Update: 10:28 | 04/02/2019
Vietnamese pho has been named the world’s 20th best food experience by world travel guide book publisher the Lonely Planet.
Pho on the Hau River along 500 other dishes was selected as for the book Ultimate
Vietnamese pho has been named the world’s 20th best food experience.
Entries were nominated by Lonely Planet writers, bloggers
There are many theories regarding Pho’s origin. Some say it started as a variation on pot-au-feu, a French beef stew dish. Others believe it’s the heir to a Chinese beef noodle soup or to a traditional Vietnamese dish of noodles with buffalo meat. What is certain is that “pho”, a simple yet deceptively complex dish of noodles served with beef or chicken in a hot bowl of broth, has become Vietnam’s pride on the world map of cuisine.
Though its origins are disputed, historians believe “pho” was first made popular in Hanoi and Nam Dinh, two major northern cities, during the French colonial period. And we know that “pho” wasn’t invented in a restaurant. It began life on the side of the road, on the shoulders of street vendors who wandered the city with a big pot of both, always kept hot and ready with their mobile stoves. It was reinvented many times by vendors and home cooks with ingredients that were available to even the poorest, and it was shaped by the country’s turbulent history.
Until the 19th century, Vietnam was still largely an agricultural country. Cows were raised not as a source of food but to help out with land cultivation and rice farming. In order to protect the animals’ utility as farming aides, slaughtering them for meat was strictly forbidden and perpetrators were heavily punished if caught. At the beginning of the country’s French colonial period, consuming beef was a foreign practice. Locals either couldn’t afford it or had no desire to try it.
By the 20th century, attitudes towards beef had changed, as people flocked to cities where they worked in offices and factories instead of fields. “Pho” became popular as successful street vendors opened their stores in big cities across the country. As if dictated by some rule, most stores are named after their founders in a single word, such as “Pho Hien”, “Pho Thin” or “Pho Co”.
Though beef was once the most distinctive aspect of the dish, the most critical aspect is the broth. It’s always the first thing people taste when they tuck into a bowl. A good broth must be clear. It should carry the scent of herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, onion
“Pho” with chicken has a gentler aroma.
When it comes to the broth,
Since the original “pho” was made with beef, some die-hard fans insist there is no other way to eat it. But “pho” with chicken has an interesting story of its own. In the early days of “pho”, beef was a rarity and there wasn’t enough to go around every day of the week. In the old days, “pho” stores closed on Mondays and Fridays because there was no supply of beef. People got creative, however, and invented “pho” with chicken.
“Pho” with beef has a strong flavor from the cow bones. “Pho” with chicken has a gentler aroma and may come with fatty or lean chicken. Each has their own merits.