Vietnam has given a lot to the world of food, but pho's got to be up there with the best of it. An intensely flavoured, fragrant dish, there's not much better for body or soul than a great, steaming bowl of the stuff. We take a closer look at Vietnamese's signature broth, celebrating some of our favourite versions from around the country – including London's Ngon, Vnam in Manchester and national chain, Pho.
The roots of pho
There's a clue to pho's roots in its pronunciation — said like feu, the French word for 'fire'. Pho shares a lot of similarities with the French dish pot-au-feu. It's thought that homesick French colonialists in Vietnam tried to make their familiar dish of boiled beef in soup with local ingredients.
In time, it became popular with locals. But cows were prized for their ability to pull a plough, rather than fill a plate, so Vietnamese cooks turned the dish into a soup, bulking it out with rice noodles. And so, pho was born.
Build your own bowl
When you get bowl of beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian pho, you'll also get a plate piled high with extras. Fresh and fragrant green herbs – Thai holy basil, mint and coriander – fiery birds-eye chillies, wedges of lime, crunchy bean sprouts, hoisin sauce and warming Sriracha let you finish pho however you want to. After all, pimping your own pho is part of the fun.
Bruise the basil, mint and coriander leaves before adding them to help release their flavours. Squeeze in a zingy blast of lime juice, spoon over a bit of hoisin, scatter the bean sprouts, and drop in as many chilies as you dare.
Hungry yet? Sadly, making traditional pho is a marathon, not a sprint. Make your own stock from beef, pork or chicken bones or chicken, simmering for close to twelve hours to extract every last ounce of goodness and flavour, is definitely a job for the weekend. And that's before you've done the washing up.
A bowl of pho at home
Why make pho yourself when you could get it brought to your door? The guys at Ngon know what they're doing, offering up versions with beef, chicken and prawn – alongside one packed with beansprouts, chilli and lime for vegetarians. We especially love their Special Pho, with sliced beef, meatballs, flank and brisket for a proper meat feast in a bowl.
Vnam keep things simple with a classic pho dish with a tofu alternative, while at Pho they offer a few more options for all your pho-fanatics out there. If you're feeling like treating yourself after a long day of meetings, then the Phò Tái Lan is the one for you – it's got all your favourite bits of the noodle-y soupy goodness but with a flash-fried steak and garlic to top it off. Opt for the Pho Nam Rom for a vegetarian alternative, packed in with enoki, shiitake and button mushrooms.
We've scoured the land for the most fragrant broth, freshest green herbs and the slipperiest noodles – find your new favourite bowl of pho on Deliveroo.