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Pho. The good, the bad and the ugly.

We just got a Vietnamese Pho Restaurant in the area. I hear alot about it but I am pretty much just ignorant to it.

What is the correct pronounceation?

What is it, exactly? (I know its a soup based dish)

Anything I should avoid? Demand?


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  1. I know i'm pronouncing it wrong, but I usually call it pha or fuh.

    1. Pho (pronounced fuh) is a beef noodle soup that originated from Northern Vietnam. It has its origins in Chinese and possibly French cuisine. It's a soup of beef bones and meat, onion, ginger, and a spice profile of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, pepper, etc, similar to the chinese five spice profile. The then piping hot soup is filled with rice noodles and slices of rare beef and onion.

      The pho restaurants in America come with garnishes of thai basil, lime, bean sprouts, and sliced jalapeno peppers, and sometimes sawtooth coriander. Hoisin sauce, sriracha rooster sauce (asian chili sauce) and fish sauce are available at every table for adding extra flavor to your soup or dipping your meat into.

      You can order your pho with different types of meats and cuts from the chow. Such cuts available are beef tendon, tripe, well done- brisket, flank, fatty flank, vietnamese beef meatballs, etc.

      A select handful of people sometimes ask for the oil from the beef fat on the side to add to their soup for extra richness. Some people also ask for sliced white onions soaked in vinegar as a condiment on the side.

      If you're new to pho, I would just start out with regular pho tai, or pho with raw cuts of beef cooked in the soup, and eat it straight without condiments except for a few thai basil to appreciate the subtle flavors of the soup. Avoid restaurants that serve a soup that is cloudy, dark, or has overpowering spice aromas.

      Have fun!

      1. Tadaki hit most of the salient points about pho ("phuh"). A few additional:

        The stock is key. I use trimmed oxtail and beef shank, onions, carrot, ginger, clove, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns - and don't forget - a bit of nuoc nam! The oxtail has to be blanched for 10 minutes, drained and rinsed off prior to making the stock involving a slow simmer for 4 hours (the last uncovered), skimming and straining, and leaving overnight for better integration of flavors. Serving is done by placing slices of raw beef (and cooked tripe, blood cake, and/or other meats), onion, spring onion, chiles, bean sprouts, and noodles in the bowl and ladeling over the hot, clear stock. Top with fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime juice.

        Pho is my favorite breakfast in Vietnam, and best eaten at low tables and chairs on the sidewalk with the cooking or assembly done in front of you. There you get a chioce of meats and noodles; the herbs and greens and jar of chopsticks and spoons and bottles of condiments are all on the table. The curbs are usually filled with people's bicycles and motorcycles.

        1. ~~What is the correct pronounceation?~~

          Fuh? As in "what the fu..?" Those of us who aren't used to tonal languages will never get it exactly right, but you can kind of fake the rising tone at the end by pretending it's a question. The word is borrowed from "pot a feu," so if you speak French, just say "feu" and be done with it.

          ~~What is it, exactly?~~

          Liquid gold, if it's done right. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "this must be what angels taste like!" For more details, see preceding posts.

          ~~Anything I should avoid? Demand?~~

          If the broth is good, avoid messing it up with Sriracha and hoisin. Anything more than a spritz of lime juice just detracts from the experience. You may also want to avoid some of the more exotic meats (tripe, tendon, brisket fat, beef balls, etc.), at least at first. They provide great textural contrasts, but aren't totally accessible to many palates. As takadi indicated, pho tai is a good place to start - it's raw paper-thin slices of round steak that gently poach in the broth as you stir up the noodles.

          One thing that hasn't been addressed is technique. There's likely to be a mass of noodles in the bottom of the bowl, and they need to be loosened up. Stick your chopsticks in and wiggle them gently until you can pick up a few noodles at a time. Taste the broth, and give it a spritz of lime if you want. Tear up some herbs and sprinkle them over the top. Drop in a few bean sprouts if you like a little crunch. But don't dump the whole garnish plate in your bowl. The broth is the real focus here; don't overwhelm it. You can always add more vegetation to an individual bite if you decide you want it.

