eating pho with chopstick and spoon

What Does Pho Taste Like? Learn About the Delicious Vietnamese Dish

Ever been to Vietnam? Or, heard about the street stalls offering delicious food to the customers? If so, you may know about a unique flavored food named Pho. Is it anything new item to eat? What does Pho taste like?

In short, Pho (pronounced as fuh or fuuuuhhh, foe) is a stock-based broth or rice noodle soup in Vietnamese food stalls and fancy restaurants. Pho tastes like a balanced combination of spicy, sweet, salty, and citrusy flavors. Also, you may find it tastes like beef or chicken stock with a hint of basil and ginger. 

It looks pretty similar to Ramen as both have noodles and several ingredients in common. But in reality, they are different, as they have distinct tastes and recipes. In this guide, I will share the ins and outs of Pho with some exciting information. I hope you will be ready to taste the cuisine after reading it!

What is Pho or Pho Soup?


Pho is an everyday cuisine in Vietnam, mainly served hot at breakfast. With the pace of time, it has become an all-day dish. Its name, “Pho,” refers to the noodles in it. Even people call it by its name for the noodles, not for the soupy part. 

You may find it in most roadside food stalls if you have ever visited. But its taste and uniqueness have placed it in many other restaurants. However, some common ingredients of Pho are rice noodles, spices, onions, and meat (beef/chicken). Some people love adding herbs, tart lime, and bean sprouts for an improved taste. 

As I define the cuisine, you may confuse Pho with Japanese Ramen. But trust me, they are not the same. A common difference between these two items is their use of noodles. In Pho, the cooks use rice noodles, but wheat noodles are mostly used in Ramen. 

History of Pho

HuffPost says something interesting about the name Pho. They say maximum foodies know it in a mispronounced form. Therefore, it is tough to declare anything about the origin of this food confidently. 

For example, some consider Pho originated in Nam Dinh province of North Vietnam in the 1880s. There is an argument that “Fuh” has come from the French word “Feu,” which means fire. 

Let’s dig into the history. 

Beef Pho was first got known in 1930. Then in 1939, chicken Pho (consisting of chicken stock and shredded breast or thigh) was primarily available as it was hard to get beef on two days (Monday & Friday). Around 15 years later, the Vietnamese started cooking Pho soup from their north zone to the south. 

As the transition happened, there were some changes in the recipe of this dish. Southern Phos contained versatile beef like brisket, tendon, and flank. Also, chefs added vegetables like basil and cilantro and sauces like chilies and hoisin. 

Then, during the food supply shortage from 1975-1986, potato flour noodles took the place of rice flour noodles. People tended to call it the “Pilotless Pho”. Then again Vietnam War introduced Pho to different nearby countries. As a result, people came to know about the flavor of traditional Pho. 

Variations of Pho – You May Like Them

Using the same recipe or type of Pho consistently worldwide is not mandatory. You can always customize the ingredients to taste them differently. For example, you can find “Rainbow Pho,” a famous cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City, for its colorful twist. 

Mainly you can find three popular types of Pho:

  • Beef Pho (Pho bo)
  • Chicken Pho (Pho ga)
  • Vegetable Pho (Pho chay)

Then again, beef pho is available in different variations:

  • Beef meatballs (Pho Vien)
  • Beef tripe Pho Sach (stomach)
  • Trimmed flank steak (Pho Nam)
  • Fatty brisket (Pho Gau)
  • Pho Gan (beef tendon soup)
  • Sliced rare tenderloin or ribeye pho Tai
  • Untrimmed flank steak (Pho Ve Don)
  • Sliced well-done flank or brisket, Pho Chin

Other variations may include:

  • Seafood Pho (Pho Hai San)
  • Northern Vietnamese Beef Pho (Pho Bo Tai Chin)
  • Sour Pho (Pho Chua)
  • Pho Rolls (Pho Cuon)
  • Stir-Fried Pho (Pho Xao)
  • Mixed Pho (Pho Tron)

What does Pho Taste Like? – The Answer You Were Looking for 

close up photo of couple eating pho in the city

Now, the main question is – what is the taste of Pho? First, the aromatic smell of the spice and sweetness will attract you to have at least one bowl. But the taste on your tongue may be different as you prepare it using your preferred ingredients (or meat). 

