No matter what time of day or night, a steaming bowl of pho noodle soup is never hard to find in Vietnam. Just like pad thai in Thailand, pho is Vietnam's unofficial national dish, exported with pride all over the world.
Pho consists of flat rice noodles in a light, meat-based broth. The dish is usually accompanied by basil, lime, chili, and other extras on the side so that eaters can season the soup to their own taste. The balanced tastes of sweet, salty, spicy, and citrus are highly contagious; pho usually becomes an instant favorite for anyone visiting Vietnam!
Ingredients and styles of pho noodle soup vary by region throughout Vietnam. Pho ga typically means that the dish contains chicken; pho bo means the dish is prepared with beef. The former uses whole chickens boiled in the stock pot; the latter uses oxtail, flank and beef bones.
Other variations on pho you might encounter include:
Pho cay: spicy beef noodle soup
Pho bo vien: pho with beef meatballs
Pho tai: noodle soup with thin slices of rare beef fillet
Pho hai san: pho noodle soup with added seafood
Pho sach bo: traditional-style pho with added beef tripe
The ultimate pho dish - not for the faint of heart - is known as "specialty pho" (pho dac biet) and contains every type of meat available in the restaurant including chicken hearts, liver, beef tripe, and tendons.