There are some food pronunciations that don’t matter, tomato, tom-aH-to, potato, po-taH-to—you get the gist. Aside from the opinions of a few food snobs, there's rarely a time when those different pronunciations aren’t permissible. It’s a personal choice, really. However, learning how to pronounce pho the right way is much more than a personal choice to me. 

When it comes to cuisine from different parts of the world, the debate over pronunciations gets a little more heated and correct articulation becomes more necessary. Pho, for instance, is one of the most commonly botched words.

What is Pho?

vegetable, soup, pho
Scott Harrington

Pho is a hearty and fragrant slurp-able soup, with magical powers that warm your soul from the inside out (I dare you to try to find a better cure when nursing a hangover). In its most basic form, pho consists of rich broth, long rice noodles, tender sliced meat, and a dish of fresh herbs like Thai basil, spicy Thai chilies, lime, and crunchy bean sprouts.

The exact origins of pho are undetermined, but it’s believed to have originated in the 19th century in the northern Vietnamese region of Hanoi. Pho is traditionally eaten for breakfast. While I wholeheartedly cherish my morning bacon and eggs, I can get behind slurping down a bowl of pho any time of the day.

It's thought that pho comes from the French dish pot-au-feu, a traditional Burgundian beef and vegetable soup. Some believe that the Vietnamese adopted and altered this dish under French colonial rule, and that the word and pronunciation of "pho" comes from the French word "feu."

Other scholars believe that the name stems from the Chinese word for rice noodles, "fen." However, it's unclear how the term "pho" came to be.

ramen, soup, pho, vegetable, noodle, pasta, meat, pork, beef
Delissa Handoko

Here in the United States, you're likely to find the best bowl of pho in an unpretentious, hole-in-the-wall restaurant that emanates the pho-nomenal (I couldn’t resist) fragrance for three blocks in every direction. But in Vietnam the best pho is sold by street vendors who cook the rich pho broth in cauldron-sized portions over a wood-burning fire from sunrise to sunset. I’ve heard from a well-informed source that you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten pho from a little stand, sitting on a kid-sized plastic chair on the side of the road in a small village in Vietnam.

If you haven’t had pho before, try it. But not before you learn how to say it correctly. My first goal here is to provide a little context and a lot of love for this treasured noodle dish, and to prevent any further butchering of its pronunciation. My second goal is to save you from future embarrassment. Proper pronunciation is one of the most important tactics to sound like you know what you're talking about when ordering takeout or trying to impress your foodie friends.

How to Pronounce "Pho"

vegetable, pho, soup, chili, meat, pasta, noodle
Avery Hannon

The question and answer we've all been waiting for. How do you pronounce "pho?" Say it with me: “fuh.” One more time for good measure: “fuh.” Now stand in front of a mirror and use it in a sentence to prove your pronunciation prowess. You’ve got this.

If all this history and articulation has caused you to work up an appetite, treat yourself to some pho. You’ve pho-king earned it.