On the way home from Vloggercon last month we stopped in Langley, BC for the night. We finally found some pho soup:
Pho soup is a traditional Vietnamese noodle dish. It is served as a bowl of white rice noodles in clear beef broth with thin cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket), tendon, tripe, meatballs, chicken leg, chicken breast, other chicken organs (heart, liver, etc.), and other ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander leaves, ngo gai ("saw leaf herb"), mint, basil, lemon or lime, bean sprouts, and chile peppers. The last four items are usually provided on a separate plate, which allows customers to adjust the soup's flavor as they like. Some sauces such as hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and the popular Thai hot sauce, Sriracha, are popular additions as well. Phở can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The broth is generally made by boiling beef (and sometimes also chicken) bones, oxtails, flank steak, and spices, and takes several hours to prepare. Spices include Saigon cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. The noodles, called bánh phở in Vietnamese, are traditionally cut from wide sheets of fresh rice noodles similar to Chinese shahe fen, although dried noodles (also called "rice sticks") may also be used.
Pho originated in northern Vietnam and spread to southern Vietnam in the mid-1950s, after the defeat of the French and the eventual partitioning of the country. The communist government of North Vietnam forcibly closed many private phở businesses in the 1950s, opening government-run eateries in their place, which tended to offer phở of rather inferior quality. Northern Vietnamese fleeing communist rule for South Vietnam introduced phở to their southern counterparts. Unlike in Hanoi in North Vietnam, the phở business flourished in South Vietnam, especially Saigon.
With the arrival of anti-communist Vietnamese exiles and refugees (that is, hailing from South Vietnam) in the post-Vietnam War period, phở was also gradually introduced to Western countries, especially to France and the United States, both of whom were major actors in Vietnam's colonial and post-colonial history. There are also many phở restaurants in Australia and Canada, as these countries also received many Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. Non-refugee Vietnamese immigrants also brought phở noodles to the former Soviet bloc countries, including Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
There are several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called phở bắc or northern phở; or phở Hà Nội), central (Huế), and southern (Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City). One regional phở may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor. "Northern phở" tends to use somewhat wider noodles and green onions. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese generally use thinner noodles (approximately the width of pad Thai or linguine noodles), and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their phở instead.
Cultural practices: Vietnamese phở restaurants usually retain the cultural practice of not delivering the bill to a customer's tables, since it is considered rude—in Vietnamese culture, it is seen as a way of trying to rush the customer out the door. Most tables usually have a numbering system and have chopsticks, spoons and condiment dispensers.
The use of condiments such as chile sauce, hoisin sauce or basil leaves could be considered unorthodox among some consumers.
Styles of phở Some Vietnamese restaurants have begun catering to non-Vietnamese customers by opening in other areas. Adapting to local tastes and diets, some Vietnamese restaurants in the United States have also started making chicken-based phở (phở gà) or even vegetarian phở, in addition to the traditional beef noodle soup. Seafood-based phở has also been known to exist, although it is not considered real phở. Another variation of phở involves using egg noodles instead of rice noodles. There are also Korean and Thai variants of phở available.
Phở tái lăn: Another style of phở which is rare even among Vietnamese is phở tái lăn, served with beef only; the herbs added may vary. Thin slices of beef are char-fried in a wok; the chef puts some oil into the wok and tilts it so that the oil will catch fire and the beef will be fried inside-out (normally when stir-fried, the meat doesn't have direct contact with fire but with the wok instead). In some aspects, this style of phở is better even for Vietnamese and more suitable for the taste of foreigners who are not accustomed to eating raw beef.
oh yeah, also, it's very filling, but if you're really really hungry, get some vietnamese fried spring rolls, they come with lettuce and veggies and a great fish sauce. wrap the spring roll up with mint, sprouts and cucumber in a leaf of lettuce, then dip in sauce. YUMMMMM!
And one more tip for vietnamese: try the iced vietnamese coffee (if you don't mind it sweet), it comes in a little metal filter with sweetened condensed milk, the coffee is generally chicory, and it makes a nice sweet super strong followup to the pho... :)
Pho is probably my number one favorite food. Just the straightforward rare beef version: no balls allowed. I love it so much that I've been known to take 45 minute train rides to Asian neighborhoods to get my hands on some.
When I visited Vietnam a few years ago, I was highly motivated by the idea of Pho for breakfast daily. Alas, it was the year of The Great Formaldehyde Noodle Scare and pretty much every noodle stall all ove rthe country was closed. It was awful.
By the end of the trip I couldn't take it anymore and figured one big bowl of formaldehyde-injected-noodles wouldn't kill me.
Pho is definitely one of our favorites as well, as long as we can get it made for vegetarians and without the bull nuts.
We just moved to a place with lots of Vietnamese restaurants (probably about 20 in a three-miles radius), so I am looking forward to some pho myself. Easy to make as well, as long as you can get tripe, tendons, blood cubes and bull nuts. good stuff!
I've been growing the Asian basil and need to make some Pho before the cold weather sets in. Anyone know where I can buy the large white Pho bowls? (Pasteur Pho at the edge of Boston Chinatown is awesome)
There's a decent sized Asian/Vietnamese/Thai community around where I'm at in Detroit, and they have a couple really nice little "hole in the wall" restaurants they've opened up that serve Pho.
I've recently just gotten completely hooked on the stuff, and find if I go more then 2 weeks without it, I start really feeling a craving for it. I usually order it full out with tripe/tendon etc. (Haven't run across blood pork cubes yet).
Terrified to even see the "Large bowl of Pho"...the standard I swear is as big as my head!
After reading this blog, I know now why they never bring me my check :). I always thought it was kinda awkward...but it makes sense now.