About 60 or 70 years ago, a typical pho stall was balanced perfectly on the shoulder of man or woman. All the utilities and ingredients were fitted in two bamboo boxes, one was the stove and the pot of broth, flat rice noodle, meat and assorted greens were in several draws in the other. Each box was hung on one end of a bamboo pole and the vendor shouldered the whole tiny “restaurant” to every single street of Ha Noi. Although they usually cried out to advertise pho to potential diners, most people noticed a stall of pho was coming by the mouth-watering aroma emitted by the pot of hot broth. Back then buffalo meat was widely used in pho, beef pho or chicken pho was non-existent. Nowadays, it is extremely hard to find a restaurant that cooks pho in that way.
Types of pho and their variations
There are two basic types of pho pho ga and pho bo. When it comes to beef noodle soup, diners have a wider range of choices sorted by the degree of beef doneness. This is included in the name of pho. Here is the list of types of pho and their variations so that you know exactly what to order to suit your taste:
Pho ga (chicken noodle soup) is divided into regular pho ga and pho ga chat. If you come into a restaurant and call for a bowl of pho ga, your noodle soup would definitely have slices of chicken in it with most bones are removed. If you want more generous amount of meat in your bowl, order pho ga chat instead. A half or a quarter of a chicken is chopped up and put in the bowl, that much meat will surely cover the whole surface of your noodle soup.
A regular bowl of pho ga that you can find anywhere in Viet Nam (Source: Internet)
The most popular types of pho bo are pho chin (sliced well-done steak), bo tai (sliced rare steak), bo nam (flank steak), ve don (crunchy flank steak), gau (fatty brisket) and gan (tendon). Fried beef with garlic is a recent invention and it creates Pho Thin brand on Lo Duc Street. Other choices for pho are eggs, meatballs, and Vietnamese beef bourguignon.
A bowl of pho bo with sliced well-done steak (Source: Internet)
What to eat with a bowl of pho
Pho is generally served with a handful of assorted greens such as basil, sawgrass, scallions, cilantro, and chili. Some people even like to dip some banh quay (a kind of unsweetened donuts) to the broth. Bean sprouts appear in many restaurants but Hanoians rarely put them in pho because of their raw taste. Nowadays, some youngsters, especially men, usually have a few drinks before eating pho, some of you might notice this in a Ha Noi food tour that you have participated in, which is not recommended as it will take away the taste of pho.
A generous squeeze of lime is essential in creating the original taste of pho. If you prefer vinegar over limes, feel free to add it instead. Sometimes replacing limes by kumquats can result in a pleasant flavor as kumquats are not as sour as limes.
A bowl of sliced rare steak noodle soup with wedged limes and assorted herbs (Source: Internet)
If you are a fan of fried beef noodle soup, Pho Thin at 13 Lo Duc street is where you have to go. It is a little far away from the center of Ha Noi but it is definitely worth the distance and the taxi fare.
When in the Old Quarter, remember to pay a visit to a 50-year-old pho restaurant, pho Bat Dan at 49 Bat Dan street. Just look at the queue of local people lined up at the entrance is enough to guarantee the quality and authenticity of pho there.
If you do not mind sitting on a knee-high stool and having no table to put your hot bowl of pho on, not to mention being packed in like sardines on the sidewalk, Pho Bung Hang Trong is a good choice. Many people say that the quality of pho they offer there can make up for its severe lack of convenience. It can be found at number 1 Hang Trong street, opens from 16 p.m to 20 p.m.
Knowing for certain popular types of pho and how to eat it in the right way will surely help you fully enjoy the signature dish of Viet Nam cuisine. To get more information about Hanoi cuisine, browse Hanoi reviews and check out.