Phở (properly pronounced fuh – rhymes with duh) is the food most associated with Vietnam. On Tully Road in San Jose, CA (the heart of Little Vietnam) there are literally hundreds of pho restaurants to choose from, ranging from occasionally sublime to sometimes horrifying.
While I love pho, getting a proper bowl of it nowadays isn’t that easy. It involves a long several hour reduction of the stock, charring a number of ingredients over open flame and then skillfully layering the seasoning flavors of warm spices and above all avoiding the dreaded MSG used in most restaurant soups.
A properly made pho is a thing of wonder – I personally prefer the South Vietnamese style that is typically served in this country with herbs and lots of additions to the soup / noodle mix. North Vietnamese pho is all about the stock and eschews the additions.
FYI – The general theory held by most Vietnamese culinary experts is that the word “pho” is a corruption of the French “feu” or “fire.” Pho could be a Vietnamese adaptation of the French soup “pot au feu” or French beef stew, which the French brought to Vietnam when they came to rule the country.
“Pot au feu” literally means “pot on the fire,” signifying the long hours required to create the soup. Just like with pho, beef bones are used to make the broth of the pot au feu.
Another similarity that pot au feu shares with pho is the fact that ginger and onions are also roasted in an open flame before they are added to flavor the broth.
So – regardless of origin, please enjoy my version of this delicious Vietnamese dish. Note that my recipe uses one highly unorthodox ingredient.
I use a Chinese roast duck to flavor the stock in addition to beef because to my taste, it really adds to the richness of the broth. You can easily omit it and increase the beef accordingly for a truly authentic pho.
Battle on – the Generalissimo