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The History and Evolution of Pho: A Hundred Years' Journey  

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fero
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 fero
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hi
I personally do not think that Pho is from Hanoi, if you go anywhere in Hanoi or northern vietnam and you ask them where Pho bo(beef) came from... they would say Nam Dinh... but there is no historical evidence about this...
Also be careful about adaptation of words . Northern Vietnamese do not use "nha bang" they use ngan hang.... that word is southern word.
I personally do not think pho comes from french word. I know that vietnamese people have adapted some words but only for inventions what french people brought into Vietnam such as cars, pate, french etc... but what you have researched is quite interesting! However, the most interestingly is that France have influenced mostly central part of vietnam... thats why there are many students studying french in Hue or people who can speak french yet Southern vietnam influenced by the U.S but nothern vietnam ? i have no idea... french were there, chinese were there as well..

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chuynh
Posts: 445
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Joined: 11 years ago

@Fero: Very interesting viewpoints. With respect to where pho came from, it's probably true it was Nam Định which is about 50 miles from Hanoi. For a global audience especially back in 2009, North Vietnam and Hanoi were probably more recognizable than Nam Dinh. In 2013 and 2014, in a few conversations threads above, I did mention that Nam Dinh should be the place to visit to learn more about pho. I think, like in any product and market, if I have something good to sell, I'd take it to where the big money and large market is. In the case of pho, if it actually initiated in nam Dinh, then I would take it to Hanoi, or maybe some entrepreneurial Hanoians visiting Nam Dinh took it back with them. It's time for me to update a few sentences in the article.

With respect to word adaptation, Vietnamese language actually has at least 2 forms, one of casual usage and the other, more formal and classical chữ Nôm or chữ nho. To me Northern Vietnamese use more of the formal/traditional words and Southern Vietnamese use more of the casual variety in everyday communication. In your example, “nha bang” is actually the casual type and "ngan hang" is the more formal form, Chinese-based chữ Nôm used in all places.

But even more importantly, one must also consider the strong fact that, until very recently, North Vietnam has not much influence from the outside (much like North Korea now) and South Vietnam specifically Saigon was the hotbed of culture, business and educational influence and exposure from Western ways. Saigon was even called "Pearl of the Far East" or "Paris of the Orient" or some combination thereof before 1975. So to me it makes total sense that most Hanioans say "ngan hang" while most Saigonese say "nha bang" in the street.

There is no question about Chinese influence which is still everywhere in the Vietnamese language today. With respect to your point about "many students studying french in Hue or people who can speak french" in Central Vietnam, I think it may be true today or in some cases but not always before. French was the "official" second language or (third, depending on how you look at languages in Vietnam) since the French came in and even during the Vietnam War when English was introduced in mass. Most Vietnamese (North, South, Central) did speak French fluently including myself and many people I know. I remember many people including myself attempting to learn English as the second foreign language in school. And after 1975, France was one of the most popular places for refugees to request to go.

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Jeff
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I want to use this article for an assignment I have, but what's the source??

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chuynh
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Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 445

@Jeff: Thanks for your inquiry. You can refer to this article or quote a part of it, as long as you cite and attribute to LovingPho.com and Cuong Huynh as the original source. I wrote this article based on my own knowledge and research, and I'm not interested in listing out all references at this time. Thanks again for your request.

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Tuan Tran
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 Tuan Tran
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"The focus of pho bac is on the taste of its clear and simple broth."

"The main ingredients in pho bac are the rice noodles and the thinly sliced rare beef cooked quickly in the hot broth."

This is wrong. The 2 sentences do not belong to the same paragraph. There's no way you can have clear broth with rare beef unless clear as mud is what you meant by "clear." The main protein ingredients in pho bac is brisket. That's all. I suggest you read this well written article to get an idea. http://www.lasanmossard.org/thegioiinternet/2012/nguoimepho

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

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Posts: 445

@TUAN TRAN: Regarding your comment "The 2 sentences do not belong to the same paragraph". I'm the author of this post so of course I can include these sentences in the same paragraph. That aside, I think you're missing the point about clear pho broth. The clarity of the broth is only a requirement when it's still in the pot. It's a sign of a good quality soup stock being made. Needless to say, once served in a bowl with other things added and mixed in, anyone would agree that it's not realistic and reasonable to demand the broth to remain clear right? Hope this clears it up for you, pun intended.

