The Taste of Pho: Why It’s a Must-Try Dish

Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its flavorful dishes; pho (pronounced “fuh”) is no exception. This famous soup features aromatic herbs, spices, and tender rice noodles in a savory broth. But what does pho taste like, exactly? In this article, we’ll explore the complex flavor profile of pho, as well as its history, ingredients, and variations.

What is Pho?

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that originated in the early 20th century in Hanoi. It’s made with beef or chicken bones and simmered for hours to create a rich and flavorful broth. The broth is seasoned with fragrant spices, including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger, and garlic. Thinly sliced meats are added to the broth, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs like cilantro and basil. The soup is typically served with lime wedges, chili peppers, and hoisin sauce, which can be added to taste.

Who Eats Pho?

Pho has become a beloved dish around the world, but it remains a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. It’s often enjoyed as a comforting breakfast food and a hearty lunch or dinner option. In Vietnam, street vendors and small restaurants specialize in serving pho, with each establishment offering its own unique take on the classic recipe.

What Does Pho Taste Like?

The Taste of Vietnam Uncovering the Flavor of Pho
The Taste of Vietnam Uncovering the Flavor of Pho

The flavor profile of pho is complex and nuanced, with multiple layers of flavors and textures. The broth is the star of the show, with its rich and savory base complemented by hints of sweetness, spiciness, and tanginess. The fragrant spices give the broth a warm and comforting aroma, while the fresh herbs add brightness and freshness. The rice noodles are tender and chewy, providing a neutral base for the other flavors to shine. The meat is typically thinly sliced and cooked in the broth, adding a savory umami flavor.

How To Make Pho?

How To Make Pho
How To Make Pho

Making pho at home requires time and patience, as the broth needs to simmer for several hours to develop its rich and flavorful base. Here’s a basic recipe for making beef pho:


  • 2 lbs beef bones (marrow and knuckle bones)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3-inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 5 star anise pods
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 8 oz rice noodles
  • 1 lb thinly sliced beef sirloin
  • Bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha for serving.


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roast the beef bones on a baking sheet for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  2. Fill a large stockpot with water and add the roasted bones, onion, and ginger. Bring to a boil and skim any impurities that rise to the surface.
  3. Add the star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and black peppercorns to the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Return the broth to the pot and stir in the fish sauce and sugar.
  5. Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions and divide them among serving bowls.
  6. Arrange the sliced beef on the noodles and ladle the hot broth over the meat. Serve with bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha.

Pros and Cons of Pho

Pros and Cons of Pho
Pros and Cons of Pho


  • Pho is a comforting and satisfying meal perfect for cold weather or when you need a pick-me-up.
  • The soup is packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals from the meat, bones, and vegetables used to make the broth.
  • It’s a versatile dish that can be customized with your favorite herbs and spices, as well as different types of meats or tofu.


  • Making pho at home can be time-consuming and requires a lot of ingredients, including hard-to-find spices and cuts of meat.
  • Some people may find the flavor of pho too strong or spicy for their taste.
  • The broth can be high in sodium, especially if you add extra sauces or seasonings.

Alternatives to Pho

If you’re looking for a similar noodle soup to pho, here are some alternatives to try:

  • Bunbo Hue: This spicy Vietnamese soup originates from the central city of Hue and features thick rice noodles in a lemongrass-infused broth, typically made with beef or pork.
  • Ramen: This Japanese noodle soup is known for its rich, umami-flavored broth and can be customized with various toppings, such as sliced pork, bamboo shoots, and soft-boiled eggs.
  • Laksa: This Malaysian soup features rice noodles in a spicy curry broth made with coconut milk, shrimp paste, and various herbs and spices.

Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Pho

Step by Step Guide to Eating Pho
Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Pho

If you’re new to pho, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to enjoy this delicious soup:

  1. Choose your favorite type of pho – beef or chicken – and order from a restaurant, or prepare it at home using the recipe above.
  2. Once the soup arrives, take a spoon and chopsticks and place the bean sprouts, basil, and lime on a separate plate.
  3. Take some broth with a spoon and try it first to gauge the flavor profile.
  4. Use the chopsticks to pick up some noodles and meat, dip them into the broth, and slurp them up.
  5. Add some herbs and bean sprouts as you go along to add freshness and texture to the soup.
  6. Adjust the flavor of the soup by adding in hoisin sauce or Sriracha to your liking.
  7. Sip on the broth between bites to enjoy the full experience of the dish.

Tips for Making the Best Pho

Here are some tips to ensure that your homemade pho turns out perfectly:

  • Use high-quality ingredients, including fresh herbs, spices, and meats.
  • Simmer the bones for at least 4 hours to create a rich and flavorful broth.
  • Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface of the broth during cooking.
  • Toast the spices before adding them to the pot for added flavor.
  • Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the broth and remove any solids.
  • Customize your pho with your favorite toppings and sauces.

Comparing Pho Variations

While traditional pho typically features beef or chicken, there are many variations of this dish that use different types of meats, as well as vegetarian or vegan options. Here are some popular variations of pho and how they differ:

  • Pho Ga: This is made with chicken instead of beef, resulting in a lighter and milder broth.
  • Pho Tai: This is pho made with rare beef slices added to the soup raw and cooked in broth.
  • Pho Chay: This is a vegetarian version of pho that uses tofu or seitan instead of meat.
  • Pho Bo Kho: This is a variation of pho that’s made with beef stew meat and has a thicker, heartier broth.

The Best Pho Restaurants in the US

If you’re looking for an authentic bowl of pho in the US, here are some top-rated restaurants to try:

  • Pho 75 (Arlington, VA)
  • Pho Hoa Noodle Soup (San Jose, CA)
  • Pho Bang New York (Elmhurst, NY)
  • Pho Bac (Seattle, WA)
  • Pho So 1 (Las Vegas, NV)


So, what does pho taste like? Pho is a beloved Vietnamese noodle soup that offers a complex and comforting flavor profile. Whether you prefer it with beef or chicken, spicy or mild, there’s a pho variation out there for everyone to enjoy. With the right ingredients and techniques, you can make a delicious batch of pho at home and experience all the flavors and aromas that this amazing soup has to offer.


  1. Is pho gluten-free? Pho noodles are typically made from rice flour, so they are gluten-free. However, some restaurants may use soy sauce or other ingredients that contain gluten in their broth, so it’s essential to ask before ordering.
  2. Is pho healthy? Pho is a good source of protein and nutrients from the meat, bones, and vegetables used to make the broth. However, the broth can be high in sodium, so it’s important to enjoy it in moderation.
  3. What should I add to my pho for extra flavor? Common toppings for pho include lime wedges, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha. You can also add sliced jalapenos or other chili peppers for extra heat.
  4. Can I freeze leftover pho? Yes, you can freeze leftover pho broth and noodles for up to 3 months. Just store them separately and reheat them gently on the stove when you’re ready to enjoy them again.
  5. How do I pronounce “pho” correctly? The correct pho pronunciation is “fuh,” with a short vowel sound. It’s important to note that the word is pronounced differently in different regions of Vietnam, and there is no single “correct” way to say it.
About Mai Tran

As Mai Tran, the author of the Bunker Vietnamese website specializing in Vietnamese food, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all my readers. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I have always had a deep appreciation for the rich and diverse flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Through my website, I aim to share my passion for cooking and my cultural heritage with the world. From traditional recipes passed down through generations to modern twists on classic dishes, my website is a celebration of the vibrant and delicious world of Vietnamese food. Join me on this culinary journey and discover the beauty and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine.

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