The soup is a relatively young creation, dating back only to the late 19th century, but its origins are hazy—some claim it comes from the city of Nam Dinh, others say a small village named Van Cu. Pho’s culinary antecedents, however, are clear. Noodles and spices have an unmistakable Chinese element, and beef was not widely eaten until the arrival of the French. (Many believe the name pho has echoes of the French feu, derived from the dish pot au feu.)
These basic influences were transformed by local tastes and techniques to become a uniquely Vietnamese creation. In many ways, the history of Vietnam over the last century can be found in every delicious slurp of pho. Pho moved from north to south along with many northerners when the country was divided in 1954, and transformed once again along with the mass immigration to the United States after the War. At each step along the way, new variations emerged.
Most purists still insist, however, that the authentic version comes from the North, with a clearer and less-sweet broth than found in the South. The soup is deceptively simple but packs a complex flavor profile in its broth, which is made from simmering beef bones and aromatics for several hours.
Under the guidance of Hanoian master chef Anh Tuyet, authentic northern pho (known as pho bac) is painstakingly recreated at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula’s Citron restaurant. The secret? Ingredients such as shallots, ginger and star anise are imported from Hanoi to capture a flavor that simply can’t be reproduced anywhere else.
Pho is traditionally a breakfast food but can be enjoyed at any time of day. So make sure to stop by Citron and sample a fresh bowl of Vietnam’s humble culinary superstar.