The Origins of Pho

Phở was born in Northern Vietnam during the mid-1880s. The dish was heavily influenced by both Chinese and French cooking. Rice noodle and spices were imported from China; the French popularized the eating of red meat. In fact, it is believed that "phở" is derived from "pot au feu" a French soup. Vietnamese cooks blended the Chinese, French and native influences to make a dish that is uniquely Vietnamese.

From North to South

The popularity of pho spread southwards starting in 1954 when the country was divided into North and South Vietnam. As the dish moved south, cooks infused it with additional ingredients until it evolved into the version that is commonly served today.

Regional Pho Variations

The origins of pho as a Northern dish that spread South explains the key differences between the Northern and Southern variations. Northern style pho tends to be simpler and is made with less ingredients. There are fewer cuts of meat and small slices of ginger are laid on top of the soup. The pho is served without bean sprouts or herbs. Instead, it is accompanied by green chilies and lime only. Southern style pho is a complex dish made from a dozen ingredients. Bean sprouts, fresh basil and saw herb are typically served with each bowl. As with the Northern style pho, green chilies and lime are used as condiments.

Pho in the United States

Refugees fleeing Vietnam in the Spring of 1975 brought with them their hopes and dreams of a better life. They also brought their cultures and cuisine, of which pho has become the most popular among Americans. Today there are almost 2,000 pho restaurants spread across the United States and Canada. One typically finds Southern style pho served although a few outlets also serve Northern style pho. Typical establishments sell pho and other Vietnamese dishes like goi cuon (spring rolls) and cha gio (eggrolls).

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Pho Menu Guide
Pho Primer
Pho Bowl Sizes