From bricolage to phở: Vietnam as a model for global influences and assimilations at meal times

Alison Dexter and Bach Ngoc Hieu An
TNS, Vietnam


Pho, pronounced 'fuh' in English, is arguably the most widely known and loved face of Vietnamese cuisine. Whilst once the realm of Vietnam and its emigrants, the extent of its current following seems to know no limits. A simple, humble and yet profound sum of its parts, its aroma wafts up from its finely balanced broth; home to al dente white rice noodles, commonly flanking thin cuts of beef, astride a tantalising array of fresh herbs, lime wedges and sauces.

The journey of this paper follows the journey and making of 'Pho' (see Figure 1). Whilst the various translations of Pho will be part of the discussion in this paper, one translation is 'your own bowl', highlighting Pho's unique position in Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is not a dish that is shared as in the usual collective act of eating meals as a group, rather it is an individual bowl whose overall outcome is determined by the end recipient. Thus whilst the uniqueness and importance of local insights are an imperative, Vietnam is a surprising template for the global influences and assimilations that are occurring across the world's dinner tables, making it entirely applicable on a world wide scale. The tensions between history, tradition and diverse cultures and influences versus adaptation, change and modernity are vitally relevant.