10 things you may not know about the Vietnamese dish Pho

10 things you may not know about the Vietnamese dish Pho

If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine and/or have traveled to Vietnam, chances are you’re already familiar with the famous dish Pho. This flavorful noodle soup dates back over 100 years and has spread worldwide in recent decades. But did you know there is a distinction between the Northern style Pho and the Southern style in Vietnam?

Some restaurants add additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate) for flavor enhancers. Or that it can come served with fish or animal organs as toppings? And what about the little-known variations of Pho outside of Vietnam — such as Indonesian Bakso, Japanese Kitsune Udon, Cambodian Kuy Teav, or Thai Rad Na Nam Sai..? There’s a lot more to learn about regarding this tasty dish! Read on to learn ten things you may not know about the Vietnamese delicacy: Pho.

The Origin of Pho

Pho is said to have originated in North Vietnam in the early 1900s, with several theories about its exact origin. Some suggest that it was invented by Chinese merchants who settled near Hanoi, while others blame the French for bringing new ingredients and methods from Europe. Whatever its origin, Pho has become a beloved dish throughout Vietnam and beyond.

Why is Pho pronounced as ‘Fa’?

Many people don’t know that Pho is pronounced as ‘Fa,’ not ‘Foe.’ This is because it comes from the Vietnamese language, which uses a different pronunciation for some words.

10 Things You May Not Have Known About the Famous Vietnamese Dish

Vietnam’s signature noodle soup, Pho, has become an international favorite. But there’s more to this delicious dish than meets the eye. Here are ten things you may not know about Pho:

There Are Northern and Southern

Pho in Vietnam is divided into two distinct styles: The northern style, served with a greater variety of meats, and the Southern style, which uses less meat but more vegetables. The dish is also traditionally served with various herbs and vegetables, allowing diners to customize their soup version.

Variations Beyond Vietnam

While Pho has become a beloved staple in Vietnamese cuisine, there are variations of the traditional recipe are found all over Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia. The soup is served with chicken, beef, or fish instead of the traditional beef broth base in some places. In others, it is garnished with pickled vegetables, peanuts, and hard-boiled eggs. It can also be served with squid or other seafood added in for an extra kick of flavor.

In Thailand, a variation called “Kway Teow Pho” is popular. This version features flat rice noodles instead of the traditional round ones and a greater variety of vegetables and herbs. It is also served with chili pepper relish to add an extra layer of flavor.

In Korea, Pho is served with kimchi, while in Japan, the noodles are made more like ramen, featuring slightly thicker strands than Vietnam’s version. Japanese Pho is also served with a soy sauce-based broth and topped with bean sprouts, green onions, and sesame seeds.

A Healthy Option

Despite its hearty flavor and filling ingredients, Pho is a healthy option for those watching their waistlines. It’s low in calories and saturated fat while providing essential nutrients like protein and fiber. The clear broth is also rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a great choice for those looking to stay healthy.

The dish is typically served with lean cuts of meat, such as round steak or beef brisket, which are low in fat. The noodles are usually made from rice flour and water, so they’re also light and low in carbohydrates. The traditional garnishes of herbs, spices, and vegetables add flavor without the added fat or calories, making Pho an ideal option for those trying to eat healthily.


If you’ve ever had Pho in a restaurant, chances are it was made with the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). Of course, this ingredient is completely optional and can be requested to be left out if desired.

Toppings Galore

Pho can be served with toppings, from fish sauce to lime juice. Adding bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, and jalapenos are common for added flavor and texture.

Organ Toppings

In some parts of Vietnam, Pho is often served with animal organs such as liver, gizzard, and heart. The organs are typically boiled in the soup or served on top as an optional topping.

Timing Is Everything

The key to a delicious bowl of Pho is timing. The soup should be cooked for around 10 minutes, with the noodles added at the end and quickly cooked.

Spice It Up

For those who like their soup on the hot side, a variety of chili sauces and pastes can be added to Pho for an extra kick.

Regional Favorites

The northern regions of Vietnam tend to prefer a sweeter version of the soup, while in the south, it’s more common for the dish to have a sour flavor.

