Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles, is no stranger to eating her way through Vietnam. “It’s practically a Disneyland of incredible eats,” she says. “There’s freshly-made food all around you, and there are street vendors and restaurants that specialize in just one dish. They perfect it because it’s their craft and livelihood.”
She’s also no stranger to phở. Nguyen is a master teacher when it comes Vietnam’s national dish, and in her new book she provides meticulously clear instructions for every imaginable variety—we recommend you cook through every chapter.
According to Nguyen, pho and the way it is prepared in different parts of the country reflects Vietnam's distinct regional cuisines. The North is “physically and culturally closer to China, so the cuisine favors black pepper and ginger,” while the South utilizes more chilis and fresh produce. Broths in the North are salty, while southern soups are sweeter. Hanoi and Saigon, the metropolitan centers of the two regions, are cities Nguyen describes as “equals and rivals” in the pho game. “That regional pho fight mirrors some of the differences between the two regions,” she says.