Noodle soup (Phở) is one of the most common foods in Viet Nam . It could easily be called Vietnam’s national dish. Most often served in the early morning, it is available on any street corner, everywhere in Vietnam, all day, and is a staple of most Vietnamese restaurants outside of the country.
Phở appeared the first time at the beginning of the 20th century then was spreaded to Central and Southern Vietnam in the mid 1950s. As for the birthplace of Pho, someone said that it came from China but a couple of theories pointed to the small impoverished village of Van Cu in Nam Dinh province, southwest of Hanoi. However Van Cu villagers don’t know who created Phở. They only know that in 1925, a villager named Vặn became the first person move to Hanoi and open a phở stall on Hang Hanh street. About 70 % — 80 % pho vendors in Hanoi today are from that village. First, there was only beef noodle soup – “pho bò” – and it was hawked around the streets – “Pho gánh”. During the 1940s, eople started to make Phở with chicken because the beef was very rare. At that time, Phở had been become a feature of Hanoi and many people addicted to it.
There are several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called “pho Bắc” or “northern pho” or “pho Hà Nội”), central (Huế) and southern (Saigon). One regional pho may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor. “Northern pho” tends to use some what wider noodles and green onions. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese generally use thinner noodles and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their phở instead.
A famous Vietnamese writer – Mr. Thach Lam (1909 – 1942) considered Phở a delicious speciality food of Hanoi. “There are many pho restaurants around the country, but HaNoi’s pho is the best”, he wrote.
Nowadays, Phở is so popular that it is available on any street corner, everywhere in Vietnam, all day from the early morning to the late night. Almost no street in my city – Hanoi – is without a Pho Restaurant (there are even two “Pho” noodle soup restaurants beside my home). But not every restaurant can satisfy the strict requirements of Hanoian gourmets who eat Pho every morning or late at night during the four seasons
A good bowl of Pho must have tasty yet clear broth, supple but not crumbly noodles, the herbs and spices, and lemon, chili, and onion. The broth is the star of Pho and is in some cases a closely guarded family secret. The flavor of broth must come from simmering the beef (and sometimes chicken) bones, not from seasoning. Noodles must be fresh, soft and plastic. Next, brown beef is dipped into the hot soup, and finally spices, including onion and fines herbs (rau thơm). The southerners love to eat Pho with various types of vegetables like bean sprouts or Thai basil (húng quế) but Hanoian gourmets do not eat it that way. Looking at a bowl of Phở, you can see the white of noodle, the pink of rare beef, the green of herbs and the red of chili peppers… all mixed together. WOW, What a colorful delicious picture !!!
Hanoi’s Phở has a specific flavor that you will never forget if you have an opportunity to taste it. In my opinion, Phở noodle soup made in Hanoi has the special attraction that is found no where else in Vietnam. It’s really different.
Some types of Phở in Hanoi: Pho bò tái (rare beef noodle soup or half done beef noodle soup), Pho bò chín (well done beef noodle soup), Pho bò viên (beef meat balls noodle soup), Pho nạm bò (beef flank noodle soup), Pho sốt vang (beef stew noodle soup), Pho gà (chicken noodle soup), …