The Vietnam Phở Festival 2023, slated for this weekend in Tokyo, Japan, aims to build global recognition for Vietnamese culinary culture by bringing cuisine which embodies the essence of Vietnam to Japan, Matsuo Tomoyuki, chairman of the Japan-Vietnam Cuisine Association, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Though many Vietnamese restaurants in Japan offer pho to customers, the taste doesn’t typically match up with bold pho flavor found on the streets of Vietnam due to a lack of ingredients and the different culinary preferences of Japanese people.
“I see common cultural values in the two peoples. I think all Japanese people know that pho is important to Vietnamese people and love the dish,” Tomoyuki said.
Perhaps a major reason pho generally appeals to the Japanese is the fact that most Japanese people eat rice every day and pho noodles – a major component of pho – are made from rice.
Other major draws include the fact that pho is generally considered healthy and the relative lack of heat and spice compared to other cuisines.
|Matsuo Tomoyuki answers questions from Vietnamese 'pho' restaurant owners about their experience preparing food in Japan. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
“I often visit Vietnamese eateries to eat pho and other kinds of noodle soups because they taste good and are very digestible,” Tomoyuki shared.
A bowl of pho consists of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat – usually beef or chicken.
Similarly, ramen – a Japanese favorite which originated in China – also features broth, noodles, herbs, and meat. Just as with pho, ramen flavors differ by region.
For ramen, Sapporo-, Hokkaido-, and Fukuoka-styles are among the most popular. With pho, Ho Chi Minh City- and Hanoian-styles are among the favorites.
At the Vietnam Phở Festival, Vietnamese pho brands will showcase different pho flavor profiles.
“We should not compromise [with food]. Instead, we should adhere to our own styles and stories,” Tomoyuki said, adding that each style of pho offers its own unique story for diners to discover.
|'Pho' Dau in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
Not only does Tomoyuki have plans to showcase pho at the festival, but he also plans to put the spotlight on demonstrating how to make pho noodles and cook pho.
“I want to introduce to Japanese people to pho. I want them to know how to prepare and combine the anise, cinnamon, cardamom, beef, and beef bones. I want them to know how to make pho noodles,” he said.
|'Pho' spices. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The Vietnam Phở Festival marks the seventh edition of the ‘Day of Pho’ (December 12), hosted annually by Tuoi Tre newspaper.
This year’s 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 several Japanese partners.
Among the many chefs scheduled to attend Vietnam Phở Festival 2023 are winners of the ‘Hoa Hoi Vang’ (Golden Star Anise) award Nguyen Tien Hai, Nguyen Tu Tin, and Pham Quang Duy.
'Hoa Hoi Vang' is awarded each year during the 'Day of Pho' to honor pho chefs from across Vietnam.
Participating restaurants at this year’s event include Pho Dau, Pho Hai Thien, Hotel Majestic Saigon, Pho Phu Gia, Pho’S, Sen SASCO, Pho Ta, Binh Tay Food, Pho VGCC, and Pho Thin Bo Ho.
The festival will be rolled out in association with national carrier Vietnam Airlines, Suntory Beverage & Food, Southern Airports Services Joint Stock Company (SASCO), Dai-ichi Life, Simply Food, and ALSOK.
Miss Intercontinental 2022 Le Nguyen Bao Ngoc is this year’s ambassador for the festival.