Ramen vs. Pho

Some people may wonder which noodle soup is healthier: Pho or Ramen? While both dishes can be nutritious, Pho wins out in calories and saturated fat. If you want a lighter dish, stick with the Vietnamese classic.

Whether you are a seasoned traveler or just starting to explore the world of Asian cuisine, these ten things you may not know about Pho and its variations will help you appreciate this beloved dish. Bon appetite!

Is Pho always made with beef broth?

No, many variations of Pho can be made with chicken or vegetable broth. In some parts of Vietnam, the soup is made with fish instead of beef. Other popular variations include adding seafood or offal to the broth for extra flavor.

Lastly, you may find regional favorites like sweeter soup in the North or a sour version in the South. No matter which version you try, Pho is sure to be delicious.

The benefits of eating Pho

  • Low in calories and saturated fat
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Lean cuts of meat for protein
  • Versatile – can be made with beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • Low carbohydrate noodles
  • Full of flavor from herbs, spices, and vegetables
  • Toppings such as fish sauce and lime juice for extra flavor
  • Animal organs for protein and flavor
  • 10-minute cooking time for optimal flavor
  • Chili sauces and pastes are available for those who like it spicy.

Why is Phở so important in Vietnam?

Pho is an important part of Vietnamese culture and has been enjoyed for over 100 years. It’s a dish that has become associated with the nation, from its humble beginnings as a street food to its current status as one of the most popular dishes in Vietnam.

Not only is it tasty, but it’s also filling, low-calorie, and full of essential nutrients. Plus, it’s easy to make and comes with countless variations – making it the perfect option for any time of day.

It also has strong ties to family and friends as a way to gather together for meals, share stories, and build memories. Thus, Pho is an important part of Vietnamese culture that will surely be enjoyed for many years.

What are some popular variations of Pho outside of Vietnam?

Outside of Vietnam, there are a variety of interesting twists on the beloved classic. For example, Indonesian Pho boosts flavor by adding sweet soy sauce. At the same time, the Cambodian version often features traditional spices like kaffir lime leaves, cinnamon, and star anise.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, you can find a spicier version of the dish served with sriracha or chili paste. Whether you’re looking for something traditional or new, there are plenty of interesting variations to try outside of Vietnam.


 Is authentic pho healthy?

Yes, pho is generally considered to be a healthy dish. It’s low in calories and saturated fat and can be made with lean cuts of meat for protein. Plus, it’s packed with essential vitamins and minerals from broth, herbs, spices, and vegetables – making it an all-around nutritious option.

Do restaurants add additives like MSG to Pho?

Some restaurants may add additives like MSG to enhance the dish’s flavor. While it’s not necessarily unhealthy, some people prefer to avoid these additives and opt for a more natural version of the soup.

Should you drink pho broth?

Yes, it is generally safe to drink broth of pho. However, some people may find drinking too much broth can upset their stomachs or lead to dehydration. It’s always best to enjoy your soup in moderation and listen to your body for any signs of discomfort.

How is Pho traditionally served?

Traditionally, Pho is served with a side of bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, and jalapenos for added texture and flavor. It can also be topped with fish sauce or lime juice for an extra kick.

Is Pho served with MSG?

While some restaurants may add MSG to their Pho for flavor enhancers, this is not a traditional practice and should be avoided.

Is it possible to make Pho at home?

Yes! Making Pho is a relatively simple process that requires only 10 minutes of cooking time. All you need are your favorite ingredients and a good broth – the rest is up to you!

What are some healthier alternatives to Pho?

If you want a lighter dish, try Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue. This noodle soup is much lower in calories than Pho and features pork bones, beef shank, and chili paste.

Are there any vegetarian or vegan Pho options?

Yes! Plenty of vegetarian and vegan variations of Pho incorporate tofu, mushrooms, and vegetable broth.


Pho is a unique and flavorful dish that has been enjoyed for more than 100 years. It’s a nutritious and filling meal option that can be customized to suit any taste or dietary preference. From variations outside of Vietnam to healthier alternatives and even MSG in some restaurants, there is much to learn about this beloved dish. Whether you’re looking for something new or want to brush up on your Pho knowledge, these ten things can help get you started. Bon appetite!

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