Pho (pronounce fuh)-from the French pot au feu-is the Vietnamese traditional beef noodle soup, which originated
in Hanoi in the 1920-30's. The Vietnamese cooks who worked for the French thought it was a good idea to use the pot au feu
for their families. It could be done simply, cheaply, and in an appetizing way. While the French soup was laden with vegetables
and beef, the cooks modified it by using discarded beef bones, which still gave it a rich meaty smell and texture without the high cost of
beef. In the cool northern climate, pho caught on like wildfire and became the regular household soup for the Vietnamese.
Some people thought pho had a Chinese origin, although it seems unlikely because pho had never been used before by the
Chinese until very recently. Chinese soups like mi and hu tieu were based on the broth of pig, not beef
The northerners brought the pho with them when they migrated South in 1954. However, consuming hot beef noodle soup in a hot
southern environment was not exactly appealing, therefore pho lagged behind the other southern noodle soups like mi
and hu tieu. It was only in the late 1960-70's that the modified southern pho-with the addition of bulky portions of
beef and bean sprouts, cilantro, coriander leaves-took an upward swing.
While pho was completely unknown abroad before the end of the 1970's, its worldwide spread parallels the Vietnamese diaspora.
Wherever Vietnamese would settle, they would open pho stalls-these restaurants that served only pho. Pho thus made
its way to the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, England, Japan and other western countries and metamorphosed into something
completely different from the native version. The noodle and beef portions took on gargantuan sizes. Different types of meat were also
used (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket, tendon, tripe, chicken, meatballs, and now even seafood). A vegetarian pho could also
be ordered . The variety of fresh vegetables like cilantro, basil leaves, bean sprouts, onions, coriander leaves, and lemon
adds a new dimension to the pho. One could easily see how foreigners who visited a pho stall for the first time could be awestruck
when a large bowl of pho and an even larger plate of herbs and vegetables were placed in front of them.