For example, adding some lime to the Pho soup gives you a tangy taste. For spice lovers, Pho may have a better portion of peppers in it. Again, you can add some fish if you want a sour taste. 

The stock will also impact the taste of the soup. For instance, the taste of chicken Pho and beef Pho will differ. And there are versions of meat Pho I have discussed already. 

Some people find similarities between Ramen and Pho. But the noodles bring a significant difference in their taste. Again, some others compare Pho with another Vietnamese dish, Bun. They almost taste the same, but still, there are variations. Though they share similar ingredients, the noodles used are not the same. In Bun, people use vermicelli noodles. 

After all, it depends on your preference, the way you want it to taste. Adding different toppings, spice, salt, citrus, and meat in different quantity easily change the taste. When you try Pho soup for the first time, it may taste spicy or tangy. But over time, you will make a habit of having this delicious cuisine.

Does Pho Taste Good or Bad?

First-timers often complain about the taste of Pho. But that is very low in number. When people from different countries visit Vietnam, they try it and leave positive feedback. From my knowledge and experience, Pho really tastes good, yet it has a complex flavor. In fact, spicy food lovers will love this food.  

How Can I Prepare and Cook Pho?

pho ingredients

There are lots of methods available online about how to cook Pho quickly. You don’t need prior skills or experience sets to cook flavorful Pho at home. 

Some common ingredients you can use in prepping and cooking this food are:

  • Rice noodles 
  • Stock (beef or chicken)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger
  • Onions
  • Cloves 
  • Coriander seeds
  • Basil
  • Lemon
  • Mint leaves
  • Bean sprouts 
  • Cardamom pods

Besides these ingredients, you may use others recommended by different cooks. They may give your desired taste of the Pho. Also, you may follow different recipes available online. 

Making the food is very simple. You may need a few minutes only if you have already prepared the broth for the Pho soup. 

Here are the processes you can follow to make Pho quickly:

Make the Broth

Begin by making the broth for the Pho. Combine beef or chicken stock in a large stockpot, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 1 hour, but preferably 3-4 hours.

Prepare Noodles and Other Ingredients 

While the broth is simmering, prepare the noodles and other accompaniments. Soak rice noodles in hot water for 20-30 minutes or until softened. Thinly slice beef, chicken, or tofu and set aside. Roughly chop cilantro, basil, and green onions and set aside. Slice jalapenos and limes and set aside.

Strain Out Spices

When the broth is finished, strain out all the spices and discard them. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Assemble the Pho

To assemble the Pho, divide the noodles among 4-6 bowls. Top with beef, chicken, or tofu, and ladle hot broth.

Seve the Pho

Serve the Pho with cilantro, basil, green onions, jalapenos, and limes. Enjoy!

Benefits of Eating Pho Soup

Not only Pho tastes good, but also it offers versatile nutritional benefits. Regular eating habits may prove this more. However, here are some benefits of eating soupy Pho:

High in Protein

Pho is an excellent source of protein. It contains an average of 15-20 grams of protein per bowl. So, you can make your favorite food to increase your protein intake.

Low in Calories

Pho is relatively low in calories, making it an excellent choice for those looking to watch their weight. The broth contains very few calories, while the noodles and meat provide the bulk. Again, a single bowl of pho averages around 250-300 calories. So, you can choose it if you are watching your weight.

Contains Healthy Herbs and Spices

Pho is often served with herbs and spices such as cilantro, mint, and basil. These herbs and spices have numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, enhanced immunity, and reduced inflammation.


Pho is a very filling meal and can quickly satisfy hunger. It also contains various ingredients that can help keep you fuller for longer.

