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November 1, 2011


Vietnamese phö is one of the world’s great soups. Cooks can spend an entire day making the broth; but you can save hours with Pacific Organic Pho soup base. Photo of chicken phö by Simon Gurney | Dreamstime.

WHAT IT IS: A soup starter, or soup base, for Vietnamese pho soup. The base is available with traditional beef stock, plus chicken and vegetarian options.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: It’s the only phö base we’ve had that tastes like the real thing, and isn’t overloaded with sodium. The line is certified organic by Oregon Tilth.
WHY WE LOVE IT: After you have your first bowl of phö, you’ll know why. It’s one of the world’s great soups.
WHERE TO BUY IT: At grocers nationwide and online.

Pacific Organic Pho Soup Starters in Vegetarian, Chicken and Beef. The 32-ounce cartons yield four eight-ounce servings or two meal-size portions. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

If you can find purple-stemmed Thai basil, use it in phö. It has a subtle licorice or anise flavor lacking in the common Mediterranean sweet basil, and smaller leaves. Photo courtesy


Vietnamese Phö Soup Base: An Easy Way To Enjoy One Of The World’s Great Soups

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CAPSULE REPORT: If you enjoy spending the day making stock, you’ll probably want to make a pot of phö from scratch. The soup is slowly simmered for hours to develop deep, complex flavors. Check out the video, which demonstrates and links to a recipe.

Otherwise, head for the market to buy Pacific Organic Soup Starters Phö, in beef, chicken or vegetarian varieties. Pacific Organic has done the hard work, creating the broth. All you need to do is add your choice of cooked meat and other signature ingredients—basil leaves, bean sprouts, cilantro, sliced green onions, sliced jalapeño (we prefer red for the color contrast) and rice noodles, with your choice of hoisin sauce, hot sauce, oyster sauce or other favorite Asian seasoning.

The ingredients list may seem long, but everything but the rice noodles and the optional hoisin/fish/oyster sauce may already be in your kitchen.

These add-ins are set upon the table on platters and in bowls, so that each individual can customize a steaming dish of phö to his/her preferences. Add your selected ingredients to a bowl and ladle the hot soup over them.

Now That You Know How To Prepare It:
What Is Phö?

A hearty meal-in-a-bowl, phö, pronounced FUH (like duh but with a drawn-out “uh” and often spelled without the umlaut in the U.S.), is the beloved beef and rice-noodle soup of Vietnam. Phö means “noodles.”

Vietnam’s most famous dish, it is enjoyed for breakfast and other times of the day. Phö is as emotional a comfort food as Jewish chicken soup—although there is likely even more argument about the superior qualities of the perfect phö than the perfect chicken soup.

A bowl of phö can have up to 30 ingredients that create a heady aroma and flavor. Beef, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fish sauce, ginger, onions and star anise are just some of what goes into the broth—exclusive of the “add-ins.” The scent is as aromatic as any dish you can imagine.

Why You Should Serve Phö Often

Phö is a delicious yet good-for-you food.

  • It’s high in protein—25g to 50g for a 1-1/2 cup serving, depending on the amount of meat.
  • Skip the noodles and it’s low in carbs and calories. Pacific Organic’s soup base is just 30 calories per cup.
  • It’s easy to skim off the fat of homemade phö. (Pacific Organic has taken care of it—the broth is fat-free.)
  • It’s fun party fare: Just set the ingredients on a buffet (get an inexpensive hot plate or a portable single burner for the pot of soup).
  • For dieters who drink bouillon or chicken broth: Phö tastes so much better!

Slurping—very declassé in the U.S.—is the proper way to show your enjoyment of the soup.

Where To Find Pacific Organic Phö

If your local market doesn’t carry Pacific Organic Pho (spelled without the umlaut), look in Asian markets or natural foods stores. Or, buy it online. Don’t worry about large quantities: We’ve been consuming a carton a day!

While Pacific Organic is the best commercial product we’ve had, a bowl of phö made from scratch at a top Vietnamese restaurant is a thing of beauty. If you find yourself at a such a restaurant, be sure to order a bowl.

Faux Phö Tip: You may encounter “instant phö” soup bowls, bouillon cubes and liquid broth. They are as similar to a good bowl of phö as a chicken bouillon cube is to grandma’s chicken soup.

—Karen Hochman

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