          Once everything is all set, hold the chopsticks in your right hand and the spoon in your left. Use the chopsticks to catch noodles and/or meat and convey them to your mouth or your spoon (your choice). If you put the solids in your spoon, dip it in the broth and slurp the whole mess up together. If you put them directly in your mouth, alternate with sips of broth from the spoon. As noted above, you can occasionally add a slice of chile, a few bean sprouts, or a little basil or ngo gai (saw-leaf herb) to the spoon if you want to change things up.

          Warning: good pho is habit forming. Proceed with caution.

          5 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            Nice rendition of the facts, Mr. Barnes. Makes me hungry for a big bowl... even in this 90 degree weather.

            1. re: lynnlato

              If the Vietnamese can eat pho in 90 degree weather so can you!

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Good point, KT. I have some friends coming in this wknd for a visit. They are from a small PA town and have never experienced pho or other Vietnamese fare. I'm thinking that I just may have to steer them to a bowl of pho. :)

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  Correction. 90 degree, 95%+ humidity, no A/C ;)

              2. re: alanbarnes

                >>The word is borrowed from "pot a feu," so if you speak French, just say "feu" and be done with it.

                I think you may be right. In Laos, that dish is called "Feu" because Laos was also a French colony. Other Southeast Asian countries have similar noodle soups as well. If Vietnamese "Pho" originated in North Vietnam, then what about similar noodle soups in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, etc...?

                The Lao Feu noodle soup does not contain cinnamon and neither does the Thai-version of this noodle soup dish, but I believe Vietnamese Pho does contain cinnamon. I've never tried the Cambodian version of this soup.

                Some Vietnamese people have said that the word Pho is not derived from Feu (pot au feu). If some people are rejecting the French influence, then is it just a coincidence that the Lao soup is called "Feu" (exactly like the French spelling)? Both Laos and Vietnam were French colonies. If other countries have soups similar to the Vietnamese "Pho" soup, did this dish actually originate in North Vietnam? Or could it possibly be from France (or maybe even China because of the noodles)?

                I'm just curious and would love to hear all possible theories as to the invention of Feu/Pho/(and Thai or Khmer versions as well). Thanks!

              3. No bad. No ugly.
                It's all good!!


                1. Try the other meats too; I adore tendon. Don't squirt hot sauce and hoisin into the main bowl; there should be a little side bowl or dish. Lift the meat out with the chopsticks and dip in the hot sauce/hoisin if you want.

                  1. My 2c...
                    I only noticebly heard it pronounced once, but it was by a balding, overweight, American guy named Zimmern on TV ;-) He said it was pronounced like barnes describes - the French for fire, or "feu".
                    I agree, perhaps start with a basic jobby. If you like it, then next go for 'the works', usually the 'house special pho' or some variant, then decide on what you like and what you don't. You can then order it to you liking, keeping only what you prefer.

                    Depends on my mood, I may get just tendon (I'm with you, pepper) or the works. A small technique I copy catted; I prefer the raw beef to remain rare, so I remove it when the soup arrives, setting it on the bean sprouts, biting off pieces as I go (leave it in the soup and it cooks to well). Personnaly, I don't use the sprouts (except for munching while waiting), rarely the basil or hoisin or lime or vinegar, but I love the hot sauce - again its about personal taste - see what you like.

                    Don't worry about slurping, its considered de rigeur.

                    One other point, restaurants specializing in pho many times offer 3 sizes (and price doesn't seem to reflect proportion). Look around to get a feel of the actual bowl sizes. I've seen a small running about 32oz for maybe $5, a medium at maybe $6.50, and a large which looks like a JUMBO salad bowl of maybe 1.5 gallons of soup for like $7.25. Just looking at the menu, you may say "what the hey... I'll supersize from small to large for only $2.25", then get an aquarium sized bowl of pho!

                    Oh, you now have a responsibility to the CHOW team: visit your pho restaurant, have a pho, and REPORT back. This means YOU, soldier!

