Pho, a beloved Vietnamese noodle soup, has a rich culinary history deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. Its origins can be traced back to the early 20th century, when Vietnam was under French colonial rule. The word "pho" is believed to have evolved from the French dish "pot-au-feu," which is a beef stew. This culinary cross-pollination resulted in the creation of a unique Vietnamese dish that combined local ingredients and techniques with French influences.
Pho is particularly associated with Northern Vietnam, especially Hanoi, where it is believed to have first gained popularity. Hanoi-style pho, known as "Pho Bac," typically features a clear and delicate broth, often made from beef bones, and thin rice noodles. The toppings are usually simple, such as thinly sliced beef or chicken, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and a splash of lime or chilli for added flavour.
In contrast, Southern Vietnam, notably Ho Chi Minh City, has its own variation called "Pho Nam." This version is known for its sweeter and spicier broth, often flavoured with Hoisin sauce, sugar, and additional herbs like basil and mint. Accompaniments may include a wider range of meat options, such as tendon, tripe, and meatballs.
While Northern and Southern pho are the most famous regional variations, you can find numerous local adaptations and personalised family recipes throughout Vietnam. The essence of pho, however, remains consistent – a fragrant, nourishing, and comforting noodle soup that has captured the hearts and palates of people around the world.