Thursday, 1 December 2011


“Phở” is the national dish in Vietnam, which can be served all day, not specifically for breakfast or lunch. That came to the attention of people in the world as a classic food of Vietnamese people, which must be tried once you visit there.  
So what is “Phở” originally?

Pho was originated from North Vietnam in the beginning of the twentieth century, when French colonials brought the beef to this country. The familiar image of this dish is the ceramic bowl with the hot steam from the soup and “Phở” noodle topped with tender slices of beef or chicken. “Phở” is the perfect comfort food-warm and healthy green herbs and particular spices in “Phở”.

There has not been any record about the “Phở”, but it has been spreading the word from the elderly, thus leading to the variety of tailor recipes throughout the years. It cannot be expected to have a similar taste from two bowls of Pho at two different restaurants.  

Initially, I would like to tell you the story of the name “Phở”. Exactly, where did it come from? That could be actually from the French soup “pot au feu” or the French beef stew during the time the country was colonized by France, according to the general theory. Then, due to varied resources from the nature, the Vietnamese did create and try out what they had to adapt the French soup for their appropriate dish which tasted stronger. Hence, they still used the French word “Feu” to name the dish but with a Vietnamese accent “Phở”. In Vietnamese language, there are many words based on other languages, mostly on French language because of the French colony’s impact.

Anyhow, it is popular with the name “noodle soup”, something of a misnomer.  I preferred the name “Vietnamese noodle” in international way or original Vietnamese name “Phở”. You can combine both names to make it clearer when ordering it in the restaurant because it is not simply a type of soup as a side dish. “Phở” is a noodle dish or even the main course, itself.

In a minute of surfing the internet, you can find a lot of recipes of this dish as simply made with beef or chicken, special rice noodle and various spices of herbs from the top. Certainly, it might not really capture the rich and the sense of what it has had. The essence of cooking process is not at the tender beef slices, but at the liquid soup and the chewy rice noodle. The delicious taste can only be achieved by simmering bones in water with low heat for at least three hours, at which the natural and pure sweet will come from marrow bones of a cow. More than that, the appetizing aroma of “Phở” is the sprigs of fresh basil, mint, and unmissable “cilantro”. Bean sprouts, chilies and fresh squirts of lime also are added for a burst of flavor.

At the very least, we have dissimilar tastes from different regions along the length of Vietnam, respectively, between the Northern part and the Southern part. Variation also depends on what type of pho is being prepared. I cannot count how many times I have eaten Pho since I was born, but I think I will get different taste when I have it again.  So techniques in cooking vary from chef to chef, or from time to time.

“Phở” is the food but also is the soul of Vietnamese people. It reflects the heritage and the way of life. In some articles, it has been mentioned as a “street” food, signifying serving outside on the street rather than serving it inside the restaurant as in this modern life. Nevertheless, there are still many outside-serving food places on the street in Vietnam, with an affordable price and really good quality. How great it is when having a hot bowl of “Phở” when sitting outside in the cold weather. It just makes you feel warm and refreshing inside.

Today, wherever you are in the world, in Asia, America, or Europe, or Australia, it is for sure that you can find the restaurant that serves Pho as well. Or it is modernized much more by “Phở” takeaway in the United Kingdom, I have never imagined before. 

Adapted from:

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