                    22 Replies
                    1. re: porker

                      Nothing wrong with pronouncing it like "feu". In fact, "Pho" might just be a vietnamization of the word "feu"

                      1. re: takadi

                        Right, better to take a cue from an American TV show guy than all the Vietnamese in Vietnam.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          I'm saying that things change, and it would be hypocritical to judge people based on a pronunciation of a word that probably is a bastardization of another word itself.

                          1. re: takadi

                            I was being tongue-in-cheek.
                            I mean, we are bombarded with the word PHO all the time and an english speaking mind simply says "FO" as in 'for'.
                            I'm not assuming thats how its pronounced in vietnamese, but like I said, i haven't heard it from a vietnamese speaking person, I only heard it from Andy Z. which is suspect at best.

                            Plus, this thread has maybe 4 or 5 pronounciations. Can we get someone with authority on how its pronounced in vietnam and perhaps in vietnamese?

                            1. re: porker

                              I think it's just different people trying to approximate the same pronunciation in different ways. The confusion arises because we read with our eyes and listen with our ears.

                              Here's a link to a page that has an audio file with the correct (to my ear, anyway) pronunciation: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ima...

                              If it doesn't work for you, it may be necessary to download drivers to play .ogg files. You can find them at http://www.xiph.org/downloads/ or http://www.vorbis.com.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I tried this one already. Don't know if the download is screwy (did it twice), but it doesn't sound like much, more of a clipped rubber band sound, kinda like "ow?" In other words, not like feu or pho or fuh or phuh

                                I'm not sure its people trying to spell or approximate the sound differently 'cause "feu" is not like the "fu" in 'what the fu'.

                                Go figure how mundane this thread is turning out to be...fun granted, but quite mindless to a certain extent...

                                1. re: porker

                                  Sorry if I screwed up the thread, my point is, who cares how you pronounce it, the important part is eating it!

                                  1. re: takadi

                                    "...who cares how you pronounce it, the important part is eating it!"

                                    I agree wholeheartedly with the latter. Interestingly, there was a big ole thread that addressed pronunciation earlier this year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/483478 -- How Important to You is Pronunciation? (vis-a-vis Food)

                                    1. re: takadi

                                      I don't think you screwed up the thread at all! Its all good :-/)

                                2. re: porker

                                  Pho is pronounced, fuuh with the intonation going up at the end as if you were asking a question.

                                  1. re: porker

                                    I hate having to say 'pho'. Growing up, I had only read the word and always pronounced it with a hard 'o'. Now, living in Tokyo it's spelled phonetically and also pronounced with the hard 'o' like in 'for'. I think i'll never be able to pronounce it correctly!

                              2. re: takadi

                                There's a discussion of this in Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnames Table" In brief, she says the creation of pho remains a debate, but some argue that it comes from when Vietnamese cooks learned to make "pot-au-feu" for the French colonialists, and that "[t]he name pho-pronounced fuh-might even have come from the French word feu, for fire." Others argue that it was the Chinese who created it.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  This might help you. In Laos, the soup is spelled as "Feu" (according to the French spelling), but in Vietnam it's spelled as "Phở".

                                  1. re: yummyrice


                                    I know the French had a pretty big presence in South Vietnam, but I always though the north was more Chinese influenced. To be honest, I think the only thing that connects modern Pho to any french origins is the use of beef bones (considering oxen were mostly used as beasts of burden back in the day and less for meat) and roasted aromatics.

                                    1. re: yummyrice

                                      Funny, I thought that in Lao the soup was spelled "ເຜ."

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        hehe no, it has an F sound, not an aspirated P sound. Anyway, I meant when using the Latin alphabet (i.e. English/French translation of the Lao script), the spelling is Feu, which is a common spelling used by restaurants in Laos that have menu items in both Lao language (for the locals) and English/French (for the tourists).

                                        1. re: yummyrice

                                          The point I was making (poorly) was that Lao has its own alphabet, with transliteration rules initially established by the French. So it's not surprising that "ເຝ" (did I get it right this time?) is transliterated as "feu."

                                          Vietnamese, on the other hand, is spelled phonetically using a modified Roman alphabet created by Portuguese missionaries. So no transliteration is necessary; we just use the Viet spellings even when they're phonetic renderings of French loan words.

