and coriander (ngò rí) or culantro (ngò gai). Fish sauce (nước mắm), hoisin sauce and chili sauce may be added to taste as accompaniments.
Several ingredients not generally served with phở may be ordered by request. Extra-fatty broth (nước béo) can be ordered and comes with scallions to sweeten it. A popular side dish ordered upon request is hành dấm, or vinegared white onions.
The several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, are called phở bắc or "northern phở"), and southern (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, called phở Sài Gòn). Northern phở tends to use somewhat wider noodles and much more green onion. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese phở broth is slightly sweeter and has bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs. The variations in meat, broth, and additional garnishes such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (Eryngium foetidum), húng quế (Thai/Asian basil), and tương đen (bean sauce/hoisin sauce), tương ớt (hot chili sauce, e.g., Sriracha sauce) appear to be innovations made by or introduced to the south.
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