Pho: A Tale of Survival (Part 1 of 2)

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Phở (or “pho”) is known and loved by all, but its true story is that of gritty survival, and a dish that almost faded into non-existence only a few decades ago. The Vietnamese noodle soup has made its way around the world and into the hearts of those who’ve tried it, but its journey was not an easy one — pho had to fight for its place in the world today.

We’re going to skip over the history lesson about where and how pho was first created (that’ll be in Part 2). Instead, I’m going to shed some light on the prohibition of selling pho, and what it took to bring pho to where it is today.

During the late 1950s, the existence of pho was threatened by Communist rule when the Vietnamese government nationalized businesses for social reform. Restaurants and street vendors alike were forced to incorporate potato and wheat flour sent by the Soviet Union into their dishes. Why? Because making real pho was considered a waste of resources.

Forced to use the supply of ingredients provided to them, restaurants would sell a bowl of rotten noodles, tough beef, and tasteless broth as a substitute for the real thing. Smaller street vendors were prohibited from selling pho altogether, and instead, sold customers a revolting soup with potato flour noodles.

You’re probably wondering: how could pho survive in an environment such as this? It went underground. Disgruntled by the government’s regulations on pho, street merchants would sell the real thing to those who knew where to look. Secret addresses were passed from person to person looking for a taste of the comfort that only the real thing could provide. To deceive state officials who were patrolling the area, street merchants would hide real pho underneath the shriveled up noodles they were expected to sell. People then had to devour their meals quickly to avoid being caught by the government.

“Wow was this all pho-real?!” Yes! It was in this manner, and through the tenacious grit of a people who weren’t willing to let go, that pho adapted and fought to stay. And with a past like that, through years of political turmoil and possible extinction, you know it has to be good.

RushOrder restaurants serving pho:

Pho Legend

Pho 2000

Pho 21

Pho Broadway

Thank U Pho

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