                                          As far as the French / Chinese question goes, I think it's pretty evident that the culinary origin of the soup is Chinese, while the linguistic origin of its name is French.

                                          All of which has me craving a big bowl of pho dac biet...

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            I can't speak for Lao people, but I'd like to contribute the following with respect to Vietnamese.

                                            Even though there were European missionaries in Vietnam's past, I think it's accurate to say there are little Portuguese influences in Vietnam, language or otherwise. Vietnam was under Chinese rule for about 1000 years, then another 100 years under the French after that, so one can make up his/her own mind about who gave how much and what influence to the Vietnamese.

                                            For me, Viet people definitely have Chinese influences, no argument there. But there's also no argument about French influence either. In fact French was the second language in the country even during the Vietnam war, when the French were long gone and large number of Americans were there.

                                            Many people fail to understand how strong the Viet-French tie is. Even in the 10 or so years following 1975 when the Communist government in Vietnam closed up the country, it was the Europeans and specifically the French who came back to Vietnam first to open diplomatic relations. Everyone knows the French love Viet people and vice versa. The Communist Vietnamese took credit for kicking out the French, but they won't admit that post-1975 Vietnam depended even more on the French.

                                            One thing for sure though, Viet people (especially the commoners) adopted foreign words and added our own accents to make it "look" and "sound" right for our conversational use. The "ph" in "phở" is pronounced exactly as an "f" in French, since there is no letter f in the modern Viet alphabet. And I want to stress that there is no "p" sound in "phở" either.

                                            Here are a couple of things not many people realized: 1) pho is now popular around the world due to the millions of Viet refugees who left the country since 1975, and 2) pho itself is being influenced by Americans, American way of life, and the American marketplace as we speak. But I digress.

                                            1. re: chuynh

                                              Here is a link from a (not so serious usually) local food blog from a weekly publication in Dallas. This particular writer takes a pilgrimage with her mother and hunts local pho in Vietnam. Short but interesting. Doesn't she sound sweet? I am sure there will be a full blown article for the publication to follow.


                                              1. re: DallasDude

                                                Thanks for sharing a nice article! Yeah I'm waiting for the 40-page list (or at least the abridged version) to be published.

                                              2. re: chuynh

                                                Over the years back and forth to vietnam, I've never sensed much of a special tie with the French. And its not only "Chinese rule for 1000 years" but that there was a large admixture of Chinese blood/genes in the Viet population over millenia.

                                              3. re: alanbarnes

                                                Yes, Lao does have its own alphabet and Lao words are usually transliterated using the French system. In the Lao language, "Ph" is pronounced as an aspirated P, whereas "P" by itself is pronounced as an unaspirated P. That's probably why "Feu" did not get transliterated into Pho in the Lao language, because our Latin transliteration system is French-based. So "Pho" would be pronounced as Po (like in Post) if a Lao person were to pronounce that word using the Lao-French transliteration system,

                                                However, the French word "Feu" is pronounced just like how the soup is pronounced in Laos..."Feu" as in Pot au Feu. I'm not surprised by that since there are some French culinary influences in Laos (i.e. breads, some soups like Pot au Feu, etc...). There are some French restaurants in Laos that serve Pot au Feu. However, when Lao people say "Feu", we're usually referring to a beef stock similar to Pot au Feu, but with Chinese rice noodles in it. Since Lao has its own Lao script, there was no need to change the French spelling of Feu.

                                  2. Hola kids...OP on deck. As far as correct pronounciation goes, Id have to lay odds on whatever Sam Fujisaka says is gospel.

                                    The man...the myth...the legend, so to speak.

                                    Heading to the Pho joint tomorrow!

                                    1. They will rarely be offered unless requested, but the staff will look at you with great awe and respect if you ask for Saltine crackers and crumble them up and drop into the broth. If unavailable, ask for oyster crackers or Ritz.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. i'm completely addicted to it. phoddicted.
                                        there is some bad, bland pho out there. but there is also some freaking transcendent pho that will make you feel kind of high.

