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What is Phở?

Phở is the globally acclaimed Vietnamese noodle soup, served with rice noodle in clear amber beef broth, garnished with beef- rare or well done-, green scallions, coriander, lime and chilies in the North. In the South, people add bean sprout, Thai basil and saw leaf herb to the list. As a culinary pride of Vietnam, the scent of phở evokes a sense of nostalgia of the homeland, of motherly love, of “home sweet home” and the childhood memories. The reminiscence of a steaming hot bowl of phở, radiating warmth and aroma making you feel toasty in a few sips, has been deeply engraved in all the five senses of many Vietnamese. As one of Vietnam’s best comfort foods, phở is everyone’s favorite because they can eat it, “in sickness and in health”, and at any time of the day or year. Indeed, in Vietnam, people eat phở  at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late souper. For many Vietnamese expatriates, phở is frequently included in the family menu because a piping hot pot of phở is an ideal point for family and friend gathering on the weekends. Not only the aroma of phở haunt the senses of all expatriates, especially the southern Vietnamese, but it also serves as a conversation starter, an aide-memoir of Saigon, the beloved city that lost its name.

In place of the national food emblem of Vietnam, and “a food that evokes such a strong emotions” (Greeley, 2002) it is surprising that its origin remains a myth, where phở comes from, or who invented phở, remains an ongoing debate. Let’s go back in time and search for the origin of pho!

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