Japanese prefer soups, so it is not surprising when pho becomes a popular dish among the Japanese community in Vietnam.
Hiroe K. from Tokyo had lived in Hanoi for years before moving to Ho Chi Minh City. In Hanoi, she did not often eat out but she chose pho whenever she had a chance.
Hiroe can eat pho once to twice per month.
In Ho Chi Minh City, she even pays more attention to pho.
“It is interesting as I can easily find a pho restaurant when stepping out of my house. My friends often recommend me [pho with] flank steak, brisket, and beef tendon, but I find it hard to remember them so I usually order a special bowl of pho,' she said.
“As its name suggests, the dish is special as you can enjoy many types of beef. [It’s] very delicious!”
Hiroe found that the key difference between pho in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is that pho in the Vietnamese capital is not served with herbs. Meanwhile, pho restaurants in the southern metropolis provide diners with herbs, hoisin sauce, and chili sauce.
Pho in the south is often sweeter and has a milder taste than the dish in Hanoi, Hiroe added.
While locals prefer traditional pho restaurants, Hiroe and her friends tend to visit branded ones.
Vietnam should develop chains of restaurants of pho or other Vietnamese dishes, Hiroe suggested, adding that the space of the restaurants is the first factor to affect the decision of foreign eaters.
|‘Pho’ in southern Vietnam is often served with bean sprouts and herbs. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
For Kaoru Tsunoda from Tokyo, pho is a dish for weekend breakfasts. She oftentimes walk to a pho restaurant near her house.
She sometimes chooses long-lived restaurants which welcome a high number of local customers.
Kaoru said pho is best eaten when it rains. Sipping the hot soup, the good flavor of pho seems double.
“I prefer beef pho to chicken pho," Kaoru said.
“I often opt for well-done beef pho rather than rare one. I also love pho with beef balls.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I bought frozen beef balls and added them to soups. That was an interesting discovery thanks to my love of pho.”
Kaoru added that Vietnamese beef is fresh, easy to eat, and not too fatty. She likes the soft noodles the most.
“An interesting fact is that each pho restaurant offers noodles at different thickness levels, making pho lovers more curious and want to try different varieties of the dish," she said.
“It’s like a journey of discovery which encourages you to try a dish with different flavors.”
Although Kaoru has never cooked pho at home as it is not easy to prepare broth, her friends tend to buy and simmer beef bones to make the broth and enjoy it with noodles.
Some love instant pho and store it at home for teatime.
In the kitchens of Japanese housewives, their favorite quick food when they are busy is instant noodles. Coming to Vietnam, they add instant pho.
In Ho Chi Minh City, there are some Vietnamese food cooking classes for Japanese people and many have learned how to cook pho to entertain their friends, Kaoru shared.
“I have a friend who has flown from Japan to Hanoi to learn how to cook pho as she believes that dishes made from beef bones can help deal with some of her health problems.
“Pho is not only tasty but also nutritious.”
|Instant ‘pho’ is a favorite dish of many families. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The Vietnam Phở Festival 2023, which marks the seventh edition of the ‘Day of Pho’ (December 12), initiated and annually held by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, is scheduled to take place at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, Japan on October 7 and 8 this year.
The event is aimed at enhancing the global recognition of Vietnamese culinary culture, particularly pho, a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat – usually beef or chicken.
The festival serves as a tangible commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.
The event is co-organized by Tuoi Tre and Saigontourist Group, in coordination with the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vietnam-Japan Friendship Association, and Japanese partners.
Scheduled to attend the Vietnam Phở Festival 2023 are many chefs and winners of the ‘Hoa Hoi Vang’ (Golden Star Anise) award Nguyen Tien Hai, Nguyen Tu Tin, and Pham Quang Duy as well as famed pho brands, such as Pho Dau, Pho Hai Thien, Hotel Majestic Saigon, Pho Phu Gia, Pho’S, Sen SASCO, Pho VGCC, and Pho Thin Bo Ho, among others.
The festival will be rolled out in association with national carrier Vietnam Airlines, Suntory Beverage & Food, Simply Food, Southern Airports Services JSC, Dai-ichi Life, and ALSOK.
Miss Intercontinental 2022 Le Nguyen Bao Ngoc is the ambassador for the festival this year.