Pho Saigon: A Delicious and Distinctive Dish from Southern Vietnam

May 2, 2023
Pho Saigon

The southern area of Vietnam, and particularly Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon), is credited with creating Pho Saigon, a specific kind of pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. The hallmarks of authentic Pho Saigon include a fragrant beef broth, thin rice noodles, a selection of meat cuts, and an abundance of fresh herbs and sauces. The dish Pho Saigon has become a cultural icon, representing the lively and varied cuisine of southern Vietnam, and is a favourite of both residents and visitors.

The history, culture, ingredients, recipes, locations, importance, and health advantages of Pho Saigon will all be discussed in this article. We’ll also discuss the differences between Pho Saigon and other varieties of pho to demonstrate why this Vietnamese speciality is not to be missed.

The Origins of Pho Saigon

There are several competing hypotheses and heated disputes over pho’s long and tumultuous history. However, most historians agree that pho was created in northern Vietnam during the French colonial era, sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To prevent being mistaken with the term for faeces, “phân,” the Vietnamese used the Cantonese word “fen,” which denotes rice noodles.

Originally, pho was sold by mobile merchants who walked about with two boxes draped from opposite ends of a bamboo pole or wheeled carts. Spices like onion, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves were added to the beef bones and scraps that were rescued from French slaughterhouses to make the soup. The noodles were simple rice vermicelli that took just a few minutes to make and were delicious. Meat was often raw cow round that was stirred into the hot soup shortly before serving, or sliced beef shank or flank that had been cooked in the broth.

As pho gained popularity throughout northern Vietnam, especially in Hanoi, it also began to take on regional variations due to factors like ingredient availability, customer preference, and outside culinary influences. Pho Saigon, a prominent variant, arose in the south of Vietnam when the nation was split in half in 1954. Many northern Vietnamese settlers settled in the south, bringing with them their pho recipes and making some adjustments to suit the climate and palate.

The Ingredients in Pho Saigon

There are a few key characteristics that differentiate Pho Saigon unique from other varieties. One of them is the utilisation of a wider range of ingredients, which reflects the prosperous agricultural and commercial landscape of southern Vietnam. Some of the main components of Pho Saigon are as follows:

  • Broth: Pho Saigon broth is often sweeter and more highly seasoned than northern pho broth due to the addition of sugar, fish sauce, and occasionally chicken stock. The broth is also cooked for less time, making it cleaner and lighter in colour than northern pho.
  • Noodles: The noodles of Pho Saigon are thinner and softer than those of northern pho, as they are cooked for a shorter time in boiling water. The noodles are also rinsed with cold water after cooking to prevent them from sticking together.
  • Beef: The beef of Pho Saigon is more varied and generous than that of northern pho, as it includes different cuts such as brisket, flank, tendon, tripe, meatballs, and raw eye round. The beef is also sliced thinner and cooked more tenderly than northern pho.
  • Herbs and Condiments: The herbs and condiments of Pho Saigon are more plentiful and diverse than those of northern pho, as they include bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint, lime wedges, green onions, white onions, hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce, chili peppers, garlic vinegar, and sometimes pickled carrots and daikon. These herbs and condiments are served on a separate plate or basket for customers to add to their bowls according to their taste.

These ingredients are essential for creating the unique flavor and aroma of Pho Saigon. They also allow customers to customize their bowls according to their preferences.

The Best Places to Enjoy Pho Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest and most populated city, and other villages and towns in southern Vietnam also provide Pho Saigon. However, not every pho restaurant is made the same, and some have gained a reputation for excellence. Some great spots to get some Pho Saigon are listed below.

