Phở – pronounced 'fuh', not 'faux' – is Vietnam's national dish. While essentially a noodle soup, that definition seriously undersells it.
For us, phở is a miracle of nourishment and balance. A complete meal in a bowl, it consists of a rich, slow-cooked broth, silky rice noodles, meat (or other protein) and various garnishes.
More than just the sum of its parts, the beauty of phở lies in the way each element elevates the dish as you eat it. Originally phở was cooked at home, then served at makeshift street food stalls. Today it's mostly served in restaurants, which in Vietnam – particularly in Hanoi – tend to be small places that just specialise in phở.
However, mostly phở is served as part of a much larger menu, which can be a problem. Phở is all about patience and detail – two things often missing in busy time-pressured restaurants. So at Phomo, we've taken phở back to its humble, home-cooked origins.
It's what we do, and it's pretty much all we do – from taking the time to source the best ingredients, to preparing them properly, and paying attention to getting them to you in tip-top condition.
It all starts with the broth: a slow-cooked, gently-spiced and deliciously nourishing consommé (French for 'clear soup') that's traditionally made with beef bones and simmered gently for hours. Indeed, we cook our classic Phở Bo Tái broth for 16 hours, adding charred onions, roasted ginger, black cardamon, star anise, cinnamon and coriander seeds to create its unforgettable depth of flavour.
We're very proud of our phở broths – especially our vegan one, which took a lot of thought and care to get right – and we'd happy slurp them as they come. But they're only one part of a great phở.
Next up are the noodles, which are where phở actually gets its name. These medium sized flat rice noodles are delicate in texture and satisfyingly silky. The enjoyment of a bowl of phở really hinges on the quality of its noodles and how they're prepared. At Phomo we source ours directly from Vietnam. They're made simply from rice flour and water, but have the perfect texture and thickness to soak up the rich broth and provide the filling core of the dish. It's best to cook phở noodles separately, then let them finish cooking once the hot stock is poured over them to serve.
The centrepiece of any phở is its topping (aka, the protein). Traditionally, this is thin slices of raw beef steak (such as you'll find in our popular Phở Bo Tái). The locally-reared, grass-fed steak cooks gently as the hot broth is poured over it, giving unbelievably full flavoured and tender burst of beefy pleasure as you eat your phở. Since phở first appeared in Hanoi's streets back in the early 1900s, many variations of the topping have appeared, with chicken, prawn, beef brisket and tofu all now common. Unlike the raw steak, these will be cooked in advance and added to the phở as it's served.
At this point, you could happily eat your bowl of phở and it would be delicious. Rich broth, silky noodles and full-flavoured steak – a super tasty and filling meal.
But in Vietnam they like their cuisine a bit more balanced and 'alive'. So this is where the garnishes come in: fresh ingredients that add texture, aroma, seasoning and lift to the dish. Phở garnishes include crunchy fresh beansprouts, raw spring onions, fiery chillies, lime wedges, some garlicky chilli oil (especially for the spice-loving South Vietnamese) and fresh herbs – particularly Thai basil and coriander.
These herbs are an essential component of phở, adding fragrance, bursts of flavour and – in the case of Thai basil – a slightly resiny herbal note which is just synonymous with good phở.
And there you have it. When all's said and done, phở is just a big bowl of happiness. At Phomo we think there's nothing else like it. Phở is a dish that you make your own by the way you garnish it. Chilli, lime, the different herbs, all add different nuances that evolved as you eat it. And whether it's served by itself, or with fresh summer rolls to start and a creamy Vietnamese coffee to finish, we believe phở makes a truly unique meal. It's utterly delicious, deeply nourishing, low in calories and a proper 'event' food – i.e. one that creates genuine fun and excitement at the table.
What else gives you all that?!