First, what is pho really?
Pho, properly spelled “phở," is pronounced “fuh” (though many mispronounce it “foe”). As Tien Nguyen recently noted in Lucky Peach magazine (in an entire issue devoted to the stuff!), the word and the pronunciation lend itself to puns, and many a pho establishment has availed itself of that opportunity. Perhaps the most notable is Pho King *insert adolescent chuckle here*. There’s one in San Diego and pretty much every other city, but it often seems they’re rarely the place to find the best bowl in town.
There are generally four main moving parts to a bowl of pho: the broth, the noodles, the meat, and the garnishes (bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, lime, and chili peppers are common). The broth and the meat for phở is generally beef, though depending on how strict you want to be in your definition of the term “pho,” there are versions involving chicken, duck, pork, and various seafood, as well. Even the seafood-based bowls often feature a beef broth built by lovingly simmering bones, oxtails, and the undesirable parts of the cow for many hours.