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What exactly is pho? I know it's a type of vietnamese cuisine.

What does a bowl of pho typically consist of?

What are the bare requirements to consider it pho?

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2 Answers

Full disclosure — I'm not Vietnamese :-)

The word "pho" (actually "Phở") is a corruption of the French word "feu", as in "Pot au Feu", the dish that it can claim as its ancestor. (That's from a Smithsonian Magazine article about Vietnamese food from sometime in the past few years.)

It's a stock-based brothy soup, usually with at least onions and rice noodles and often (by customer choice) one or more meat additions. Sometimes the meat is added raw to the boiling hot soup immediately before serving. The dish is almost always served with a side platter of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, sliced-up chiles, and lime. The herbs are usually something like mint, Thai basil, and cilantro (or equivalent).

It's not a super-fancy dish, and to my knowledge there's no International Phở Licensing Board, so the rules as to what is and isn't "correct" are probably pretty loose. I've had an awesome veggie-broth Phở, for example.

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Note also the French-derived pronunciation, as explained in this helpful youtube video. –  Erik P. Aug 30 '11 at 5:11
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Without repeating or copying from wiki, I reckon the article from wiki is pretty good http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BB%9F

I have had pho at home before and I think the bare requirements are

  • Beef or chicken stock
  • Rice noodles (thin)
  • Beef or chicken or even just beef balls
  • bean sprouts
  • some mint or basil

optional

  • small amount of fine sliced onion
  • very small amount of chilli
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Pho is wonderful, a must try, at least once. Typical additions are as stated previously and things like tendon, thin sliced beef, tripe and probably many other things I haven't seen. If you get a chance try it. There are usually condiments like fish sauce, hot sauce or hot oil, soya and again probably others I haven't seen. Don't be afraid of the strangeness, it's all very tasty. –  Frankie Aug 30 '11 at 0:54
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