February 22, 2020

A Brief History of the Vietnamese Noodle Soup Pho

Recently, you have scrolled through your phone and come across this delicious looking noddle dish they call pho. It looks and sounds delish, but you wonder, what is pho?

The history behind this Vietnamese noodle soup is as exciting as the dish looks like. Hopefully, when you hear about it, you’ll find yourself even more eager to get a taste of the classic pho. Pho was believed to have originated in North Vietnam, in the regions of Hanoi and Nam Dinh.

It said to have begun its humble beginnings in the late 1880s after the French colonization. The word “pho” was believed to be a derivative of the French word “feu,” which means fire. This believed-history of the name of the dish also led people to think that the noddle soup maybe a local take of au feu, a French stew pot.

The current pho dish is a Vietnamese soup made with banh pho noodles, bone-beef broth, thinly sliced beef, some bean sprouts, and herbs. Some people may confuse it with the Japanese ramen because the ingredients seem the same.

The difference is that the pho soup uses rice noodles while ramen uses wheat noodles. As one of the national dishes of Vietnam, pho reflects the daily life, heritage, and culture of the Vietnamese people.

Pho Noodle Soup Varieties

This dish is famous for its effortlessness while offering complex flavours – a combination that gets the West really into it. Note that there are different varieties of pho with pho bac (the one that came from Northern Vietnam) as the original version. It is made of rice noodles, broth, and the thinly sliced beef.

When many northern Vietnamese people moved to the South to escape from their home’s communist rule, pho nam (the southern Vietnam version) was created.

Pho nam is one of the most common variety is pho nam. Its broth is flavoured using many different spices. Also, it uses plenty of fresh herbs such as basil, bean sprouts, and cilantro to season.

Given it is a convenient dish to make and sell, many vendors sold it on the streets of southern Vietnam, making it even more popular. When Saigon fell, many Vietnamese people fled to various corners of the world, leading to it easily found in places outside of the country. Other varieties of pho are:

• Pho ga – chicken pho

• Pho chay – vegetarian pho.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that not all noddle soup dishes originating from Vietnam are called pho. Some of the noodle dishes in Vietnam make look like it, but they are different when it comes to flavours and kind of noodles.

Pho uses Banh pho noodles, which are flat rice noodles. Now you know the things that make pho a unique noodle soup even among Vietnamese noodle soup dishes.

Now, let us find out how to make your own classic pho nam soup.

The ingredients, materials used, and step by step procedure are in the rest of this article.

PHO – Classic Viet Noodle Soup

Author: tramvietnam


  • Materials Used:


Main Dish

  • Pho noodles 2 bags (into 8 bowls)
  • Sirloin 500g, thinly cut against the grain
  • Thinly sliced onion 1
  • Thinly cut stalk scallions into rings, 3
  • Sprigs coriander leaves 3
  • Ground black pepper

Pho Broth

  • 2.5 kg Beef leg and shin bone, cut into thick slices of about 2cm
  • 1/2 kg Beef brisket cut into pieces of about 10cm
  • 600 g Onions split in half 3-4 medium-sized
  • 200 g Ginger split in half lengthwise, approx. 12cm long
  • 10 cm Cinnamon stick
  • 20 star points Star anise
  • 10 Cloves
  • 30 g Rock sugar
  • Salt 35g
  • Fish sauce 60g
  • Coriander seeds 2 teaspoons
  • Fennel seeds 2 teaspoons


  • Thinly cut bird’s eye chili into rings
  • 200 g bean sprouts
  • 1 Sprig Thai basil
  • 1 Sprig spearmint
  • 1 Sprig cilantro
  • Cut lime into wedges, 2
  • 200 g Fish sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha


Step by Step Procedure:

  • Making the pho noodle soup is easy, but it will take some time. Your Vietnamese noddle soup will probably be ready around 8 to 9 hours since you will be preparing the broth first for 7 to 8 hours. It is time-consuming, so it’s recommended that you make large batches of the broth and simply refrigerate them for when you make pho noodle soup again. In any case, below are the steps to make your authentic pho noodle soup.

Preparing the Pho Broth

  • Set the flame of your stove or burner to high heat then put a wire cooling rack over it. On the rack, put ginger and onions. Turn them over from time to time for around 10 to 15 minutes. Do this until their skin is a little bit blackened. Set them aside.
  • Next is to make the broth. First, put the bones into the pot immersing them with cold water. Turn on the heat of the stove to high, bringing the pot into a boil. Let the pot boil for about 5 minutes so that all impurities from the bone are released. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down and tip the pot over to get the bones. Rinse them under warm water to remove any debris.
  • Using another stockpot or after cleaning the one you just used, put the bones back with enough cold water so that they are immersed. Just like before, bring it to boil, so that all impurities are released. In this step, skim the impurities off on the water’s surface for the 15 minutes you let the bones boil. This way, you can get a clean, clear broth for the soup. When the broth is relatively clean, reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  • Next, add the ingredients – charred onions and ginger, the brisket, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, salt, sugar, and fish sauce.
  • With all these inside the pot, let it simmer gently for around 1 to 2 hours without covering it.
  • Once the brisket is tender, you can remove it and set it aside, letting it cool down using cold water. Drain before refrigerating it to use for later.
  • As for the broth, let it simmer for another 3 to 4 hours. Add more water as much as needed to make sure the bones remain immersed.
  • When you are done simmering the broth, take a fine strainer to get the spices and bones. The broth is likely too little now after too much boiling, so adjust it to become 4 liters while also removing oil from the surface. Taste and adjust the seasoning with rock sugar, salt, and fish sauce if you want to.

Making the Noodle Soup

  • Take the rice noodles and blanch in boiling water. Do so for about 20 seconds then put the noodles in a strain before transferring into a bowl. Bring out the brisket you set aside, putting a few pieces on top of the noodles, along with raw sirloin.
  • While the broth is still boiling, get the ladle and bring some over the raw meat, noodles, and other ingredients of the soup.
  • To top it all, garnish with coriander and spring onion. Serve hot along with basil, bean sprouts, and lime or any side dish of your choice.
  • This recipe is enough to make 8 bowls of delicious pho noodle soup you can enjoy with friends and family. With its rich, flavorful broth and tasty brisket plus nutritious noodles, pho is a wonderful dish to have on your table.
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