Beef Pho | Super-Savory Soup from Vietnam

How Pho Became an American Favorite

Prior to the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese food was virtually unknown in the U.S. But in the years following the war, refugees settled all across the country. They formed strong communities in many cities, most notably in Anaheim and San Jose, California, and in Houston, Texas. They brought with them a cuisine with a unique French/Asian spirit. Americans learned to love such dishes as the banh mi, rice paper spring rolls, sweet/strong coffee, and, best of all, beef pho. Pronounced fuh, this vivid rice noodle beef-stock soup once was a signature dish of Hanoi. Now it is the premier item on nearly every Vietnamese-American menu.

It’s All About the Broth

The essential element of pho is the beef broth. Radiant with such high-energy spices as star anise, ginger, cardamom, coriander, and cinnamon, it is slow-cooked for hours, during which marrow-rich beef bones infuse the broth with buttery richness. Ideally, it comes out light and spicy, just barely sweet, with fathomless beef flavor. Pho frequently is served with a plate of thin-sliced raw steak on the side. The eater dips the steak into the broth only long enough to warm it. That gives the ultra-rare, broth-saturated beef the aura of being cooked. Tradition demands that herbs, greens, sriracha, and fish sauce come with the pho. The eater adds them at will.

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