How to Make Delicious Authentic Pho

Pho (pronounced fuh) has been enjoying a surge in popularity in recent years. According to Google’s 2016 food trends report, which is compiled using data frоm search inquiries, pho is most commonly searched for in January and experienced an 11 percent increase in search frequency every year frоm 2013 to 2016. Its popularity has been growing for good reason; pho is a delicious, filling soup that’s really satisfying and comforting

This exquisite Vietnamese rice noodle soup isn’t an ancient tradition – in fact its origins date back to the turn of the 20th century. The spread of pho’s popularity to the rest of the world is often credited to refugees who fled their home country in the aftermath of the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Chicken and beef pho tend to be the most common varieties. Pho’s initial popularity was fueled in part by a higher demand for beef in Vietnam when it was a French colony. This had the side effect of creating a market for the beef bones that were left over, which were popular among the country’s Chinese workers who were fond of a Pho-like Chinese soup known as ngưu nhục phấn.1

Pho, in the style we would recognize today, was initially sold by street vendors who carried mobile kitchens on carrying poles. On one end of the pole swung a cabinet that carried a small wood fire with a cauldron hanging above it. On the other end was another cabinet that contained noodles, spices, cookware and even a space to prepare the pho.2

It sounds like a borderline unbelievable setup but you can actually find a significant bit of photographic historical evidence to see these elaborate mobile pole-based kitchens for yourself.

Life for pho vendors in Vietnam has not been an easy one, and not just because they had to literally shoulder the weight of their entire operation. In North Vietnam, private ownership of businesses and all forms of capitalism were banned in the 1950s, which made mobility an absolute necessity to avoid unwanted legal attention.3

Ordering pho in Vietnam could also be a complicated process due to the diversity of potential ingredients. Some vendors offered more than a dozen different meat options, frоm chopped beef patty and rare steak to beef tripe and chicken innards.

The noodles, traditionally, are medium-width rice noodles. The broth is generally cooked by simmering oxtails, flank steak and beef bones with charred onion, charred ginger and a spice blend. Pho is also traditionally garnished with a lot of greens and herbs, such as green onion, thai basil, bean sprouts and cilantro.4

That Sounds Delicious – But How Do I Make Pho at Home?

Getting the broth right is one of the most important parts of good pho, but not everyone has the hours or even days it can sometimes take to make really authentic pho broth. First, you need to decide whether you want authentic or fast and convenient pho. Don’t despair, however, because fast can still be delicious.

For fast pho, you’ll want to use traditional beef stock that you can pick up at your neighborhood supermarket. Simmer in onions, ginger, spices, soy sauce and just a dash of fish sauce to make it taste more like traditional pho.

In addition to stock, you will likely want to include actual beef as well. In general, a cut that cooks quickly without being chewy is best, which is why many people choose round eye, London broil or sirloin steak for their pho.

You’ll also want to cook the rice noodles separately, not in the broth. Cooking rice noodles isn’t all that different frоm cooking rice or traditional wheat noodles, but because they can be more fragile, they should be stirred gently.

For preparation, you’ll want to put the noodles in the bowl first as the bottom layer. Some people who have a lot of experience making pho will put very thin cuts of raw beef on top of the noodles and then pour the piping-hot broth on top of the beef to cook it. If you’re worried about consuming raw meat, which we understand, you can slightly cook the beef ahead of time. If you do put raw beef on the noodles first, make sure it is thin enough to be adequately cooked by the broth – and make sure the broth is very hot before pouring.

After you’ve poured the broth over the noodles, you’ll want to load up your bowl with fresh herbs and veggies. Bean sprouts, scallions, chili peppers, thai basil and green onions are all popular options.

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