  • Pho Le: District 5 is home to Pho Le, one of the city’s most well-known and frequented pho joints. It’s well-known for its beefy broth, large servings, and speedy, pleasant service. Highly recommended is the ph tái nm, which features thinly sliced rare beef and flank.
  • Pho Hoa Pasteur: District 3 is home to Pho Hoa Pasteur, another one of Ho Chi Minh City’s renowned pho establishments. It has been providing pho to residents and visitors alike since 1959. The meat is tender and flavorful, the noodles are thin and silky, and the broth is light and fragrant. Customers rave about the beef meatballs in the ph b viên.
  • Pho Hung: Pho Hung is a Vietnamese restaurant brand with locations in Saigon, Hanoi, and other major cities around the country. The ingredients are always fresh and the flavour is reliable, and the pricing are always fair. Noodles are tender and chewy, meat is flavorful and diversified, and the broth is sweet and savoury. The pho c bi t, which has all five types of beef, is highly recommended.
  • Pho Phu Vuong: In District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City is a pho restaurant known simply as Pho Phu Vuong. It’s hidden down an alley and doesn’t seem like much from the outside, but the pho there is excellent. The meat is thickly sliced and thoroughly cooked, the broth is flavorful and nuanced, and the noodles are firm and springy. Meatballs, tendon, tripe, and rare and well-done beef all come together in a delicious way in the ph tái chn gân gu sách b viên.
  • Pho Tau Bay: The Pho Tau Bay in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Binh District is renowned as a top pho restaurant in the city. It has been serving customers since 1958 and claims that it created Pho Saigon. The meat is lean and tender, the broth is subtle, and the noodles are thin and slippery. The ph tái b viên gân sách nm gu vè n gin thôi nha! is a staple meal that epitomises Pho Saigon. It has rare beef, meatballs, tendon, tripe, flank, and brisket.

These are just some of the best places to enjoy Pho Saigon, but there are many more to discover and try. You can also find Pho Saigon in other countries around the world, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, etc., where it has been adapted to suit local tastes and preferences.

How to Make Pho Saigon

If you want to make Pho Saigon at home, you will need some time and patience to prepare the broth and the ingredients. However, the result will be worth it as you will be able to enjoy a delicious and satisfying bowl of soup anytime you want. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make Pho Saigon at home:

    1. Prepare the broth:
      • Place 5 pounds of beef bones (preferably knuckle or marrow bones) in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
      • Drain the bones and rinse them under cold water. Clean the pot and return the bones to it.
      • Add 12 cups of water (or enough to cover the bones), 1/4 cup of fish sauce (or more to taste), 1/4 cup of sugar (or more to taste), 1 onion (peeled and charred over an open flame), 4 inches of ginger (peeled and charred over an open flame), 6 star anise pods, 6 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot and bring to a boil.
      • Lower the heat and simmer the broth for about 4 hours, skimming off any foam or fat that forms on the surface.
      • Strain the broth and discard the solids. Adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce, sugar, or salt if needed.
      • Keep the broth hot over low heat until ready to serve.
    2. Prepare the noodles:
      • Soak 2 pounds of dried rice noodles (preferably thin or medium size) in warm water for about 20 minutes or until soft.
      • Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to prevent them from sticking together.
      • Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 10 seconds or until al dente.
      • Drain the noodles and rinse them again under cold water to stop the cooking process.
      • Divide the noodles among 8 large soup bowls and set aside.
    3. Prepare the beef:
      • Cut 1 pound of beef brisket into thin slices and place them in a small pot of boiling water. Cook for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
      • Cut 1 pound of beef flank into thin slices and place them in another small pot of boiling water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
      • Cut 1/2 pound of beef tendon into thin slices and place them in another small pot of boiling water. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
      • Cut 1/2 pound of beef tripe into thin slices and place them in another small pot of boiling water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
      • Cut 1/2 pound of raw beef eye round into paper-thin slices and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
      • Heat some oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook 1/2 pound of beef meatballs until browned and cooked through, turning occasionally. Cut into halves and set aside.
    4. Prepare the herbs and condiments:
      • Wash and drain 4 cups of bean sprouts, 2 cups of Thai basil leaves, 2 cups of cilantro leaves, 2 cups of mint leaves, and 4 limes cut into wedges. Arrange them on a large platter or basket.
      • Thinly slice 1/4 cup of green onions, 1/4 cup of white onions, and 1/4 cup of cilantro stems. Mix them together in a small bowl.
      • Fill small bowls with hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce, chili peppers, garlic vinegar, and pickled carrots and daikon. Set them on the table for serving.
    5. Assemble and serve:
      • Reheat the broth over high heat until boiling.
      • Top each bowl of noodles with some sliced brisket, flank, tendon, tripe, meatballs, and raw beef round. Sprinkle with some onion-scallion-cilantro mixture.
      • Ladle some hot broth over each bowl, making sure to cover the noodles and meat.
      • Serve hot with the platter of herbs and condiments on the side.
      • Enjoy your Pho Saigon by adding your favorite herbs and condiments to your bowl, squeezing some lime juice over it, and slurping up the noodles and broth with chopsticks and a spoon.

