Foundations of Phở
Making excellent phở require two key ingredients— fresh rice noodles (bánh phở) and a savory soup stock. Our rice noodles are made fresh from the finest white rice available, and mass-produced to our strict specifications based on our traditional family recipe. The rich, vibrant broth is produced after long hours of simmering in pot of stock, flavored by our unique blend of Asian spices. This process follows a family recipe passed down from parent to child for many generations. Recently, we took this recipe and enhanced it for large-scale production. We didn’t stop there, refining it further to reduce fat content, but retain the distinct flavors and aromas unique to Vietnamese Phở. This effort was so successful that it has been adopted for use in upscale restaurants, hospitals, and other institutional dining facilities, serving Vietnamese and Asian-style dishes. Traditionally, phở is a breakfast dish. Today, it has evolved as a dish that can be eaten anytime of the day or night. It’s perfect for a quick lunch, afternoon snack, light evening meal, bed-time snack, or even as “pick-me-up” meal after a night out on the town.
Assembling a bowl is quite easy. The noodles are placed in a bowl and topped with your choice of beef, chicken, seafood, or our unique meatless, vegetarian-tofu medley. Steaming savory phở is then added. Thinly sliced onions are added and adorned with scallions and cilantro. The phở is served to you with generous amounts of bean sprouts, lime wedges, basil, and sliced chilies. Add a dash of nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce) or a generous dollop of Hoisin sauce to tantalize your taste buds, if you dare. When you get your bowl of steaming phở, take a moment to savor the fragrant bouquet of cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and other exotic essences emanating from the soup. Before adding accoutrements, sip that flavorful broth and immerse your palate in a myriad of delicate, yet complex tastes. You have just experienced an authentic Vietnamese noodle soup from Heavenly phở.
Phở History – The Origins of Phở
Pho 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 “pho” is derived from “pot a 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 South and North Vietnam. As the dish moved south, cooks infused it with additional ingredients until it evolved into the version that is commonly erred today.
Regional Phở 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.
What are the classic dishes?
Pho (aka soup).
In some ways, this is the national dish. It consists of rice noodles, broth and thin strips of beef, chicken or pork, served at the table with bean sprouts, fresh herbs and hot sauce so you can doctor the soup the way you like it. There are also varieties of pho that use tofu, seafood and many meats.
Goi Cuon (aka summer rolls).
Made up of thin sheets of rice dough that are wrapped around anything from veggies to minced pork, diced shrimp to bean thread noodles, or a combination thereof, and always served cold or at room temperature. Goi cuon are often served with peanut butter sauce, a sweet pasty condiment, familiar as the stuff slathered into the pancakes for moo shoo pork. In the United States, summer rolls are an appetizer; in Vietnam, they’re a main course.
Bun (aka noodle salads).
The ingredients of this dish include shredded and grilled meat or shrimp with thin rice noodles served over a bed of salad greens, topped by you at the table with the usual herb/hot sauce condiments. Bun is often sprinkled with copious chopped roasted peanuts, so ask for these on the side to make this a healthier choice.
Nuoc man (aka fish sauce)
Fish sauce is eaten daily with meals as an additive or a dipping sauce and usually not eaten in its pure form, but diluted with water, lemon juice, minced garlic, sugar and small slices of chili pepper. Derived from potent fermented fish, it is high in protein and iron, fish sauce is very healthy for blood circulation. As westerners are used to adding salt, pepper or condiments like ketchup, mustard and salsa; Vietnamese can’t even start to eat if there’s no fish sauce to dip their food in.
Dau Hu (aka tofu).
Tofu Rich in calcium and vitamin E, tofu it’s the vegetarian’s choice for meat substitutions. Soy and its extracts are known to prevent cancer and osteoporosis. Did you know that tofu in large quantities is also known cause impotence? This might be more than a coincidence for monks who eat it regularly and wish to avoid unwanted emotions known to be aroused by eating meat.
Banh Cuon (aka rice crepes).
This is a hot dish, made from thin sheets of rice pancakes wrapped around minced pork, scallions, chiles, aromatics, herbs or a host of other fillings outlined in your menu. Sometimes, bahn cuon are topped with cha lua; a lean, smooth-textured, sliced pork sausage, but it’s always served with fish sauce as the tableside condiment. In the west, it too is an appetizer; in Vietnam, it’s breakfast.
Nem Nuong (aka grilled meatballs).
This classic dish is made of ground pork and gobs of spices rolled into balls, skewered and grilled. At the table, you pull them off the skewers, set them in lettuce leaves, add various herbs and condiments, and roll the leaves up, like making a lettuce-wrap burrito.
Bo Luc Lac (aka shaky beef).
A stir-fry of shredded beef, this dish also includes hoisin sauce, fish sauce, sugar and chiles. It’s a Chinese-influenced dish, so if you like Chinese food, this is a good starting point for exploring Vietnamese food.
Cơm (aka rice)
Rice is synonymous with the word meal and it’s no mistake since rice is the staple of every meal. Rice is eaten in many shapes and forms such as long grain, rice noodle and rice paper to name a few. The Vietnamese jokingly say that Pho is your girlfriend as rice is your wife signifying the sanctity of rice in this culture. I once heard my friend even say that her mom goes through withdrawal if she doesn’t eat rice for 1 day. It is certainly comforting, gives people energy by serving as the carbohydrate base of every meal.