Viet Nam’s special soup called pho

Writers who travel to different countries have often written that the soup in Viet Nam, known as pho, is very special.

People in Viet Nam also believe it is very special.

There was once even a conference to discuss everything about how important pho is in people’s lifestyles.

Bo-wl of heaven: A bowl of pho bo (noodle soup with beef). Vietnamese pho was recommended by Huffington Post as one of 12 dishes travellers should try. – VNS Photos Khanh Chi

by Nguyen Khanh Chi

HA NOI (VNS) — A favourite dish of the Vietnamese people, the pho noodle soup, has been recommended as a “bowl of heaven” by The Huffington Post, a US newspaper website.

The online newspaper lists the dish as one of the most delicious foods people should discover while travelling abroad. Simply a combination of broth, fresh rice noodles, thinly sliced beef or chicken, with a sprinkle of aromatic herbs, pho is ranked 11 out of the list of top 12 foods.

“There are many delectable treats out there, to be sure. Here’s just a sampling of some delicacies whose truest, most scrumptious forms you will only come across while travelling,” the online newspaper wrote last week.

The noodle soup is typically associated with the capital city, as the late Vietnamese writer Thach Lam made clear in one of his works in the 1930s on local cuisine:

“Pho is a specialty of Ha Noi. You can taste it in other places. But the pho is better in Ha Noi than anywhere else.”

Visit the capital, especially in the early morning, and you’re likely to see people queuing up and sitting on plastic stools at street stalls for a hot bowl of pho.

Breakfast choice

The dish has become a breakfast favourite for the majority of local residents, as well as some foreign expats.

“I have eaten pho since I was a little boy; I could have it every morning, as well as any time of the day,” said 40-year-old Hanoian Bui Tuan Hai, a resident living in the city’s Old Quarter.

“I have tasted pho in other cities like HCM City, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Brisbane, but the taste is completely different from Ha Noi’s pho.

“The dish is not simply a type of food, but a culture that I miss the most whenever I am far away from the city.”

For Canadian restaurant owner Donald Berger, a good bowl of Ha Noi pho bo (beef noodle) or pho ga (chicken noodle) for breakfast is a great way to start the day with his Vietnamese wife and their son.

“Pho is light, not fattening yet nutritious, delicious and fragrant with Vietnamese spices. It is also really good for lunch and late night,” said the chef patron at Don’s.

“Vietnamese have a funny saying about rice and pho: Rice is like the wife you have at home, but pho is best outside (meaning the mistress!),” he added, showing his deep understanding of Vietnamese cuisine and culture.

It is the number one choice among 40 delicious Vietnamese dishes that CNN reporters Helen Clark and Karryn Miller suggested in their writing in October 2011.

“What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho? It’s almost impossible to walk a block in Viet Nam’s major cities without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand,” they wrote.

CNN earlier placed pho No 28 among the world’s 50 best foods, implying that some foods you eat to stay alive, while others you eat because to not eat them would be a crime.

Cultural icon

Pho is considered a national treasure; so much so that the soup even warranted a conference years ago, covering the social, culinary and historic aspects of the dish.

“Pho was very special, almost a status food. We loved it because it had everything we valued – rice noodles, broth, meat and vegetables. It was complete, nutritious, infinitely delicious and yet so easy to digest that we could eat it morning and night, day after day,” said Huu Ngoc, a renowned expert on Vietnamese culture.

Ngoc even writes Bat Pho Hoa Giai (literally known as pho – a noodle bowl of conciliation) to retell about a meeting between American and Vietnamese war veterans in the capital city.

“Pho – a specialty of Hanoians – has been presented to every corner of the material and spiritual life of human beings and has witnessed current affairs… That’s a food of a cultural category,” he wrote.

In the book, Vietnamese Street Food, Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl describe pho as being glorious and undoubtedly the most famous and quintessential Ha Noi street food.

They quote Ngoc’s words to say that the dish is no less than “Viet Nam’s contribution to human happiness”.

Where pho originally came from remains a mystery. But there is certainly no shortage of creative theories.

