Phở is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup. The next section is in quotations because it is an excerpt from wikipedia. (Recipe follows) The excerpt is pretty concise so I decided to cut and paste:
"Because not much was written about the origin of phở until recently, its beginnings are a bit murky and mostly culled from oral histories. Still, the consensus among academics, diners and restaurateurs is that it originated about a century ago in northern Vietnam. It was originally sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first phở restaurant was opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.
While a distinctly Vietnamese dish, phở has French and Chinese influences. The origin of the word was one subject in a seminar on phở held in Hanoi in 2003. One theory advanced at the seminar is that the name comes from the French feu (fire), as in the dish pot-au-feu, which like pho uses the French method of adding charred onion to the broth for color and flavor, one of the techniques which distinguishes pho from other Asian noodle soups. Some believe the origin of the word to be the Chinese fen (粉)(this character is pronounced phấn in Vietnamese.) In addition to rice noodles, multiple spices (such as star anise and cassia) are staples of Chinese cuisine (cassia used in phở is Saigon Cinnamon, a local ingredient).
There are several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called phở bắc or "northern phở"; or phở Hà Nội), central (Huế), and southern (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon). One regional phở may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor. "Northern phở" tends to use somewhat wider noodles and green onions.photo 1photo 2 On the other hand, southern Vietnamese generally use thinner noodles (approximately the width of pad Thai or linguine noodles), and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their phở instead. The variations in meat, broth, and additional garnishes such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (Eryngium foetidum), hung que (Thai/Asian basil), and tuong (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) appear to be innovations introduced in the south.
The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (local rice noodles - originally of Chinese origin) and French tastes (cattle before the French arrival being beasts of burden, not sources of beef).
Phở did not become popular in South Vietnam until the mid-1950s.
Pho has become popular in the United States, especially on the East and West Coast; such a cuisine brought by Vietnamese refugees who settled there from the late 1970s onwards."
this recipe will yield about one gallon. Traditionally pho is made with beef bones and sliced beef, this one is made with chicken.
4-5 lbs of chicken backs, necks or carcass'
4-5 quarts of water
2 medium yellow onions
1 4" piece fresh ginger
1/4 cup fish sauce (commercially available in most Asian markets)
1 sachet pho spice mixture (also available " )or 1 stick cinnamon, 1-2 pods cardamom, 5 star anise, 1 tbsp coriander seeds,1 tbsp fennel seeds,6 cloves
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
for the bowls:
1/4 inch bahn pho noodles aka rice noodle sticks. fettuccine style or vermicelli.
par cooked al dente and cooled in an ice bath.
1/2 to 1 whole chicken breast for each bowl. Trim breast with sharp knife slice paper thin pieces at an angle from right to left aka on the bias (if you're right handed)
Thai basil (may be substituted)
slice fresh jalapenos or serranos
paper thin yellow onion slices
sambal chili paste
1st and foremost, char the ginger and stock yellow onions. peel paper layer from onions and oil. oil ginger as well. If you cook with gas, you can char them directly on your burner just turn frequently (i've done this on an electric range as well, I just don't recommend for safety reasons.) Let cool and peel onions and ginger.
In a separate stock pot, par boil the chicken to remove some of the scum and impurities. Rapid boil approximately 6-8 minutes. remove, rinse and set aside.
In the another, or cleaned and dried original stock pot bring the 4-5 quarts of water to and chicken bones to a boil, skim out any additional impurities and oil that rise to the top throughout the entire process. Reduce heat to low and add onions, ginger, fish sauce and sugar. After approximately 1 1/2 hours, add spice bag- let steep for additional 30-45 minutes and remove spice bag, ginger and onions, add salt. After three hours of simmering (three hours is the optimal amount of time it will take to coax out as much flavor as possible from the bones.) strain with a fine mesh strainer and reserve. The cooking process of the broth can be sped up, but the results will not be as great. Clean stock pot and return to a boil and keep skimming for bones and oil. The boiling stock is to be poured directly over prepared bowls as follows:
In each bowl add the paper thin onion slices (to taste), rice noodles and your desired amount of raw very thinly sliced chicken. note: for beef pho, rare to medium rare meat is acceptable- for chicken put a plate over the bowl after boiling stock is added to hold in the heat and cook the chicken through. If the chicken is sliced thinly enough, it should cook immediately after the broth is added. If you don't feel comfortable with this method, feel free to cook the chicken in advance in a saute pan or in the stock itself.
traditionally bowls are garnished with a few leave of basil, culantro and cilantro roughly torn into pieces, bean sprouts, chilis to taste and srachi, sambal and hoisin to taste.
always adjust seasonings before serving. the broth may taste salty but the rice noodles, chicken and garnishes balance everything out.
the chicken can always be substituted for beef, shrimp,pork or just vegetarian created with simple vegetable pho stock.