The Cultural Significance of Pho Saigon in Vietnamese Cuisine

Pho Saigon is more than just a delicious dish; it is also a cultural symbol of southern Vietnam’s history, identity, and diversity. Pho Saigon reflects the influences of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and cultures that have shaped southern Vietnam over time. Here are some of the cultural significance and traditions associated with Pho Saigon:

Pho Saigon represents the fusion of northern and southern Vietnamese cuisines: Even though Pho Saigon has its roots in the north, it has evolved and adapted to the taste and climate of the south. Southern Vietnam’s agricultural and commercial richness is reflected in Pho Saigon’s richer variety of ingredients, flavours, and colours. More herbs and condiments are used in Pho Saigon than in northern pho, a result of the incorporation of tropical plants and spices and the influence of other cuisines including Chinese, Cambodian, Indian, and French.

Pho Saigon reflects the diversity of southern Vietnamese people: In southern Vietnam, Pho Saigon is popular among people of all ages, sexes, races, faiths, and socioeconomic statuses. Ethnic minorities including the Khmer, Cham, Hoa, and Montagnards eat pho saigon just as often as the dominant Kinh population. People of several faiths, including Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims, Cao Dais, and Hoa Hao, enjoy eating pho saigon. Everyone, from the wealthy to the poor, the young to the elderly, and the sexes equally, may enjoy a bowl of Pho Saigon.

      • Pho Saigon symbolizes the resilience and creativity of southern Vietnamese people: The inhabitants of southern Vietnam had to make do with what they had and improvise with what they could find, and thus Pho Saigon was formed. During times of strife, Pho Saigon served as a source of solace and sustenance by providing a hearty and satisfying meal that required little effort to make and enjoy. The dish of Pho Saigon, which included the distinctive traits and flavours of southern Vietnam, was also a means of demonstrating individuality and pride.

Pho Saigon is not only a dish; it is also a story of southern Vietnam’s past, present, and future.

The Health Benefits of Pho Saigon

Pho Saigon has numerous positive effects on your body and mind, and it’s also delicious. Many of the ingredients in Pho Saigon are high in nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent choice for those looking to strengthen their immune system, combat illness, and feel better overall. The following are examples of Pho Saigon’s positive health effects:

Pho Saigon can help you lose weight: Pho Saigon, although being heavy in protein and low in calories, will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Pho Saigon’s collagen-rich broth comes from cattle bones and may be used to treat cellulite and increase skin suppleness. Pho Saigon noodles, which are gluten-free and simple to digest, are manufactured from rice flour. All nine essential amino acids can be found in the lean beef used to make Pho Saigon, making it an excellent protein source.

Pho Saigon can help you detoxify your body: When consumed regularly, Pho Saigon may aid in the elimination of harmful substances from the body. Pho Saigon’s spiced broth is said to improve circulation, boost liver function, and clear the digestive tract because of its use of ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. You may increase your metabolism, maintain a healthy pH level, and reduce inflammation with the aid of the herbs used to make Pho Saigon.

Pho Saigon can help you improve your mood:The uplifting and stress-relieving effects of Pho Saigon are well-documented. Pho Saigon’s broth is packed with umami-rich fish sauce, which has been shown to increase dopamine release and overall happiness. Noodles in Pho Saigon are made from carbs, which have been shown to elevate mood and stabilise serotonin levels. Iron-rich beef is used to make Pho Saigon, which may help ward against weariness and anaemia. Aromatherapy is used to prepare the herbs in Pho Saigon, which have calming effects.

Pho Saigon is more than just a meal; it’s a potent rejuvenating tonic.


Southern Vietnamese pho has a long and storied past, an abundance of ingredients, a one-of-a-kind flavour profile, symbolic and cultural value, and the added bonus of being good for you. A bowl of Pho Saigon can do it all: fill you up, delight your taste buds, feed your body, and elevate your spirit. If you’re in Vietnam or just craving some authentic Vietnamese food, you can’t leave the country without trying Pho Saigon.

We hope this information has helped shed light on the history, cultural importance, nutritional value, and culinary merits of Pho Saigon. We also want for you to experience the excellent attributes of Pho Saigon for yourself. Thanks for reading, and please enjoy your meal.

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