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Pho has become a widely popular type of soup among broth lovers across the world. The Vietnamese bone broth encompasses noodles, meats and various types of vegetables and herbs to collectively provide consumers with spoonfuls of savory flavors.

From its origins to popular variations, read on to learn about the essence of the Vietnamese national dish and how to elevate your pho experience to new heights.

What is pho?

Pho, pronounced as “fuh,” holds the status of a Vietnamese national dish and is thought to have origins dating to either the late 19th century or early 20th century in the northern regions of Vietnam.

“Pho is a slow-simmered broth, typically prepared with beef bones, served with rice noodles, protein (such as beef, chicken or plant-based protein) and toppings,” says Food Network. 


Pho bowl

The Lanzhou beef noodle soup at the Zhi Wei Cafe. (John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Pho, for a number of Americans, is synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine. Yet, beyond the noodles, broth and assorted toppings, this dish encapsulates a more intricate culinary tale.


What is the secret ingredient in pho?

The key to an authentic pho broth lies in a combination of beef or chicken bones, charred onions, ginger and a blend of spices, including star anise, cloves and cinnamon. 

Simmered for hours, this broth captures the essence of pho, creating a rich and savory base that sets this iconic dish apart. However, there are countless local and regional variations of the dish.

Woman cooking the Vietnamese tradional pho

A woman cooking the Vietnamese tradional pho chicken noodle soup in a street restaurant. (Godong/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

For example, northern Vietnamese pho tend to have clear broths, while southern Vietnam broths are cloudy and sweeter, according to Food Republic. 

“In the end, I think the best and most reliable secret ingredient for pho should already be in a typical pho recipe. Beyond using the proper amount of spices and flavoring with good techniques, the best assurance of a good pho broth is using the right amount of beef bones, maybe adding oxtails, plus using the right amount of time and technique to make the broth,” as per 


What is the most popular pho dish?

Although there are a number of variations of pho, beef (pho bo) and chicken (pho ga) remain the most popular options. 

1. Pho bo

Typically, the beef employed in pho bo is served medium-rare, further cooking in the warm broth. Options for beef may include, flank steak, brisket, beef tendons, meatballs and flavorful fatty cuts.

Vietnamese noodle soup

Vietnamese noodle soup is originally from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. (John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)

2. Pho ga

In this straightforward chicken soup, chicken is added to the broth and combined with a mix of vegetables, basil, bean sprouts, chili, scallions and coriander. 

Popular additions for both soups consist of chili sauce, lime and hoisin sauce – a sweet and spicy condiment made from soybeans, sugar, garlic and vinegar.

How to order and eat pho for beginners?

“The best way to attack a steaming bowl of pho is to have chopsticks in one hand and a soupspoon in the other,” reads 


You can customize your pho adventure by experimenting with condiments such as lime, hoisin sauce and Sriracha. With each careful slurp and bite, you’ll unravel the art of this Vietnamese delicacy.

“While eating pho, traditional Vietnamese etiquette dictates that you should only use chopsticks and a large spoon. To ensure your soup stays hot, it’s good to refrain from lifting the bowl off the table; lean forward in your chair to savor all the flavors,” according to 

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