It's no doubt that most urban Americans have heard of Phở, Vietnam's signature soup. Pronounced "fuh," Phở is a popular street food throughout Vietnam (vendors actually set up small booths on either the street or sidewalk---most have a few simple tables and folding chairs). On my recent trip to Vietnam I saw street stalls in Hanoi serving Phở to motorcycle riders who were downing their soup while straddling their bikes.)
Street stands such as this are on every corner
Phở is to the Vietnamese what hamburgers are to Americans---incredibly popular, available in nearly every restaurant, eaten by the rich and the pool, the young and the old. Like hamburgers, this soup is also served with garnishes; Phở, however, is accompanied by a heaping plate of mint, Thai basil, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, and sometimes fried shallots. It's all about aroma and texture. The trick is to add a little pinch of each of the items as you eat your way through the soup. Timing is everything. If you add the garnishes too soon you'll end up with darkened, less aromatics herbs and soggy sprouts and shallots.
The earthy, complex broth is critically important---layers upon layers of subtle nuances, starting with the richness of a cornucopia of meats and bones, with herbs (e.g. ginger and cilantro), and spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and stair anise are the most common)...all added strategically throughout the broth's long simmering process. Phở is primarily beef, however, chicken is sometimes found. Noodles are always made from rice and are linguine shaped. Phở changes from region to region within the country, differing by noodle width, the sweetness of the broth, and even the choice of herbs used in the broth. In the South (think Saigon) the soup is eaten mainly for breakfast and occasionally for lunch, whereas in the North (e.g. Hanoi) the dish is eaten at any time.
If you're coming with us to Vietnam next February (we still have some availability), you'll have the opportunity to experience the best Phở---at a street stall, as well as a formal restaurant. At both stops you can sip the broth, savor its complexity, and appreciate the painstaking time that has gone into birthing this delectable liquid. Phở sure you will become a fan.
For more information on our 2016 February tour to Vietnam, check out: http://www.wineknowstravel.com/