In Vietnam, pho is mostly a breakfast food: the heady soup awakens your senses and prepares you for the day. Countless versions exist, but they all contain rice noodles and an aromatic broth seasoned with shallots, ginger, fish sauce, salt, and spices such as black cardamom, fennel, cassia, star anise, and cloves. Right before the broth is ladled into the bowl, the cook may add meat, onions, cilantro, scallions, and black pepper. The original pho, the style I grew up eating, first appeared around the late 19th century, in Nam Dinh province, southeast of Hanoi. It's a simple soup, reflecting the unfussiness of northern Vietnamese fare. My parents, born in northern Vietnam in the 1930s, recall that their pho contained nothing more than noodles, beef, and broth. The pho bo (beef pho) recipe in the classic Vietnamese cookbook Lam Bep Gioi (Cooking Well), first published in 1944, echoes that simplicity; it calls for rice noodles, beef, scallions, fresh herbs, broth, and black pepper.