Pho Pronunciation - How to Order Pho in Vietnamese

Pho Restaurant Open SignUpdated 04-02-14. Per a request from Barb Carter over at the "Tips on Ordering Pho" post, here are audio files to help with your pho ordering in Vietnamese language. The selection is based on a typical pho menu one may find at many Viet restaurants. So drop me a note in the comment if I missed anything and I'll add it.

First a few words about convention.

In Vietnamese, the word "tô" means "bowl." When ordering a bowl of pho tai, for example, a Viet would call a "tô phở tái" or just "tô tái."

If you're already in a pho restaurant, then saying "phở" is redundant and is really not necessary (but optionally okay.)

If you're in a Viet restaurant that also serves pho, then ordering a "tô phở tái' would be more appropriate to make it clear that you want pho and not another dish.

So for those who find saying pho a little challenging, "tô" will solve your problem!

Note: The "t" in "tô" pronounces as a hard t like in French (e.g., Tour de France) or in Spanish (e.g., Latino,) and not like a soft t in English (i.e., tow truck.)

For pho bo or beef pho, as noted in "Tips on Ordering Pho," the seemingly endless pho options on the menu are really permutation and combination of the available meat cuts and types that you can mix and match. The most common options are:

  • bo chin (sliced well-done steak),
  • bo tai (sliced rare steak),
  • nam (flank),
  • ve don (crunchy flank),
  • gau (fatty brisket),
  • gan (tendon),
  • sach (tripe) and
  • bo vien (beef meatballs, normally with tendon).

So without further ado, here is the audio pho menu. As always each has the Southern Viet accent followed by Northern Viet accent.

  1. Tô Đặc Biệt Xe Lửa (pho dac biet xe lua) - special (combo) large size pho
    Click to play     
  2. Pronounce: Tô Đặc Biệt (pho dac biet) - special (combo) regular size pho
    Click to play     
  3. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Nạm, Gầu, Gân, Sách (pho Tai, Nam, Gau, Gan, Sach) - rare steak, flank, fatty brisket, tendon, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  4. Pronounce: Tô Chín, Nạm, Gầu, Gân, Sách (pho Chin, Nam, Gau, Gan, Sach) - well-done steak, flank, fatty brisket, tendon, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  5. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Chín, Gầu, Gân, Sách (pho Tai, Chin, Gau, Gan, Sach) - rare steak, well-done steak, fatty brisket, tendon, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  6. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Chín, Nạm, Gân, Sách (pho Tai, Chin, Nam, Gan, Sach) - rare steak, well-done steak, flank, tendon, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  7. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Nạm, Gân, Sách (pho Tai, Nam, Gan, Sach) - rare steak, flank, tendon, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  8. Pronounce: Tô Tái (pho Tai) - rare steak pho
    Click to play     
  9. Pronounce: Tô Chín (pho Chin) - well-done steak pho
    Click to play     
  10. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Chín (pho Tai, Chin) - rare steak, well-done steak pho
    Click to play     
  11. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Nạm, Gân (pho Tai, Nam, Gan) - rare steak, flank, tendon pho
    Click to play     
  12. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Nạm, Sách (pho Tai, Nam, Sach) - rare steak, flank, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  13. Pronounce: Tô Nạm, Vè Dòn (pho Nam, Ve Don) - flank, crunchy flank pho
    Click to play     
  14. Pronounce: Tô Chín, Nạm, Vè Dòn (pho Chin, Nam, Ve Don) - well-done steak, flank, crunchy flank pho
    Click to play     
  15. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Gầu (pho Tai, Gau) - rare steak, fatty brisket pho
    Click to play     
  16. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Nạm (pho Tai, Nam) - rare steak, flank pho
    Click to play     
  17. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Gân (pho Tai, Gan) - rare steak, tendon pho
    Click to play     
  18. Pronounce: Tô Tái, Sách (pho Tai, Sach) - rare steak, tripe pho
    Click to play     
  19. Pronounce: Tô Bò Viên (Southern)/Tô Phở Bò Viên (Northern) (pho with meatballs) - Viet meatball pho
    Click to play     
  20. Pronounce: Nước béo (fatty broth) - Southern/Northern similar
    Click to play     

20 comments

  1. Cuong 4 March, 2011 at 18:18 Reply

    Hi lolsuz: Wow thanks for the accolade! I’m glad the audios helped. I love your “practically swimming in Pho restaurants” expression, that’s what we want, yeah! 😉 You are awesome yourself. Have a great bowl of pho for me the next time you’re at it.

  2. Bear 5 September, 2011 at 06:57 Reply

    Am I crazy (yes!) or is some of Southern Thai based (modified?) by contact with French? Some aspects of the language remind me of French…

  3. Cuong 13 September, 2011 at 01:29 Reply

    Bear: When it comes to Thai culture, I am guilty of being ignorant, even though I do have some Thai friends. The possibility is always there. People move around fluidly with trades, cultural and other exchanges, so it’s entirely possible that your postulation is correct. For me, Southeast Asia region is a huge mixed bag of cultures, and the western influence there most likely came from the French, not the English, Spanish or Portuguese.

  4. Cuong 7 September, 2015 at 16:42 Reply

    @Holly: Thanks for your message. The audios for 4 and 5 are actually not swapped. You may be facing some audio skipping problem with some of these audio files running in the Safari browser. They all work fine in Chrome and Firefox. We’re in the process to fix this, so thanks so much for your patience.

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