Executive summary By darmansjah

YOU could call pho (feu) a noodle soup, but to put it so plainly would be a grave injustice. Commonly eaten at breakfast, it’s a combination of beef stock-with notes of onion, ginger, star anise and coriander-rice noodles, chillies and beanshoots, which is topped with slices  of beef brisket, chicken or meatballs and a squeeze of lime.

ORIGIN Pho, which has its origins in the cuisines of France and China, was popularized around the end of the 19th century. The Vietnamese took the rice noodles from their northern neighbor and a taste for red meat from the colonialists, and created something entirely new. Some say that pho is derived from the French dish pot-au-feu, while others argue that it is Chinese in origin, stemming from ‘fan’, a Cantonese word for noodles.

TASTING Pictures dawn breaking across Vietnam, with the background hum of scooter engines yet to reach its mid-morning crescendo. The pho sellers have set up stalls, some little more than a battered collection of metal pans, while others offer plastic tables; whichever you choose, it’s the broth that matters. The broth is the heart and soul of pho, and should be rich and deeply flavoured. The noodles should be freshly made-soft with a hint of firmness-while it is best to use chillies that are mild rather than fierce. Bean sprouts add a satisfyingly crunchy texture, and with a dash of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime, breakfast is ready.

Finding it : The Quan An Ngon restaurant in Hanoi has gorgeous garden and does exemplary pho (from US$2.30; 00 84 4 3942 8162).


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