Do you know these untold stories of Pho Hanoi?

 “Pho is a special gift of Hanoi, “Pho” does not only appear in Hanoi, but it is only in Hanoi that “pho” has the perfect taste” (said Thach Lam, famous Vietnamese writer)
What is so special about Pho Hanoi that makes it one of the symbol of not only Hanoi’s cuisine but also Vietnamese cuisine? You may have eaten “pho”, but do you know there are still something about this dish you remain untold? Let's find out with me today.

1. Origin of “Pho”

Pho Vietnam

Pho is often thought to be shaped in the early 20th century. Regarding the first appearance in Vietnam, people have two different opinions: some said that Pho originated from Nam Dinh and some said it was Hanoi where “pho” was born.
Although there are many theories about the deep origin of “pho”, there is one thing we know for sure: Pho originated in Northern Vietnam.
This dish then invaded the central and southern regions in the mid-1950s, after the failure of France in Indochina and Vietnam was divided into two regions. Vietnamese in the north who migrated to the south in 1954 carrying "pho" and "pho" began to have the differences

2. Each region has a different flavor of “pho”

“Pho” is considered to be national dish in Vietnam, however, it does not mean that “Pho” has the same taste all over the country.
Today, pho has different processing methods and flavors. In Vietnam, there are names to distinguish them: “Pho Bac” (in the North), “Pho Hue” (in the Central Vietnam) and “Pho Saigon” (in the South). Normally, the North Vietnamese “pho” is characterized by salty taste and pho in the South is sweeter and has many vegetables.
Additionally, the thread of “Pho” in the south is smaller than in the north.

3. Pho used to be eaten without meat – “unmanned pho” ("pho khong nguoi lai")

I guess all of us have been acquainted with the image of a bowl of “pho” with either beef or chicken meat on the top. However, from the mid-1960s to before the 1990s of the 20th century, because of the administrative management of food and foodstuff subsidies, which made it hard to purchase meat, in Hanoi and many northern provinces, there appeared "unmanned pho" ”(Meatless pho).
Also since the subsidy period, in Hanoi, people often have the habit of adding more sodium glutamate to the broth as a substitute for meat to create the sweetness.

4. The cooking phase of the broth is the most important and sophisticated

Pho Vietnam

The broth of Pho is made from the broth of a cow bone. The meat used for pho can be either beef or chicken meat
The broth of Pho must be simmered from the bone of a cow with some spices, the bones must be washed, scraped off carefully. The first boiled broth must be poured out to prevent the broth from being contaminated with the odor of the cow bone. The following broth will be used as broth. Roasted ginger and onions are also added during this second time of boiling the broth.
When the water boils, reduce the heat and remove the bubbles continuously until the broth is clear and there is no bubbles.
Spices usually include: ginger, cardamom, star anise, clove, dried onion.

5. Where is “pho” sold the most?

Hanoi is the place with the highest density of pho in the country. Pho can appear in the most luxurious restaurants or appear on almost every street, alley or even on the street vendors in Hanoi.
Hanoians can eat pho almost all day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, dinner and even for the night. It is easy to catch a “pho” shop in any streets you come across in Hanoi at any time.

6. Be listed as one of the must-try dishes in the world

Pho Vietnam

"Pho" with irresistable taste. By David McKelvey/ Flickr

Travel and culinary site Travel Channel once filled “pho” in the name of “must try in the world” dishes in 2017. Many foreign newspapers also always refer to pho as an unofficial "national cuisine" of Vietnam. Pho is available in all three regions, but Hanoi Pho is still considered the most accurate version.
In 2011, Pho has entered the list of the 50 best dishes in the world voted by CNN, it ranked the 28th in the list, along with Vietnamese spring rolls ranking 30th.

7. Pho was once despised by the rich

According to Vietnamese writer - Nguyen Tuan, because Pho is a popular democratic mannered dish and the shops selling “pho” are very mediocre and makeshift with rustic name, “pho” was once despised by the rich.
In 1918, many wealthy people in Hanoi did not come to eat at the high-end stores in Hang Buom because of certain conditions at that time, then Pho was approached by this class.

