Ingredients and preparation Pho is served as a bowl of white rice noodle in clear breef broth, with thin cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations featuring tendon, tripe, meatballs, chicken leg, chicken breast, or other chicken organs (heart, liver, tongue, etc.) are also available.
With the lot (made with chicken broth and all or most of the shops chicken and cattle offering, including chicken hearts and livers and beef tripe and tendons) is generally rendered tai pin lu and, in Anglophonic countries, often left translated. Blood jelly is sometimes included in tai pin lu and other varieties.
Broth : The broth is generally made by simmering beef (and sometimes chicken) bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, and spices, taking several hours to prepare. Seasonings include Saigon cinnamon, star anise, charred ginger, cloves, and sometimes black cardamom pods .
Noodles :The noodles, called Banh Pho 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.
Garnishes :The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, coriander leaves (cilantro), Ngo Gai (culantro, or long coriander), Thai basil, lemon or lime wedges, and bean sprouts. The last five items are usually provided on a separate plate, which allows customers to adjust the soups flavor as they like. Some sauces such as hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and the Thai hot sauce Sriracha, are popular additions as well.
The herb Ngo Om (Limnophila aromatica) is sometimes added as well. For the pho connoisseur, other garnishes which may be ordered on the side include Hanh Tran (the white “bulb” portion of scallions, blanched in boiling broth) and Hanh Giam (sliced white onions with a dash of vinegar). These are only brought to the table when specifically requested, as opposed to the general platter of greens and lime wedges. The diner typically squeezes a few drops of lime juice onto the vinegared onion slices before eating them. The Hanh Tran and Hanh Giam, when eaten with the beef slices, are believed to cut the fattiness and balance the strong beef aroma that some find overpowering.
Origins and regional differences
Pho originated in northern Vietnam and spread to southern and central Vietnam in the mid-1950s, after the defeat of the French and the eventual partitioning of the country. It is likely that pho came into being around 1910-1912, early enough in the new century. The communist government of North Vietnam forcibly closed many private pho businesses in the 1950s, opening government-run eateries in their place. Northern Vietnamese fleeing communist rule for South Vietnam introduced Pho to their southern counterparts. Unlike in Hanoi in North Vietnam, the Pho business flourished in South Vietnam, especially Saigon. There are conflicting beliefs as to how Pho came to be. Some believe it originated from French methods used in bouillon or consommé cooking. Oxen were valued work animals and were rarely eaten, but the arrival of the French had probably prompted servants to prepare a dish that suited the French palate. It is even said that Pho, or at least the etymological derivation of that name for the dish, came from the French beef stew dish pot-au-feu, with Pho being a Vietnamization of the word feu. The broth for pot-au-feu, as it is for pho, is prepared with a bouquet garni containing spices such as cloves and black pepper. Another word for Pho, used in Vietnam while Chinese was still the national written language, is Ha Phan ,the original name for the rice noodles originating in the town of Shahe, Guangdong.
Others believe that Pho possible origins more likely lie in China. China had ruled over Vietnam for over a millennium and greatly influenced Vietnamese culture, including cuisine. Cooking ingredients used in Pho, such as spices also seen in Chinese cooking (see five-spice powder and red cooking), as well as the use of rice noodles, are all Chinese influences. With the arrival of anti-communist Vietnamese exiles and refugees (that is, hailing from South Vietnam) in the post-Vietnam War period, Pho was also gradually introduced to Western countries, especially to France and the United States.There are also many Pho restaurants in Australia and Canada, as these countries also received many Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. Vietnamese immigrants also brought Pho noodles to the former Soviet bloc countries, including Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
There are several regional variants of Pho in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called Pho Bac or “northern Pho”; or Pho Hà Nội, central (Hue), and southern (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon). One regional Pho may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor “Northern Pho” tends to use somewhat wider noodles and green onions., and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their Pho instead.