What Is a Vietnamese Pho Restaurant?

Laura M. Sands

A Vietnamese pho restaurant is one where a traditional beef or chicken and noodle soup, known as pho, is regularly served as a main menu item. Other Vietnamese dishes may be served at a restaurant like this, but pho is usually the restaurant’s main emphasis. While many Vietnamese restaurants may serve traditional Vietnamese foods and may occasionally serve pho, a true Vietnamese pho restaurant always features one or more varieties of pho on the menu every day.

Pho often includes cilantro.
Pho often includes cilantro.

Although some of the best Vietnamese restaurants may be found in Vietnam, many neighborhoods around the world have a Vietnamese pho restaurant located nearby. Often, these are individually owned and operated restaurants that specialize in the preparation of traditional Vietnamese dishes. At such restaurants, patrons can usually expect to order steaming hot pho that is homemade daily. Not every restaurant offers the same kind of pho, however, as pho cooks hailing from different Vietnamese regions prepare recipes that vary.

A bowl of pho.
A bowl of pho.

Some people erroneously believe that any Vietnamese soup made with noodles qualifies as pho. This is not true, as true pho only comes in three varieties, which are beef, chicken or vegetarian. Beef and chicken are the most popular varieties, although vegetarian pho is often prepared to accommodate individuals who do not eat meat for religious or other reasons. Still, some restaurants located outside of Vietnam may advertise pho recipes containing seafood, but most pho enthusiasts do not consider these to be authentic pho recipes.

Thai basil leaves are often served with pho.
Thai basil leaves are often served with pho.

In addition to beef and chicken, a few of the other ingredients one may find in the pho served at a Vietnamese pho restaurant include onions, chili and cilantro. Bean sprouts, basil, sliced chili peppers and lime are also typically offered as garnishments to add additional flavor to the soup, as well as sauces such as fish or chili sauce. Many pho recipes are made with rice noodles, but this soup can also be made with egg noodles. In vegetarian varieties, tofu is sometimes used as a meat substitute, as well.

A Vietnamese pho restaurant might serve spring rolls.
A Vietnamese pho restaurant might serve spring rolls.

A Vietnamese pho restaurant may also serve other Vietnamese foods, such as spring rolls and various types of meat and seafood dishes. A Vietnamese restaurant may serve pho on special occasions or at certain times during the week or month. A true Vietnames pho restaurant, however, is usually known for its pho recipe and such is often included in the restaurant’s name and is made available to customers on a daily basis.

Rice noodles are a main ingredient in pho dishes served in a Vietnamese restaurant.
Rice noodles are a main ingredient in pho dishes served in a Vietnamese restaurant.
Traditional beef or chicken and noodle soup are regularly served at Vietnamese pho restaurants.
Traditional beef or chicken and noodle soup are regularly served at Vietnamese pho restaurants.
Most Vietnamese pho restaurants offer fresh spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, glass noodles, and chopped vegetables.
Most Vietnamese pho restaurants offer fresh spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, glass noodles, and chopped vegetables.

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Discussion Comments

clippers

I have tried to make pho on my own a few times but it never turns out the same. In fact, it is usually pretty bad.

I am not sure what I am doing wrong but I have resigned myself to just having to go out any time I am hungry for pho. But oh well. There are worse things in the world.

disciples

This might seem kind of dumb but I am just going to put it out there. What I love about Vietnamese pho restaurants is that you get a lot of food for very little money. I do think I have ever paid more than $10 for what is almost always a gigantic bowl of pho. For value and flavor, pho is one of the best deals anywhere.

ZsaZsa56

I think that pho is my all time favorite food. I could eat it every day. There is just something magical about it. Who would think that all those humble ingredients could come together to make something so rich, dynamic and delicious.

There is a little Vietnamese place close to my house that makes amazing and really authentic pho. There is an Americanized version that omits a lot of the more exotic animal products that the Vietnamese like to eat but not this place. It is as real as it gets and absolutely delicious.

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