Pho and ramen are both common soup noodle dishes popular in different parts of Asia (as well as around the world). I’m personally a huge fan of both but I’ve met people who didn’t know what pho was or that ramen isn’t just instant noodles in a bag or cup. I also didn’t know they had a shared historical connection.
I wouldn’t have even suspected a shared origin if I hadn’t been exploring Google trends blowing off some steam. There was a comparison between the two terms in terms of searches. I got a little curious and stumbled onto a common link between these two types of noodle dishes. It also turns out they aren’t near as old as I would have thought either.
Like any historical look into the origins of a food, there’s going to some controversy about the exact origins one way or another, but pho and ramen most likely have a shared connection. Both are derived from Chinese foods which were converted into something locals wanted and constrained by local ingredients which became something entirely new and unique. Let’s go over what pho is, its history, then we’ll do the same with ramen before discussing the mixed history.
A Description of Pho
Pho (or more properly phở in general or phở bò for the beef version that defines the dish most people refer to as “pho”) is a soup-based rice noodle dish from Vietnam. It’s basically cooked rice noodles and some kind of meat (traditionally beef for the most commonly known version) which has broth poured over it. A lot of places will throw in some thinly sliced onions or at least have them on the side. Chopped green onions and other herbs (e.g. cilantro) and spices may be added.
It’s commonly (though not always) served with a plate of bean sprouts, Thai basil (or similar), chopped chilis (or jalapenos down south in the US), and some lime. You might also get a mix of some other green leafy vegetables, other add-ons, or herbs like cilantro and chives. There’s usually several different types of sauces such as sriracha, hoisin sauce, or even an oil based chili sauce (like 油泼辣子, usually with garlic or similar though) on the…