                                        - eat it hot and don't take home the leftovers

                                        - if you get the steak (pho tai), pluck it out while it's still rare, before it gets tough.

                                        - i totally recommend getting the little bowl of beef drippings on the side (sometimes called "fatty scallion head broth" on the menu) and spooning a little into your soup. it's out of this world.

                                        - there are a lot of really good pho websites out there with info, pictures and recipes

                                        - what everybody else said

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ramonasaur

                                          I hear you on the rare meat. The places I've been, they will serve it on the side if requested. So if you really want it absolutely totally raw, not even touched by heat, ie, beef sashimi, that's an option.

                                          1. re: ramonasaur

                                            Don't take the beef out of the broth. Just order the bo tai (beef tai) uncooked on the side.

                                          2. I, like you, are also a pho virgin, even though it is on every other corner here in Houston. Awhile back I was trying to figure it out and found this little tidbit of info on the inter net. I have no idea hove correct it is but look it over, all of you, and then answer a couple questions:


                                            1. They say it's pronounces liked "phir'?
                                            2. They recipe calls for putting cooked and raw meat in the bowl. Is that normal? I would rather have all raw.



                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: danhole

                                              1. Many debates on pronunciation, see above.

                                              2. As to the "normal" cuts of beef adorning the noodles, I'm not sure if there is such. There are several cuts that are available (brisket, flank, tripe, tendon, meatballs, raw round) and typically half a dozen different combinations of these will be offered. Studying the combinations, it looks like part of the aim is a variety of textures among the meats. From a place I used to visit in Berkeley:

                                              1. Phở Tái
                                              Noodle soup with eye round steak.

                                              2. Phở Tái, Chín Nạc
                                              Noodle soup with eye round steak and well-done brisket.

                                              3. Phở Tái, Bò Viên
                                              Noodle soup with eye round steak and meat balls.

                                              21. Phở Chín, Bò Viên
                                              Noodle soup with brisket & meat balls.

                                              20. Phở Chín Nạc
                                              Noodle soup with well-done brisket.

                                              4. Phở Bò Viên
                                              Noodle soup with meat balls only.

                                              I'm not sure if you're saying that only the raw sliced beef appeals to you (in which case order #1) or that you'd like to try other cuts of beef in it raw, in which case you may be out of luck. Stuff like tendon, tripe, brisket is pretty much only served cooked.

                                              1. re: danhole

                                                It is pronounced "fuh" with an upward intonation. Say it like you are asking a question. Fuh?
                                                ETA, I posted this before I saw Caralien's post. I agree with her 100% on the pronounciation.

                                              2. fuh-uh? is how it's pronounced, as one would a question.

                                                We usually get pho tai--slices of rare beef cooked in the steaming hot beef broth (seasoned with star anise and some other herbs and spices). I'm not a huge fan of navel, omosa, tendon, tripe, and other parts in my soup. We usually order an additional side of sliced raw beef to add to the soup, as the beef is inevitably overcooked by the time we get it.

                                                Finely sliced onions should be in the broth too, atop the noodles. On the side: basil leaves (pinch off and add), chives, cilantro, chile garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, jalapeno slices, slices of lime or lemon, and bean sprouts, to add as desired. It may be considered rude to add the sauces to the broth, but I've had some really weak pho, and when the broth was severely lacking in flavour, did what I had to do since I was starving.

                                                Some places use pho bouillon cubes and extra MSG, and you'll notice the flush, minimally upon standing. If this is what you get, find another place.

                                                Not good as take out, particularly if its already pre-mixed. The beef will taste like thin slices of shoe leather.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Caralien

                                                  There is a great link to pronouning pho from Chuynh on the other CH thread mentioned above (see post from around June 2009 at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/483478



                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                    @grayelf Thanks for the vote :) For those who find saying pho still too challenging, here's some more tips. It's not meant to downgrade the importance of being able to pronounce pho, but I hope it gives non-Viet pho fans a little more perspective.

