Pho is probably the most recognizable dish from Vietnam—this noodle soup with its complex broth and exotic herbs, truly represents comfort in a bowl. First appearing during the mid-1880s, this dish is heavily influenced by Chinese and French cooking. Some believe that the name is a Vietnamese corruption of the classic French pot au feu, a slow-cooked beef stew. Though the true origins are murky, it is commonly accepted that the Hanoi region is the birthplace of pho, known locally as pho bac.
Pho bac is characterized by its rich, clear beef broth. Star anise and other spices serve as subtle undertones of flavor rather than complex layers. The main ingredients are rice noodles and thinly sliced rare beef that is cooked quickly in the hot broth. It is typically not topped with the popular garnishes found in the south and outside of Vietnam.
Pho nam uses more spices than its northern counterpart and is the preferred style in the south, especially prevalent in Ho Chi Minh City. Here, non-traditional ingredients are frequently used, such as chicken, seafood, meatballs, tripe, and other cuts of beef. Bean sprouts and herbs are popular garnishes and fish sauce, lime, and hoisin are often used table-side to add flavor—unheard of for a pho bac purist!
If you're interested in trying pho first-hand, learn more about our upcoming expedition to Vietnam.