Vietnamese Southern Pho Vs Northern Pho

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Many wonder about the difference between the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho, for North and South Vietnam. If you ask any Vietnamese, they will quickly tell you that there is a difference between North and South Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup.

The main difference between the iconic northern and southern Vietnamese dish Pho is that southern Vietnamese Pho is sweeter than northern Pho. North and South Vietnam also use different meats to flavor the Pho, with the North and South using a lot of beef. The spices or flavoring North and South Vietnamese add to the Pho are also different. These unique differences only add to the debate within Vietnam and elsewhere on which Pho is the best and the tastiest.

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The Great Debate Between Northern and Southern Pho

If you ask a Vietnamese person in Hanoi where to find the best Pho in Vietnam, undoubtedly, they will proudly tell you in Hanoi. If you ask a Vietnamese person in Ho Chi Minh where to find the best Pho, they will proudly tell you in South Vietnam.

If you ask Vietnamese living overseas to find the best Pho in Vietnam, they will probably tell you where they came from in Vietnam. This is the continued debate on the Pho noodle soup between the south and northern Vietnamese Pho.

The northern and southern Pho differences are as debatable as the Pho itself. But here are some of the major differences that you will find between the Northern and Southern Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup:

Characteristic Northern PhoSouthern Pho
TexturesUses Rice NoodlesIt uses Rice Noodles (some say slightly thinner than the north)
Pho Broth Clean and Simple Broth Sweeter Tasting Broth
Meats Eat Mainly Chicken and Beef Beef plus Meatballs
Toppings More green onions plus an array of Vietnamese herbs It uses more bean sprouts and herbs, including Vietnamese or Thai Basil
Sauces Vinegar, Fish Sauce, and Chilli are added for seasoning Lime, Hoisin sauce, Chili sauce, and fresh red chili.
Northern and Southern Vietnamese Pho Compared.

If you look at the comparison between these two Phos, they are quite similar. Most Vietnamese people will say the number one difference between northern and southern Pho is that the southern Pho’s broth is sweeter than the northern Pho’s broth. The South Vietnamese will also put meatballs in their Pho.

The sauces and spices used as toppings on the Pho are also different. The Southerners use more hoisin sauce, whereas I rarely, if ever, see this sauce used in northern Vietnamese cooking.

Pho is one of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes. Because of this, no matter where you go in Vietnam, you will find someone with an opinion on what Pho is better, taster, sweeter or where you can find the best Pho in Vietnam.

Pho – Chinese and French Influence, Vietnamese Perfection

The history of Vietnamese Pho is as fascinating as the Pho dish. Vietnamese Pho is influenced by Chinese and French cooking; they then perfected it to create Vietnamese Pho.

Pho came to North Vietnam in the mid-1880s when Vietnam was under French rule. Because Vietnam was a French colony, it is natural that Pho was influenced by French cooking. Pho is believed to be from “Pot Au Feu,” the French word for French beef stew.

The Vietnamese could not get all the ingredients to make the French Beef Stew, so they improvised and mixed Chinese, French, and Vietnamese ingredients to make the delightful dish known as “Pho” or Vietnamese Noodle Soup.

The rice noodles and many spices were from China’s influences; the French gave the Vietnamese the love of red meat or beef. Beef Pho is still considered to be the most traditional Vietnamese Pho dish.

Traditionally, northern Pho was a straightforward kind of Beef Noodle Soup. But after 1954, as the dish started to move southward, more ingredients began to be added to this Vietnamese dish until we had the dish of Vietnamese Pho as we know it today.

The Vietnamese Beef Pho contains rice noodles, beef, bean sprouts, basil, and other herbs. It is served with vinegar, chiles, fresh lime, and other spices.

Pho – Rated One Of The World’s Top 50 Foods

The Vietnamese national dish of Pho was rated by CNN as one of the World’s Top 50 foods. The iconic dish of Pho shares the spotlight with favorites such as French Toast, Maple Syrup, Catsup, Pizza, and Fish’n Chips.

Pho is also the second Vietnamese dish to be on CNN World’s Top 50 foods list. The Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls also made a list.

You can read more about the Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls by reading the Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls Vs. blog. Salad Rolls Vs. Summer Rolls by clicking here. In this blog, you can find a link to our fresh spring rolls recipes and their dipping sauces.

In speaking about the Vietnamese dish of Pho, CNN said:

“This oft-mispronounced national dish (Pho) (“fuh” is correct) is just broth, fresh rice noodles, a few herbs and usually chicken or beef. But it’s greater than the sum of its parts — fragrant, tasty and balanced.”

CNN Travel

The Vietnamese have taken what can seem like the boring Chicken noodle soup we have in the west and added zest and flavor. They have taken a simple broth and added fresh herbs, limes, spices, and a host of other flavors to give you a soup that will burst through your taste buds.

Once you have eaten Vietnamese Pho, you will never look at a chicken or beef noodle soup the same way ever again.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pho?

Pho is a popular Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, and various toppings, typically including meat (such as beef or chicken), herbs, and bean sprouts.

What are the main differences between northern and southern Vietnamese Pho?

The main difference lies in the taste profile. Southern Pho tends to be sweeter compared to its northern counterpart. Additionally, the types of meat used to flavor the broth and the specific spices or flavorings added can vary between regions.

Which meats are commonly used in northern Pho?

In northern Pho, beef is commonly used to flavor the broth. It can be in the form of beef bones, beef shank, or beef brisket.

What types of meats are popular in southern Pho?

Southern Pho often incorporates a wider variety of meats, including beef, but also sometimes chicken, pork, or even seafood.

What spices or flavorings are typically added to northern Pho?

Northern Pho traditionally includes spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardamom, which give the broth its distinct flavor.

What are the common flavorings used in southern Pho?

Southern Pho commonly incorporates ingredients like hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and sugar, which contribute to its sweeter taste.

Are the noodles used in Pho the same in the north and south?

Yes, the rice noodles used in Pho are generally the same regardless of the region. They are flat and smooth, and they absorb the flavors of the broth.

Are the toppings for Pho consistent across the north and south?

The choice of toppings can vary based on personal preference, but commonly used toppings include bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime wedges, and sliced chili peppers, which are popular throughout Vietnam.

What Is The Philosophy of Vietnamese Cuisine?

Vietnamese food uses the five elements of philosophy: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These 5 elements touch our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. They also take into account the color and flavor combinations of Vietnamese food.

You can discover more by reading our blog, The Philosophy of Vietnamese Cuisine, by clicking here.

Why is Thai Food So Spicy?

Thai food is spicy as it is a combination of a few kinds of cuisines as Indian, Chinese, and Portuguese. The Indians brought curry to Thailand. The Chinese taught the Thais how to cook using a wok, and the Portuguese traded in a lot of fruits and vegetables, including red chili.

You can discover more by reading our blog Why is Thai Food So Spicy? A Bit of History by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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