                                                    "...a few words about convention. In Vietnamese, the word “tô” means “bowl.” When ordering a bowl of pho tai, for example, a Viet would call a “tô phở tái” or just “tô tái.” If you’re already in a pho restaurant, then saying “phở” is redundant and is really not necessary (but optionally okay.) If you’re in a Viet restaurant that also serves pho, then ordering a ”tô phở tái’ would be more appropriate to make it clear that you want pho and not another dish. So for those who find saying pho a little challenging, “tô” will solve your problem!"

                                                    Above paragraph is an excerpt from this article: http://www.lovingpho.com/pho-corner-e...

                                                2. what is omosa? seen pretty often on viet menus, at least those in ny.

                                                  and, I've also seen a custom of dredging the entire basil thing (leaves and stems) into the soup, and just leaving it alone (not eating the leaves, just getting the basil infusion).

                                                  thanks for the tips on the beef drippings, sounds awesome.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                                    I always wondered what the mysterious "omosa" was myself so I googled it-it's tripe. Yum!

                                                    1. re: Catherine C in NYC

                                                      funny, I knew it was always tripe in some pho #1s, but I thought I'd seen them list both omosa and tripe along with brisket, navel, etc., and thought they were exclusive ingredients. maybe not!

                                                      1. re: bigjeff

                                                        The omasum is a bovine's third stomach. So it's probably a good bet that omosa is the tripe that comes from that stomach, aka book tripe. There's also flat tripe (from the first stomach, the rumen) and honeycomb tripe (from the second stomach, the reticulum). Although I've only seen book tripe in pho, if "tripe" and "omosa" are listed as separate ingredients, the "tripe" might be of the flat or honeycomb varieties.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          getting into the . . . offal details! thanks, that's perfect, the different stomachs! of course we all knew cows had 4, that is great, thanks.

                                                  2. If you like pho, go read Anthony Bourdain's book "A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal". His chapter on Vietnam and mouthwatering descriptions of pho are what inspired me to try it in the first place. (The whole book's a good read.) If you do a youTube search you can find some clips from his show of him talking about & eating it, but the book is even better IMHO.

                                                    1. I have recently tried PHO for the first time all the way tripe,tendon,flank,meatballs and beef it is my new favorite thing in the world add a kiss of lime and zoom. I cannot describe in words the satisfying feeling I had from the soup, the closest thing is maybe discovering Masaman Thai curry in the early 90's. Also In wonder if anybody knows if BUN BO/ GA HUE
                                                      http://www.vietnameseexpresscafe.com/... is a real dish or some sort of modified PHO . Maybe MR Fujisaka knows???

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: pikiliz

                                                        Bun bo Hue is the real thing (assuming they do this right.) The city of Hue is the capital of Central Vietnam and the noodle dish is supposed to be hot and spicy. Bun ga Hue is just a concoction created for non-red-meat American crowd. North Vietnam has pho, south Vietnam has hu tieu and central Vietnam has bun bo Hue.

                                                        By the way bun bo Hue is not a modified pho. It's a unique dish in itself. Hope that helps.

                                                        1. re: pikiliz

                                                          Bun bo Hue is (real) beef noodle soup from Hue/Central Vietnam. It is similar in a general sense to pho, but differs in a lot of ingredients - the spices, the meats, the type of rice noodles (round instead of flat if I recall correctly) and so on. Really, really good as well. Do try it.

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            thank you for all your replies i did find it to be on the north side of hot ,just the way i like it.
                                                            I am glad it is an authentic style dish. I think if all food is this good in Vietnam my new wish may be there to live instead of Thailand. oh yea well there is the whole job thing well at least i have found good PHO

                                                            1. re: pikiliz

                                                              You can never go wrong with a wish to live in Vietnam, Lao, or Thailand. Great people, great food, great traditions, wonderful cultures, ... great food. Vietnam is so varied from south to north! The people are warm, funny, open-armed - they never look back at the suffering it took to win the American War. And everything edible is prepared to perfection in Vietnam.

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                I would love to live in all those places, i really need only to figure out how to earn a living there and I am gone

                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              I tried this at a Thai/Vietnamese place and it was amazing. Ive had Pho many times previously but I prefer the spiciness of the Hue beef noodle instead.