The referenced article is an interesting read, but it's from the perspective of a single person. For this reason while I respect its points and passion, I wouldn't consider it a leading authority on pho.

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Tuan Tran
 Tuan Tran
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@Cuong: Yes you are the author so you can include them but that does not make it right. Again, we are talking about Pho Bac here and being Pho Bac, there's NO other things added in. Pho Bac is served with only onion and ngo. There's no hoisin sauce, sriracha, basil added in after. You eat it as it's served.

Another thing about rare beef is that besides making the broth looks like sewage water is that it alters the favor profile of the broth. The broth is a delicate balance between body and flavor. You get the body from the bones and you get the flavor from the meat. The ratio between bones and meat is very important because it gives the broth its distinct goodness. That's why real pho bac should and must be cooked with bones that has been scraped off clean of meat lest it affects the delicate balance of the broth .

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

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Posts: 445

@TUAN TRAN: Thanks for the additional detail about pho Bac. You definitely have some extreme and narrow viewpoints. I've never had someone describe pho broth with rare beef looking like sewage water in a serious conversation.

Not sure how you came about the information in the rest of your post but there are some major issues with them as well. I may address them in the future, but for now, I won't give any rebuttal unless someone specifically requests one.

This thread has run its course. Future posts will be moderated.

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Jean Wan
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 Jean Wan
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HI Cuong

I'm currently doing my Masters and have chosen to explore the history of Pho and how it has changed over the years including its migration to NZ . After some internet searches, I came across your article and it's a great start.

Are you able to share your resources please? It would be a great help for my research.

Regards

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

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Posts: 445

@Jean Wan: Thanks for reaching out. I'd be more than happy to discuss anything relating to pho, but resources are not for sharing without my having a clear understanding of your project, its goals, and what it aims to accomplish. If you want to share in detail what you want to do then I can start steering you in the right direction. If there's a need to communicate in private about the subject matter then I can do that.

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Henry Trieu
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 Henry Trieu
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By the way, Alexandre de Rhodes gets all the credits on creating modern Vietnamese but he was working with Portuguese missionaries who started it first. Many influences in Portuguese can still be seen in the Vietnamese language.
Example: the word for soap is Vietnamese is xà bông. That is from Portuguese sabão, not the French savon.
Vietnamese's name for days of the week begins with thứ hai, thứ ba... Meaning second day, third day... Mirroring Portuguese names for days of the week: segunda-feira, terça-feira and not French lundi, Mardi...

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

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Posts: 445

@Henry Trieu: Thanks for your input and views. I'm sure no one can achieve anything ALL on his/her own, without direct or indirect assistance, involvement, or the knowledge of others. I am not familiar with historical accounts of who else may have assisted Alexandre de Rhodes, but with all the European missionary activities going on in Vietnam during that time, it would be reasonable to say that Portuguese missionaries also left influence in the country.

Vietnam was a colony of France for almost 70 years (ending in 1954) so the amount of influence French language and culture had on Vietnamese people was enormous. Whatever influence the Portuguese left in Vietnam before the French came would have become insignificant by 1954 and after.

Your theories about xà bông and days of the weeks are interesting. I don't have time to research with enough detail to agree or disagree with your theories, but it seems logical that French ways went pretty deep in Vietnamese life back then, including things like soap and days of the week.

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Phang Kuan Hoong
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 Phang Kuan Hoong
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Help convert their language? more like banned and wiped it out completely. Vietnam had a written language before the French. They destroyed it in the name of white man's burden.

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chuynh
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Joined: 11 years ago

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Posts: 445

Fair comment. However the real question is, how far would/should one go back in history and apply today's standards. There are some things we'll want to make sure will not happen again in the future (like slavery in America) and there are other things we don't want to or just can't go back and fix (like Vietnamese language conversion).

I think you may be taking issue with the word "help" and that is also a fair point. On the other hand, in recounting of historical events, the word "help" is generally and acceptably used to mean "contribute" or "play a major part in" making something happen. It's the same as saying certain events had "helped" Hitler and the Third Reich come to power before WW2. It does not necessarily mean to praise or give support to such events or the people involved.

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