If any dish is synonymous with Vietnam, it is pho. Pronounced “fu,” this savory soup comes in many variations, with street vendors across the country putting their own signature on it. At its core, pho is a broth dotted with rice noodles, seasonings, and meat—yet comparing it to a noodle soup is like calling the Goodyear blimp a balloon.
Pho’s origins are unclear, although it’s believed to have first surfaced in the early twentieth century. The most logical theory links it to the French occupation, since both the name and the dish itself bear a resemblance to the Gallic pot-au-feu. Nowadays, the composition and taste varies as you travel from north to south. Pho Bo, the most common, typically contains eight types of beef (including flank steak, fatty brisket, tripe, and meatballs), all of which continue to cook in the broth. Pho Ga adds chicken, but the vegetables tend to be the same (basil, lemongrass, bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro), and both types are seasoned with lime, chili sauce, and hoisin.
The best local spot for authentic pho is Noodle Saigon in North Naples, which offers four beef versions and one each of chicken, seafood, and vegetarian. The same seven ingredients are available in a variation called Bun Bo Hue, and five chicken noodle soups may be ordered as well. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a soulful experience that will delight and stimulate your senses.