In his book, Pho, a Specialty of Ha Noi (2006), co-written with American author Lady Borton, author Ngoc indicates that the birthplace of pho was in the village of Van Cu in Nam Dinh Province. Villagers do not know who created it. But they say that in 1925 a villager named Van moved to Ha Noi and opened a pho stall.

The dish was also adopted in the south in the late 1950s, when it crossed the border of the then-divided Viet Nam. However, the recipe changed in the process. In HCM City and other places in the Southern region, the dish is served in larger bowls, with the addition of aromatic herbs and fresh bean sprouts. It’s often served with extra condiments such as sugar and hoisin sauce.

However, To Hai, a pho purist, in order to taste the best, the dish should stay true to the Hanoian style: a simple soup that has a deep, rich, meaty and lightly spiced flavour, with a subtle hint of sweetness.

“The secret to a great pho is the broth – the broth will make or break your soup,” he said. — VNS

GLOSSARY

The online newspaper lists the dish as one of the most delicious foods people should discover while travelling abroad.

Abroad means overseas.

Simply a combination of broth, fresh rice noodles, thinly sliced beef or chicken, with a sprinkle of aromatic herbs, pho is ranked 11 out of the list of top 12 foods.

Broth is soup that may be made of vegetables and may also be mixed with cereals.

Aromatic herbs are herbs that smell nice.

“There are many delectable treats out there, to be sure. Here’s just a sampling of some delicacies whose truest, most scrumptious forms you will only come across while travelling,” the online newspaper wrote last week.

Delectable means delicious.

A delicacy is a type of food that certain cultures believe is very special.

Food that is scrumptious is so delicious that the thought of it can give one an appetite.

The noodle soup is typically associated with the capital city, as the late Vietnamese writer Thach Lam made clear in one of his works in the 1930s on local cuisine:

A cuisine is a style of cooking, such as Vietnamese cooking.

The dish has become a breakfast favourite for the majority of local residents, as well as some foreign expats.

Expats stands for expatriates. Expats are people who live in a country but come from another country.

“Pho is light, not fattening yet nutritious, delicious and fragrant with Vietnamese spices. It is also really good for lunch and late night,” said the chef patron at Don’s.

Nutritious food is good for the body.

Fragrant means having a pleasant, sweet smell.

“What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho? It’s almost impossible to walk a block in Viet Nam’s major cities without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand,” they wrote.

Patrons are regular customers at restaurants.

To slurp means to drink or eat something, making a loud sucking noise.

Something that is makeshift is not meant to be in a place permanently.

CNN earlier placed pho No 28 among the world’s 50 best foods, implying that some foods you eat to stay alive, while others you eat because to not eat them would be a crime.

Implying” means “suggesting”.

Pho is considered a national treasure; so much so that the soup even warranted a conference years ago, covering the social, culinary and historic aspects of the dish.

If pho warranted a conference, it means that it was considered to be acceptable that a conference on the soup should be held. In other words, it was not an unreasonable idea.

“Pho was very special, almost a status food.”

Status food is a food people may choose to eat to show their position in society.

Ngoc even writes Bat Pho Hoa Giai (literally known as pho – a noodle bowl of conciliation) to retell about a meeting between American and Vietnamese war veterans in the capital city.

Conciliation means something that is done to make somebody who is unfriendly, more friendly.

In the book, Vietnamese Street Food, Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl describe pho as being glorious and undoubtedly the most famous and quintessential Ha Noi street food.

Quintessential street food is the best you can get.

However, To Hai, a pho purist, in order to taste the best, the dish should stay true to the Hanoian style: a simple soup that has a deep, rich, meaty and lightly spiced flavour, with a subtle hint of sweetness.

Someone who is a pho purist believes that everything that has anything to do with pho should be done properly, according to every rule there is to do with pho.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

1.        The country Donald Berger comes from.

2.        The _____________________ Post is a United States newspaper website.

3.        People who regularly visit a certain restaurant are its __________.

4.        The name of a villager who, in 1925, moved to Ha Noi and opened a pho stall.

5.        The news organisation reporters Helen Clark and Karryn Miller work for.

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 ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2013



























1. Canada; 2. Huffington; 3. Patrons; 4. Van; 5. CNN.

 

 

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