                                                              On Diners,Drive-ins and Dives last night there was a place that made an amazing bowl of Pho.

                                                            3. re: pikiliz

                                                              Bun bo Hue is delicious, but might be a little more challenging than pho to the average American palate. At least where I order it, the broth is downright funky, with quite a spicy kick, and in addition to sliced meat the soup comes with a piece of beef knuckle (you get to gnaw off the meat and gristle and suck the marrow out of the bones) and cubes of congealed pig's blood.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Yep. That's why pho is a little more acceptable to Westerners. For pho there's always a choice of going simple and safe with just the recognizable beef parts. With bun bo Hue you are getting into things that do not normally show up on your day to day plate. Here in the states restaurants have dialed down on the hotness, but to really experience bun bo Hue, you must be sweating profusely by the end of the meal :)

                                                                1. re: chuynh

                                                                  Maybe! I spent quite a bit of time in Hue some years ago. I ate in the market across the river when I could and in small places along the main drag. Bun bo (Hue) varied quite a bit in terms of heat - even in the market. Of course, I don't know anything about Viet food served in the US: I've only had pho once and bun bo Hue never in the US.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    You're absolutely right about the varying heat. Of course not everyone can take it all the time. What I meant was it should be experienced at least once to get the full impact, because it's definitely not the same with low/no heat, kind of like certain Thai dish has to have some serious heat. The fun part for me was to tell the lady at the market (or street-side vendor) how much of that red stuff floating in her huge boiling pot you want in your bowl lol.

                                                                    1. re: chuynh

                                                                      I've only tried bun bo hue once at a local (Vancouver, BC) Vietnamese restaurant that we like many other dishes at but I don't think this was a particularly good specimen. I am going to try it at a place we frequent that is owned by folks from Hue. We are quite lucky to have so many Vietnamese restos representing various geographical areas here -- I've barely scratched the surface.

                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                        Yes. Heard good things about Viet community in Vancouver. And if these don't make you salivate I don't know what will:)

                                                                        1. re: chuynh

                                                                          don't make this NYer feel even worse!

                                                            4. Sincere Orient Banh Pho.

                                                              1. Besides using all accompaniments, I put fish sauce in my bowl of Pho. It gives it a good zing.

                                                                1. I really don't know why literature on pho points to it being a French influenced dish and the name being French. The noodle culture in Vietnam originally from the Chinese. There are so many other noodle dishes which follow the noodle, plus broth, plus protein Chinese formula with a Vietnamese take, and these are now staple Vietnamese dishes. Pho is of course also 100% Vietnamese, but the noodle soup concept was brought by the Chinese. I just don't see the French in the equation. I wouldn't say pho is originally a Chinese dish, it is just based on a Chinese noodle soup concept brought to VN.

                                                                  1. Just try some...you'll love it. :) I'm korean and I love that stuff...that should be enough to tell you how good it is! hehe!

                                                                    Dont forget to ask for bubble tea (grape or mango are my favs) ...its something I always get after a hot bowl of pho or some vermicelli. Its a nice little to go treat!

                                                                    1. All the talk of pho origins. Look at the bahn mi. Made on a traditional baguette, with mayo and pate, pickled veggies, chiles, cilantro and grilled pork. Definitely a bi-product of French colonialism

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: DallasDude

                                                                        Exactly. Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia all have some residual French influences. Those French baguette sandwiches are also popular in Laos. They're called "Khao Gee Pate" in the Lao language. It's pretty obvious that the word Pate is a French loanword.

                                                                        1. re: DallasDude

                                                                          Banh mi, cafe sua da, VN style beignets and banh kem and profiteroles, eating bo kho with baguettes and all that are French for sure. Obviously there is French influence. It is just to me pho seems to me a Vietnamese take on the Chinese broth/noodle/protein theme, like other VN noodle dishes have roots in China or Chinese counterparts.

                                                                        2. I truly enjoy the "special" pho with all of the interesting cuts! Rare beef, well done beef, tendons, tripe and meatballs! It does wonders for the texture and is such a special treat for me. This is my cure for a cold, crappy weather or a bad day!