8. "Pho" is an inspiration to many writers in Vietnam

In Vietnam, traditional cuisine has always been the inspiration for many writers and poets. Because they want to show their respect to the sophistication and creativity of Vietnamese people in each dish
Pho is no exception. There were some famous writer who have had beautiful lines about “pho” such as Thach Lam, Nguyen Tuan, Vu Bang and Bang Son
Thach Lam wrote “Pho is a special gift of Hanoi, “Pho” does not only appear in Hanoi, but it is only in Hanoi that “pho” has the perfect taste”. While according to Nguyen Tuan “pho” had a soul, “pho” is a magical gift for all Vietnamese people.

9. “Quay” - typical side dish of “Pho” in Hanoi

Pho Vietnam

Crispy "Quay" eaten with "pho". By Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner/ Fickr

While in Southern Vietnam, “pho” is often enjoyed with lots of vegetables and herbs like beansprouts, herbs, cinnamon, coriander in Saigon, the Northern gourmets immediately want to add more “quay” in the bowl rather than vegetables.
“Quay” is a popular food in Asia made from wheat flour, mixed with baking powder, and fried well, it takes the form of a pair of long stick-sized barbones that are small, sticky, and crispy.

10. The variations of traditional “pho”

Pho cuon

"Pho cuon" - a creative and interesting dish 

Having passed for a long history, “pho” has been creatively invented in different cooking methods. Nowadays, there are 2 main variations of “pho”, which are “pho xao” (stir-fried pho), “pho cuon” (pho rolls).

Stir-fried Pho: Pho was established after a period of great economic crisis (1929 - 1933). Flat rice noodles is stir-fried with beef, celery, onions with thick sauce, then it is added with lettuce, carrot, kohlrabi pickled with vinegar. It is believed that this type of “pho” was influenced by French cuisine.
Pho Rolls: The noodles are not sliced into small thread, but are kept as thin large grain, and then rolled with fried beef with some basil. The ingredients remain the same as traditional “pho” but it’s served without broth. Instead, it is dipped with chili vinegar sauce and green papaya.

11. Is traditional flavor of “pho” of the good old days remained?

I am glad to tell you that there are some shops, that have been selling “pho”since the first phases of in the 20th century, still remain nowadays.
There are popular "pho" brands such as: Pho Thin, Pho Ly Quoc Su, Bat Dan. However, the flavor of these shops are not totally the same because of their secret recipes. For examples,  Hang Dong pho is stronger with ginger, more sophisticated with medium-rare beef, while Pho in Bat Dan is sweeter and the vermicelli is softer with very well cooked meat.

12. The celebration day of “pho”

In 2016, the Japanese chose April 4 as the annual Vietnam Pho Day in Japan. April 4 was chosen because the number 4 in English sounds like "pho" to make it easier for people to remember.
In Vietnam, on December 12, 2017, Tuoi Tre newspaper cooperated with Acecook Vietnam organized the first Pho's Day. This will be a traditional activity every year. Since 2018, "Pho's Day" will be organized with a community-based tourism and cultural activity.


We hope that our 12 facts about “pho” – Vietnamese traditional dishes will help you know more not only about this special dish but also about the culture and the history of Vietnam, and maybe make you more interested in discovering all about Vietnamese cuisine. Because not just “pho”, there are still dishes that you might have tried but have not known about their untold facts. 

If you are looing for a place to satisfy your curiosity about Vietnamese cuisine, then Lang Lieu is exactly where you should head to!

Named after the progenitor of Vietnamese cuisine, we dedicate ourselves to providing a special journey back time so that every guest can fully sense Vietnamese culture-rich history through the food we serve. Our menu presents signature traditional dishes in Northern Vietnam, from the Old Quarter of Hanoi to the mountainous North-West and North-East. Also, located right in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Lang Lieu has such a tranquil vibe that you will immediately find peace the moment you step past the door. 

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