Travel to Vietnam and dive into the enticing realm of Vietnamese food. Unveiling the mouthwatering allure of Vietnamese beef noodles, a beloved dish with a harmonious blend of succulent beef, aromatic herbs, and hearty noodles. Follow our ultimate guide to learn more about one of the most iconic dishes in Vietnam's cuisine.
1. Origin of Vietnamese beef noodle soup (Pho bo)
Nam Dinh is widely considered the geographical cradle of Pho bo, however, its spiritual home undoubtedly resides in Hanoi. The history of this dish traces back to the late 19th century, at the peak of French colonialism. The increased demand for beef led to an abundance of beef bones. Chinese and Vietnamese vendors utilized these bones to deepen and perfect the flavor of the Nam Dinh broth.
On the other hand, there are different views on the origins of Vietnamese beef noodles. Some believe that it originated from a Cantonese dish called ngầu yụk phẳn. Others suggest that Pho bo has its roots in the Vietnamese dish xáo trâu. Another hypothesis suggests that this dish originated from the French pot-au-feu cooking method for beef stew, combined with Vietnamese spices and aromatic herbs.
Pho bo spread to Central and Southern Vietnam in the 1950s, following the French defeat in Indochina and the division of Vietnam into two military zones. Northern people migrated to the South in 1954, bringing the dish of Pho, which then began to undergo some variations.
>>> Explore the different variations of Vietnamese noodles around the region
2. A step-by-step guide to making Vietnamese beef noodle soup
2.1. Key ingredients to make Vietnamese beef noodles
- Northern Vietnam beef noodle soup:
- Beef bones
- Beef chuck and flank
- Purple onions
- Fresh rice noodles
- Fresh herbs (cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, spearmint…)
- Rock sugar
- Seasoning packet for Pho
- Seasonings: seasoning powder, salt
- Southern Vietnam beef noodle soup
- Beef bones
- Beef, tendon, and flank
- Beef tripe
- Beef meatballs
- Star anise
- Purple onions
- Dried noodles
- Seasonings: seasoning powder, salt
2.2. How to make Vietnamese beef noodle soup?
Below is a suggested Vietnam beef noodle soup recipe, which is easy to make at home:
- Prepare the broth:
- Blanch the beef bones in a pot of boiling water to remove impurities, drain and rinse the bones
- Add fresh water to the pot, along with beef cuts like chuck, flank, and brisket
- Add onion, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and salt
- Simmer the broth for at least 2-3 hours to extract all the flavors
- Prepare the toppings:
- Thinly slice raw beef and set it aside
- Slice onions, scallions, and purple onions for garnishing
- Prepare bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, and lime wedges for serving
- Cook the noodles:
- To make fresh noodles: You need rice flour, cornstarch, salt, cooking oil, and water. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, then let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Steam the batter in a tray, cut it into desired shapes, and stack the noodles for serving. Or, you can simply buy pre-made Pho noodles at local markets and blanch them before serving.
- For dry noodles: Soak the dry noodles in warm water for 30-45 minutes or in cold water for 1 hour, then boil them for 5-7 minutes. After cooking, drain the noodles well and consider soaking them in cold water to maintain their texture.
- Assemble the Vietnamese beef noodle bowl:
- Place a portion of noodles in a bowl, add the cooked beef cuts and top the bowl with raw beef slices
- Carefully pour the steaming broth onto the noodles and beef, allowing it to cook the raw beef to perfection
- Garnish with sliced onions, scallions, and herbs
- Serve with bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chili sauce on the side
Take a comforting slurp of the aromatic broth, savoring the tender beef, delicate rice noodles, and the harmonious blend of spices, as the flavors transport you to the vibrant streets of Vietnam.
>>> Read more: 10 recommended Pho cuon - Pho rolls in the capital of Hanoi
3. Best places to get a taste of Vietnamese beef noodle soup
3.1. In Hanoi
When traveling to Hanoi, tourists can easily find local eateries to taste Pho bo. Some renowned Vietnamese Pho restaurants have been passed down through three generations, such as Pho Phu Xuan on Hang Da Street, Pho Bac Nam on Hai Ba Trung Street, Pho Ga Nam Ngu, Pho Thin, Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su, Pho Bat Dan, etc.
In addition, there used to be itinerant sellers known as Pho Ganh in Hanoi. These sellers would carry all the necessary ingredients including bowls, plates, chopsticks, spoons, and a pot of broth on their shoulder poles.
Before 1980, the familiar sounds of these Pho vendors echoed through the streets and alleyways of Hanoi, representing the culinary nightlife culture of the capital. However, with the development of society and the rise of more traditional restaurants, the presence of Pho Ganh has significantly diminished.
3.2. In Saigon
Vietnamese people from the northern region migrated to the south in 1954, bringing along Pho Vietnamese beef noodle soup, and it began to undergo some differences. In Saigon, Pho bo is served in five different styles: well-done, rare, flank, brisket, and tendon, according to the customer's preference. Besides, a small bowl of fatty broth (rendered from beef bones) is served separately upon request.
There were several famous Pho Saigon restaurants before 1975, such as Pho Cong Ly, Pho Tau Bay, Pho Tau Thuy, Pho Ba Dau, Pho Pasteur, and Pho Hien Vuong. Most of these shops have been passed down through many generations. Nowadays, there are renowned Pho bo chains in Saigon such as Pho 5 Sao, Pho Quyen, Pho 2000, Pho Hoa, etc. Do not forget to satisfy your taste buds with beef noodle soup when visiting Saigon.
In addition to Vietnamese beef noodles, you should not miss out on other delightful delicacies on your Vietnam travel. Indulge in the flavorful Vietnamese broken rice, Vietnamese fish cake, and the unique combination of Bun dau mam tom. Savor the aroma of Vietnamese sticky rice, relish Vietnamese bread, enjoy the savory delights of Vietnamese fried rice, or try the refreshing Vietnamese summer rolls. With its diverse culinary offerings, Vietnam promises a great gastronomic adventure.
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In conclusion, Vietnamese beef noodle (Pho bo) stands out with its iconic appearance, irresistible textures, and authentic flavors. It has become a must-try dish for any food enthusiast traveling to Vietnam. The rich history and regional variations of Pho bo have added to the charm of Vietnamese cuisine. Pack your bags for a trip to Vietnam to indulge in the delectable Vietnamese specialties and explore the wonders of this beautiful country.