There are endless dicussions about the original Pho. People with chinese background said that Pho came from chinese street vendors. The French lovers said the first Pho was created in a canteen of french owned textile factory in Nam Dinh, a province in Northvietnam during colonial time. For my opinion it is enough to know that the Pho what we have everywhere today,was created by Vietnamese in the village Van Cu, Nam Dinh Province in the beginning of 20th century, with influences from chinese and french kitchen. It is a perfect exemple in the vietnamese food cultur for interaction between the Vietnamese, French, and Chinese. The cooking style was from China, the beef bone and the way of cooking broth ( 4-5hrs, how to prepare the ingredients) was from french and the herbs, ingredients, seasoning and cooking technics was developed by Vietnamese.
In our menu you will find also Pho Ga ( Chicken rice noodle soup ). This is also an other story. During the revolution and war time, trading of cows as meat was forbidden because they were very important working animals. No beef, no bone, no meat, Pho lover tried to use chicken bones and chicken meat instead. It became popular that some Pho stalls nowaday just specialize in Pho Ga.
In Saigon the people started to know more about Pho since 1954, as the french colonial period ended and the Geneva Accords devided the countries into North and South Vietnam. Many people from North went to the South and the Hanoi-style Pho became famous street food in Saigon during Vietnam war. In South Vietnam, influenced by the indien food culture, Pho broth became stronger from aroma and little bit sweeter from taste. The Saigoneer and Hanoier still fight until today to prove where the Pho is best, the original one or the reformed one.
In Northvietnam from 1954 to 1975, these years were cruel to Pho. First the private business sector was not allowed so many Pho stalls were closed or nationalized, and a state-run Pho was totally disappointed. Second reason was Pho, follow the advise by goverment, a heritage of colonien and it wasted too much rice, which was very important for the war. After the war, the rules ware overlocked and the Pho Masters could be practice slowly their profession. The economy was in sambles and Pho still remained as a luxury food for many people until 1990. Pho also became famous in others countries as USA, French, Australia through thousands of new Vietnamese restaurants, first were opened by Boat People, then strongly expanded by coming immigrants. No matter where they are born, Vietnamese always love to meet at a Pho stall for a good Pho and a caphe sua da later.