Pho triumphs among South African food enthusiasts

Pho and Vietnamese cuisine have captivated numerous individuals, including South Africans, members of the diplomatic corps, and Vietnamese expatriates. They have not only delighted in these culinary delights, but also gained knowledge about them.

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A Vietnamese Pho tasting event was recently organized at the Hazel Food Market in Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa, to celebrate Vietnamese Pho Day, which falls on December 12, as reported by the Vietnam News Agency.

South Africans and foreigners indulged in pho and Vietnamese cuisine. Photo: VNA

This was the first Vietnamese Pho Day celebration in the Rainbow Nation, and it was one of the initiatives by the Vietnamese Embassy in South Africa to promote the essence of Vietnamese cuisine globally.

According to Hoang Sy Cuong, the Vietnamese Ambassador to South Africa, the Vietnamese Pho Day in South Africa was the final event in a series of activities organized to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries (December 22, 1993 – December 22, 2023).

Even during the scorching summer afternoon in the southern hemisphere, many South Africans, members of the diplomatic corps in the country, and Vietnamese expatriates gathered at the booth where pho and Vietnamese cuisine were showcased.

Pho ga or chicken noodle. Photo: Khanh Toan

Guests had the option to choose between the traditional Vietnamese pho bo or beef noodle soup, and pho ga or chicken noodle soup. The Vietnamese embassy officials and staff demonstrated the ingredients and the proper way to cook and enjoy the renowned Vietnamese pho. Diners were excited to learn about ingredient selection, broth preparation, and the creation of side dishes.

In addition to pho, South Africans and expats at the event also had the opportunity to savor traditional fried spring rolls and Vietnamese coffee. A range of branded Vietnamese products, such as rice, coffee, rice paper, and confectionery, were also on display.

Around 500 servings of pho bo and pho ga, 1,500 fried spring rolls, and ready-to-drink Vietnamese coffee were served for free at the event.

Immersed in the Vietnamese ambiance, Stoffel Van Zyl, an elderly South African, couldn’t resist trying both pho bo and pho ga along with both types of spring rolls. He also indulged in Vietnamese coffee, completing a delightful meal.

South African diners show their interest in pho – a national Vietnamese specialty. Photo: VNA

“This is the first time I’ve tasted Vietnamese food. The spring rolls are delicious, but the pho is absolutely fantastic. My only challenge is that I don’t know how to use chopsticks to enjoy this dish like many people around me. Thank you for introducing this wonderful dish to South Africa,” exclaimed Stoffel.

He added that experiencing Vietnamese cuisine at the event has made him look forward to visiting Vietnam one day. “I’ve watched videos about your country on YouTube and it appears to be a beautiful destination that I want to explore. Today has only reaffirmed my intention.”

Similarly, Zandile Mthimunye, a South African woman who attended the event with her husband and three daughters, expressed her enthusiasm for Vietnamese cuisine after trying a few servings.

“Today, my entire family came to this market and had Vietnamese food. The pho and spring rolls were delicious. What I love most is that my whole family came together to indulge in food from a faraway country. My children were very impressed with the pho and the broth. Thanks to this event, we got to know Vietnamese cuisine,” said Zandile.

A bowl of Ly Quoc Su beef noodles. Photo: Bich Hoi

After skillfully enjoying a bowl of Vietnamese pho with chopsticks and wiping away the sweat, Lawrence Shields, another South African, shared his experience, “Many South Africans have traveled to Vietnam and fallen in love with Vietnamese food. However, there aren’t many Vietnamese restaurants here. Even if you find some, the dishes lack the authentic taste. Sometimes, when you order pho, it is served with a thick and murky broth, not at all clear and appetizing like this. Despite the scorching heat today, I couldn’t resist a bowl of exceptional pho with its authentic flavor.

Cuong Hoang Sy, the Ambassador, stated that although this was the inaugural event in South Africa, it was a resounding success and left a lasting impression on the South African friends and diplomatic corps.

“This event concludes a year filled with remarkable celebrations for the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. We hope that this will be the first of many events to showcase Vietnam in the future, helping South Africans and international friends gain a better understanding of our beautiful, welcoming, and safe country,” the Ambassador affirmed.