The history of phở

To us, and to many of us from Vietnam, the beauty of a piping hot bowl of phở isn’t just in the restoration we find in its nutritive marrow broth, or the incredible flavors we experience in each and every slurp. To us, phở is a stunning portrait of Vietnam. When you think about the centuries of recipe development and history of our ancestors that is poured into each and every bowl, the flavors gain more nuance and depth. We want to share some of its history with you. 

Though relatively unknown, the first records of Phở date back to the mid 1880’s in colonial Vietnam. It’s a dish distinctly Vietnamese now, but the impact of the colonial influences of Chinese and French cuisines are readily apparent in each bowl. The rice noodles you slurp up and the spices that pepper along your tastebuds make the Chinese influence palpable, while the delicate cut variety of red meats and bone broth are distinctly French. In fact, it is speculated that Phở was a Vietnamese spin of the French soup “pot au feu” — another marrow-reach beef soup. 

When Vietnam was divided in 1954 Phở became a more popularized dish throughout the whole country. One thing we love about the dish is how reflective it is of the different regions of Vietnam, depending on how it’s prepared. Northern Vietnamese Phở is easily distinguishable from its Southern counterparts to this day — its a much simpler dish, with less varied cuts of meat and few toppings, save for some slices of ginger, green chilis and lime. But as the dish migrated Southward, more and more garnishes and flavors started to be incorporated into the mix. The Phở that rose to popularity worldwide in the 70’s, including the phở you’ll taste at Việtvana, is a Southern Vietnamese derivative. It’s peppered with dozens of floral, flavorful ingredients like bean sprouts, fresh basil, mint, green chilis and lime — filling each spoonful with an incredible array of bright and rich flavors.

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