Authentic Vietnamese Pho Noodles – A Symbol of Culture and History Abound

Everyone needs to eat. It is a simple fact and has made many entrepreneurs successful in restaurant businesses. There are Vietnamese restaurants throughout the country. Even though this sophisticated cuisine remains largely unknown to the general public. Most popular dish is Pho and is a secret of success in this most popular, challenging, colorful, savory, and time-honored dishes.

Vietnamese cuisine, in general, reflects the influence of a multitude of cultures and histories of the country. China ruled over Vietnam for over 1000 years until A.D 900, but the Vietnamese retain their cooking culture rather than assimilate the Chinese style, leading to a distinctly different cuisine. Mongolian invasions of Vietnam during the thirteenth century also left a lasting imprint on variations of Vietnamese dishes. Then the French arrived, gaining control of the country in the 1887 incorporating Vietnam into the French empire (1887-1954). The Japanese would occupy Viet Nam during World War II.

Contacts with Vietnam’s Southeast Asian neighbors are Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand and all including Vietnam had been under the cultural influence of Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, and Portuguese. Vietnamese cuisine remains original and distinctive from others with its unique characteristics like using fish sauce (nuoc mam), or always having fresh herbs and vegetables to put in soups or as a side dish.

Pho, also called Pho Hanoi or Pho Bac, is one of the most popular northern specialty dishes. Pho is made with beef, chicken or seafood, but I prefer beef. I will share a recipe below. Pho is a typical comfort food that most people order when they go to Vietnamese restaurants. In fact, Pho is a street vendor’s food in Vietnam and can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anytime in between with many different sizes. Hearty, fortified noodle soup is a wake-up call for early morning, with multiple textures of hot broth, fresh ingredients, tender beef slices, chewy rice noodles, and crunchy bean sprouts. These items demonstrate the uniqueness all in one bowl.

Beef Pho (can make with chicken also) is made with the spiced beef stock, poured over fresh rice noodles and paper-thin slices of raw beef in a bowl. It is hauntingly fragrant and lightly spicy with cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger, fennel, and nutmeg. A side platter full of fresh basil, cilantro (long, saw-leaf herb), fresh mung bean sprouts, onions, chilies peppers, lime juice, get put together with all the other Pho ingredients at the table when it’s time to eat. These go on top and added while serving as accompaniment and garnish the soup as desired.

Better yet, this is a soup made to order, put together as you wish and hastily consumed with both hands. Let the eating begin, with chopsticks in one hand and a soup spoon in the other. The long noodles are lifted out releasing the steam, and it is proper to slurp, a natural reaction to eating this hot soup. The slurping helps to cool the noodles just enough to make it possible to swallow them. Together with the noodles, the pieces of meat or seafood are plucked from the broth and dipped into the Hoisin and Sriracha sauce. This sauce is served side by side in a small dipping bowl
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