Good Source of Vitamins and Minerals

It is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B-12, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Good Source of Dietary Fiber

Pho is a good source of dietary fiber, with a bowl of beef pho containing about 5 grams of fiber. Dietary fiber is vital for digestive health. It keeps you feeling full and satisfied.

Healthy Fats

Pho contains various healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Indeed, they are essential for a healthy diet.

Low in Unhealthy Fats

Pho is relatively low in fat, with a bowl of beef pho containing only about 8 grams. That’s why it is a healthy meal option for those looking to reduce their fat intake.


Pho can be made in a variety of ways. It allows you to switch up the ingredients and make it a different experience every time.

Pho is a nutrient-rich dish packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It is low in calories, fat, and sodium. So, consider it an ideal meal option for maintaining a healthy diet.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Besides searching for the taste of Pho, people also look for other information regarding it. Here are some of them:

What are the differences between chicken Pho and beef Pho?

Chicken pho is made with chicken broth and rice noodles. Alternatively, beef pho is made with beef broth and rice noodles. Again, chicken Pho has a lighter, more delicate flavor, while beef Pho has a richer, more robust flavor. Both soups are typically garnished with bean sprouts, herbs, and lime. But the toppings may vary slightly depending on the region.

What are the differences between Pho noodles and Bun noodles?

Pho and Bun are both Vietnamese noodle soups. But they have differences too. Primarily, Pho has rice noodles, and Bun has cold vermicelli noodles. Then, it may have broth, herbs, and meat. You can serve it with various accompaniments, including bean sprouts, herbs, lime wedges, and chili peppers. 

On the other hand, Bun is made with various vegetables, herbs, and a protein such as pork, shrimp, or beef. You can usually serve it with a fish sauce-based dressing. As well you can add toppings of crushed peanuts and other condiments.

What are the differences between Northern Pho and Southern Pho?

Here are the known differences between Northern Pho (Pho bac) and Southern Pho (Pho nam):

Northern Pho:

  • The broth is light in color, made with only spices, no added sugar
  • Beef is served rare alongside the soup
  • Noodles are thinner
  • Generally served with fewer herbs and vegetables

Southern Pho:

  • The broth is darker and sweeter, often with added sugar
  • Beef is served cooked
  • Noodles are thicker
  • Generally served with a variety of herbs and vegetables

Are Ramen and Pho same cuisine?

No, they are not the same. Here are the differences:

  • Origin: Pho is a Vietnamese dish, while Ramen is a Japanese dish. 
  • Broth: Pho is made with a clear broth. Alternatively, Ramen is made with a thicker, richer, and saltier broth. 
  • Noodles: Pho is made with thin rice noodles. You need wheat noodles to make Ramen. 
  • Toppings: Pho is typically topped with herbs, bean sprouts, and lime, while Ramen is typically topped with vegetables and eggs.
  • Spiciness: Pho can be spicy. But Ramen is usually less spicy. 
  • Preparation: Pho is usually cooked in a large pot on the stove. Ramen is usually cooked in an individual bowl in the microwave.

Exciting Facts About Pho

Pho is one of the world’s most demanding dishes, with over 1 billion servings eaten each year. Even there are around 25,000 Pho restaurants and street stalls in Vietnam.

Surprisingly, most chefs consider you have loved the bowl of Pho soup if you slurp it well. It also gives them the satisfaction that they have prepared the dish well. Another fact regarding Pho is that Vietnam families prepare it to celebrate multiple special occasions or parties. 


What does Pho taste like? I hope you have the answer now. Still, I am summarizing the whole blog.

Pho is a savory and delectable Vietnamese dish that is enjoyed worldwide. It tastes balanced with spicy, sweet, salty, and citrusy flavors. Moreover, the broth (chicken or beef) gives a different taste of Pho. You can make it using ingredients like rice noodles, stock, spices, meat, and vegetables.

Also, Pho is high in protein and low in calories. It contains many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It is a great meal option for those looking to maintain a healthy diet. 

Now, prep, cook, and serve it according to your taste and get a unique and customizable experience every time.

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