As I said before, Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world. The Vietnamese always cook with fresh ingredients. They use sauces, herbs and spices in everything. Seafood and vegetable dishes are aplenty. Oil is sparingly used. Every meal is nutritious, filling, and complete.
And then there’s pho.
Pho is a noodle soup dish made of clear broth, rice noodles, meat, and garnishes like spring onions, bean sprouts, and herbs. Varieties include beef pho, chicken pho, and pho tai (pho topped with sliced raw beef). It’s a complete dish with the right balance of flavors and ingredients. It is also a popular street food enjoyed anytime of the day.
This noodle dish originated in northern Vietnam in the early 20th century. It was sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first pho restaurant opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.
Pho was originally served only with noodles and beef, but variations were created when it was brought to South Vietnam. It was, in turn, introduced worldwide by refugees of the Vietnam War.
Pho was listed at number 28 on CNN GO’s “World’s 50 most delicious foods” in 2011. It is called the national dish of Vietnam, and recognized as a delicacy that “represents the heart and soul of the Vietnamese people.”
I realized that pho is to Vietnam what lugaw is to the Philippines. Never mind what people say about lugaw being a poor man’s soup dish. Both are street food and night food, they are served everywhere, they can be served plain and simple or flavored with the garnish of choice. Both are filling, invigorating, and delicious.
It’s really interesting to see how the cuisines of two different countries can cook up something so similar, yes?
One does not simply slurp and sip his way through a bowl of pho. Pho enthusiasts say there’s a proper way to eat and enjoy this dish.
Pho Fever gives us these tips:
Step One: Season your pho
Sample the broth. If the broth is a little bland to your taste, add a dash of fish sauce. Next, add a sprinkle of black pepper and squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime.
Step Two: Add herbs and sprouts
Add a handful of beansprouts to your pho. Add some Thai basil leaves. Add three to four slices of chili pepper if you want it spicy (or throw everything in if you dare). You may also add coriander, saw herb, onions, or cilantro if available. Remember to submerge everything and any piece of beef that are still pink in the broth.
Step Three: Prepare dipping
Squeeze some hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce into a small saucer (add less sriracha if you don’t like it too spicy). Mix the two sauces together. Your mileage may vary on whether you will add hoisin or sriracha to the broth.
Step Four: Get ready to eat!
Use your chopsticks and spoon to evenly mix all the ingredients in your bowl. Pair pieces of meat with Thai basil, saw herb or a slice of chili, and dip into the dipping mixture. Remember to eat your noodles, meat, and broth alternately.
Step Five: ATTACK!
Admittedly, I haven’t really eaten in any Vietnamese restaurant around Metro Manila. So if you spot a good place where I can enjoy pho and other Vietnamese dishes, tell me so I could see for myself how good it is, okay?