The Proper Vietnamese Pronunciation of Pho (Not "Fuh")

While "phuh" is one possible English pronunciation of ph, the French word for "fire" (fou) is a closer match in terms of sound and meaning. The six Vietnamese tones are essential for pronouncing Ph correctly.

To hear Ph, please click the green play button.

You are not alone in finding the pronunciation of ph to be amusing. Despite being the pinnacle meal in northern Vietnam, even Vietnamese people find the name to be a bit of a mouthful.

If you want to learn more about the history of ph, you can trace its roots back to the French word for fire, feu.

Does Ph Sound Like "Fuh"?

You need to know two things about the sound: To begin with, the letter in Vietnamese is not an "o," but rather it is pronounced similarly to the French letter u, as in the word "fur" (for more information, see our section on Vietnamese vowels). Second, the diacritic indicating a particular "tone" for the pronunciation of is located on the character.

Anglo speakers have a hard time hearing and pronouncing tones, or the varying strengths of a sound's pitch. Since English (like most languages) lacks tonal distinctions, this is the case. Pitch is an important part of the English language, and it is used for expressing emotion and for posing questions (e. g a question that ends on an upward tone)

Vietnamese, on the other hand, uses six distinct pitch shifts to convey different meanings in spoken words. Among the six Vietnamese tones, the tone is the most out-of-the-ordinary. Here are two examples of the difference between the "" tone and the "flat" (or natural) tone, so you can decide which you prefer.

The flat ma

 vs Mả

Literally "flat" (Tao)

 vs Tảo

The tone has an unusual pitch dynamic, beginning at a mid-pitch, dipping slightly, and then rising again. It takes a lot of practice to hear this tone, so if you can't hear it at first don't be discouraged. If you want to hear more examples of the six Vietnamese tones, check out our guide.

Worried About Pronouncing Pha Wrong?

The diacritic (' vs ) between the two words "ph" and "ph" can cause confusion in pronunciation. The former represents a down-tone, a gradual lowering of pitch (a "sad" voice). However, ph refers to a noodle dish, while ph refers to a "lady of the night"

This hilarious mispronunciation is common among Westerners living in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Meaning of Pho

Pho is simply a style of Vietnamese noodle dish typically made with large, flat noodles and served in a broth. Its roots are in the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam. The Pho in Hanoi is widely regarded as some of the best in the world.

Because of its complexity, especially its broth, pho is one of Vietnam's most popular dishes. Because it can take anywhere from 12-24 hours of slow, careful simmering, Ph broth is a closely guarded secret in restaurants. It's incredibly challenging to execute properly.

Ingredients for Pho, aside from the broth, can vary widely.

How Many Varieties of Vietnamese Pho Are There?

The ph noodles and the complex broth are what truly define ph. Noodles come in many different forms and can have a wide variety of ingredients.

Photos by:, pho-cuon, beef pho, Simon Law, and others

  • Pho Bo, or Pho with Beef The prototypical Hanoian soup The emphasis is on a simple beef broth that has been lovingly tended to.
  • Pho Gà, or Chicken Pho
  • "Pillow ph" (Ph Chiên Phng) is a noodle dish that isn't served in a soupy broth but rather features thick layers of noodle that, when fried, puff up into delicious bite-sized "pillows."
  • Unlike traditional pho, the noodles in phu cun are not chopped but instead kept as sheets and rolled up like savory crepes.

Particularly, our favorite dish to eat in Hanoi is ph chiên phng. Hanoi's Pho chiên phng can be found at the famous Ng x street, close to Trc Bch lake.

Ph: Vietnam's Once-Deluxe Drink

Unlike other Vietnamese dishes, such as spring rolls or banh mi, Ph is a treat best enjoyed away from home due to the complexity of its broth.

Before free-market reforms in Vietnam were implemented in the 1990s, Ph was considered a treat. Similar to the Canadian "chicken noodle soup" remedy, Ph was often only consumed by sick individuals.

"When I was little, I used to hope I got sick so my mother would buy me pho. A Vietnamese woman who was born in the socialist 1980s recalls it like this. Their words are remarkable because they at once demonstrate the significance of Ph in Vietnamese culture and serve as a time capsule for the transformation that has taken place in Vietnam over the past twenty to thirty years, during which a former luxury has become a cultural norm.

Ph Comical Facial Expressions

It's "Chán cm thèm ph."

To tire of rice and long for pho." ”

If you're wondering what this phrase means, it's referring to a man who cheats on his wife because he's bored with her. e his monotonous diet of rice leads him to daydream about the exotic delicacy Pho.

Background on Ph

The Vietnamese consider pho to be their national dish. Historiographers, however, place its emergence at around the year 1900, and some even speculate that its roots lie in France.

Evidence from linguistics suggests that the word Ph appeared sometime between 1915 and 1930. Dictionary entries began to appear for things like "soup-noodle made of rice-flour, with a slow-cooked beef-broth." Before that time, neither Ph nor beef were commonly eaten by Vietnamese; indeed, it would have been unthinkable for the vast majority of the culture to consume buffalo or beef in soup given the cultural significance of the buffalo as a precious beast of burden.

However, the French colonial rule introduced beef-broth to the Vietnamese in France and the French diplomatic service.

Vietnamese chef in the French service is credited with creating Pho. Every once in a while he'd let out a fierce Feu Feu when lighting his fire (feu is French for fire) to make some beef broth. A familiar soup was better than the bread and dried goods served at the French canteen, so he would make this impromptu meal for his fellow soup-loving Vietnamese. The beef soup evolved over time to become more complex and spicy (source).

SEE ALSO: Additional French-derived Vietnamese Words

The chef took the new method back to Hanoi, where it quickly caught on, and the name Feu was Vietized to ph. Hanoians continue to show great love for pho. Evidence of the technique's arrival can be found in Dalat in 1930 and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1940, indicating its gradual spread across Vietnam.

First and Foremost, Food from the Streets

Present day Ph is typically found in upscale dining establishments. However, it has humble beginnings as a form of street food. The men would spend the night prior preparing the broth and noodles. See below for visuals of the two containers the vendor would sling over his shoulder as he walked the streets in search of customers. When an order was placed, the portable chambers would be set down, the noodles and broth would be combined, and street ph would be ready to be served.

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