What the phở?! What is this Vietnamese noodle bowl?

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 2.55.26 AMVietnam’s unofficial national dish is phở bò (beef noodle soup) which is associated more with Hanoi, but Saigon has their own version. — Mijune Pak

What the phở?!

Mijune Pak — Westender

No, honestly, what the phở is phở?!

Phở is a Vietnamese noodle soup, but it doesn’t have to be beef, although it is most common in Vancouver. The noodles are rice noodles and a great place will have them fresh. Phở is also regional and the recipe and style varies throughout Vietnam.

I was recently in Vietnam exploring phở, which is actually more popular and associated with Northern Vietnam (eg. Hanoi).

In Northern Vietnam phở is eaten and available all day, although it is common to have it for breakfast. The beef phở doesn’t come with the side plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs or bean sprouts like we’re used to seeing in Vancouver. Instead it comes with a side of chilies, a sprinkle of scallions and perhaps a couple leaves of Vietnamese basil and that’s it. Other Vietnamese noodle bowls may come with the side dish of herbs and sprouts, but with the beef phở, it’s simple. The preferred cut of beef is also the shank, which is served rare. It’s a very tough, chewy and sinewy cut, but the locals enjoy the texture and it’s actually a desired and pricier cut there.

In the north, Chicken phở is as popular as beef, and sometimes the better bet. Chickens and pork make the majority of Vietnam’s livestock industry and they’re usually free-range, fresh and high quality. The clearer the chicken broth, the more well-prepared it is, and hopefully not from being watered down, which is obvious at first bite.

Unlike Northern style phở, the phở in Southern Vietnam (eg. Saigon) is eaten typically for breakfast and sometimes lunch. The beef phở comes with a generous side plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs and bean sprouts. Southern phở is what the majority of Vietnamese restaurants serve in Vancouver. The broth is also sweeter than Northern phở and it’s a different style altogether.

As for topping phở off with Hoisin sauce and Sriracha sauce available at the table, this doesn’t happen in Vietnam. Sure taste is personal and enjoy it how you want, but it’s the equivalent to mixing soy sauce with wasabi and soaking your sushi in it… or in a western context pouring Tabasco all over steak… you get the point right? If the phở is good, skip the sauces and try it the authentic way.

 

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