Pho Glossary

Updated 08-06-19. Have a request or suggestion for a glossary term? Please leave a comment below. Also, Vietnamese banh mi is not pho, but I get enough inquiries about it so it's included here too.

Bánh mì
Okay it is not pho but I received plenty of questions about it so here it is.

Vietnamese bánh mì or banh mi has two main meanings. One, banh mi in general means a loaf/slice/piece of bread, most often tied to the French baguette, but can also be used to describe sliced bread and other breads. Two, banh mi refers to the bread stuffed with a variety of meats, vegetables and pickles. In a Viet sandwich shop, you can buy the whole baguette banh mi, and also order the bread stuffed with meat banh mi.

The word Bánh itself really has several meanings, but in this context it means any flour-, rice- or wheat-based food that is baked, cooked, or steamed (bánh ngọt means sweet cake, bánh bao means ball-shaped steamed dumpling, bánh chưng means rice cake, etc.) The word Mì also has several meanings (one of which is egg noodle) but in this context it means bột mì or wheat flour.

Bánh phở
Banh pho is the noodle used in pho dish. There are several sizes of banh pho available, ranging from a small width (1/16") to wider widths (1/8", 1/4" or sometimes even 3/8"). This is similar to spaghetti versus angel hair in Italian dishes. What differentiates banh pho from other noodle varieties is banh pho has square or rectangular cross-sections (depending on width size), as opposed to mostly round cross-sections most other noodles come in. Read more on Banh Pho.

Bo chin nac
Well-done sliced brisket. A meat ingredient in beef pho.

Bò tái
Rare sliced eye of round steak. A meat ingredient in beef pho. Bo tai is normally included in the bowl when served, but can be ordered as a side dish (raw) to be cooked in hot broth at the table.

Bò viên
Beef meatballs, sometime with tendons. A meat ingredient in beef pho. Can be ordered included in the pho bowl when served or as a side bowl in broth.

Beef tendon. A meat ingredient in beef pho.

Fatty brisket. A meat ingredient in beef pho. The fatty brisket (gầu) is either the whole brisket untrimmed or just the point (front) of the brisket. Here's a video showing brisket trimming for BBQ to help understand the different parts of brisket.

Flank. A meat ingredient in beef pho. This is the trimmed flank cut. See Vè dòn below for more detail.

Nước mắm or nuoc mam
Nước mắm or nuoc mam is fish sauce and the basis for many dipping sauce mixes used in Vietnamese cuisine.

In its purest form, nuoc mam or fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from sea products (anchovies, squid, crab, etc.) that have been allowed to ferment. Literally, “nước” means liquid or sauce, and “mắm” means a sort of fermented fish-, squid- or shrimp-based, thick and saucy substance or paste often used to enhance food flavors through mixing or dipping.

Pho bo
Vietnamese for beef pho, the most common type of pho. See this post: "What is Vietnamese Pho: Think You Know? Think Again"

Pho ga
Vietnamese for chicken pho, also a very popular type of pho. Boneless chicken pieces can be served as chunks in the noodle bowl, or as side dish (not boneless) with dipping fish sauce and ginger. Choice of white or dark meats. Free-range chicken is preferred.

Phở is a Vietnamese soup noodle dish served in a large bowl that can be a meal in itself. Phở is a noodle dish and not a soup, and can be enjoyed at any time of the day and is not tied to any particular meal, early or late. See this post: "What is Vietnamese Pho: Think You Know? Think Again"

Beef tripe. A meat ingredient in beef pho.

Vè dòn
Crunchy flank. A meat ingredient in beef pho. Crunchy flank (Vè dòn) is the untrimmed flank cut. The flank steak piece itself has a silver layer/membrane on one side that is trimmed off (along with some fat) for North American consumption. For pho, though, we Viet people leave this on to get the vè dòn. Properly cooked and sliced, it gives a chewy and crunchy texture in addition to the awesome flank beef taste.

Viet or Việt
Vietnamese word for Vietnamese, Vietnamese people or the Vietnamese language. Viet and Vietnamese are used interchangeably on this site


  1. Dave 9 January, 2012 at 19:39 Reply

    Found the site by accident. It’s interesting and fun. My favorite phở restaurant is called Trieu Chau, on University Avenue, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fantastic soup. Incredibly cute help. I eat there about 80-100 times per year. Nothing beats having a bowl at night at the market in Saigon, though. Two bowls, two entrees and six 333 for about $14.

  2. Cuong Huynh 13 January, 2012 at 17:26 Reply

    Fantastic pho and cute help? What more could you ask for;) that’s why you go 100 times a year! Wow I’m craving for some Saigon night market foods right about now. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  3. Cuong Huynh 5 December, 2012 at 15:28 Reply

    Little Mekong: Thanks for stopping by and leave a message. I have taken your link off as we do not allow self-promotion on However, we’d love to support your business. You can contact us directly using the Contact Form.

  4. Cuong Huynh 4 May, 2013 at 01:14 Reply

    @Marc: In Vietnamese there actually are several meanings for phở: phở the noodle and phở the noodle in pho broth dish. The noodle, called bánh phở (see Banh Pho (Bánh Phở) – It’s All About the Square Noodles, can be used as the starch in many dishes that are not considered the Phở soup noodle dish.

    This is exactly the case with the dishes in your question. Both of these use bánh phở as the starch element in the dish. I’m not sure what “lan” means in this context (it could be lăn which is a stir fry method where you toss and roll ingredients in the pan as you cook,) but “phở xào” is just stir-fried pho noodle with a variety of meats and/or vegetables. An analogy is the Chinese chow fun or the Pad Thai dish, both of which use banh pho rice noodle of varying widths.

    Regarding Phở sốt vang, I think this is a popular dish in North Vietnam consisting of beef and lots of tendons in sauce/broth. In the context of this dish, sốt is the Vietnamese half-translation of the word “sauce”, while vang is the wine used in making the sauce. I have never had phở sốt vang or even seen it, and cannot confirm if this is a stew or a broth. In Vietnamese cuisine, we do have “bò kho” which is a very tasty beef stew that can be enjoyed with white rice, vermicelli rice noodle, banh pho noodle or banh mi bread. Phở sốt vang may be more similar to bò kho than the pho noodle in broth that we all know, as I’ve seen photos of it served not only with banh pho but sometime with banh mi as well. The latter is called banh mi sot vang. This leads me to believe bò sốt vang is another beef stew with a wine sauce.

    Someone more knowledgeable about this sot vang business please share with us your wisdom. Many thanks. And thanks for an interesting question. Did you have pho sot vang, and where did you have it?

  5. Foong 1 October, 2014 at 00:20 Reply

    Hi, I noticed that some road names in Hanoi start with the word Pho. This pho is different from the noodles pho right? How is it pronounced? And does it mean road or street? Thanks!

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