What is Pho?
Pho (phở) is a brothy Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is either made from beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà) and spiced with 2 main ingredients: star anise and cinnamon. Variations of pho may also have cloves and charred gingers and onions. Pho originated from Northern Vietnam (Phở Bắc) in the early 20th century but can now be found all over the world due to the large migrations of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants since after the Vietnam War.
After the 1954 Geneva Conference, Vietnam was divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese who migrated south in escape of Communism took their beloved pho with them. Over time, that pho picked up the southern taste and became a little sweeter at the same time gaining garnishes like bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, lime, hoisin sauce, and chili sauce (Phở Nam).
Since most Vietnamese Americans were from South Vietnam, American pho is the Phở Nam variant with a lot of the same garnishes but with clearer, less fatty broth to appeal to the American palate.
Some believe pho is served in Vietnam for breakfast, but in truth it can be enjoyed anytime of the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even midnight snacks. Pho is also the best hangover cure. Pho makes everybody happy. It is truly the best comfort food.
Pho and Popular Culture
One of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites, pho is unmistakably part of American popular culture and is mentioned everywhere in sitcoms, movies, and on social medias. In Vietnam, the Best Ever Food Review Show featured pho that costs $100 a bowl. Here in America, Kevin Can Wait has perhaps pho’s most widely shared sitcom skit on social media. Pho then is by far the most popular Vietnamese food in America.
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