Ramen vs. Pho | Both Noodles with Broth, But a World of Difference

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 28, 2020

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If you love Asian noodles, you have probably eaten your share of pho and ramen.

These two dishes may seem very similar, but they actually have distinct differences.

This article will discuss the likenesses and differences of these two noodle dishes, so you know exactly what to expect when you order one in a restaurant.

Ramen vs Pho

What’s the difference between ramen and pho?

Bot ramen and pho are noodle soup dishes, but the noodles used in ramen are made from wheat flour whereas pho uses rice noodles. The pho beef broth is a bit lighter and seasoned with ginger, cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. Ramen broth is often thicker and seasoned with miso and Worcestershire sauce.

Of course, there’s much more to it and there are different variations of both. Let’s dive a little bit deeper in what these dishes are and how they differ.

What is Pho?

Pho (pronounced fuh) is a Vietnamese noodle dish that consists of broth, noodles, meat, and herbs.

It was created sometime between 1900 and 1907 and it is believed that it reflects the various cultures of the country at that time.

The French colonists made beef easy to get while the Chinese immigrants brought noodles with them from their home country.

The two came together and pho was born.

Pho was originally sold to feed poor Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese farmers.

It was sold by street vendors who would carry a pole with two cabinets hanging from it, one of which stored a cauldron and the other that stored the noodles and beef.

Eventually, pho spread across the country, and all citizens were enjoying the dish.

Pho didn’t come to America until the 1980s but when it did, it hit big. Pho restaurants opened everywhere and it became the latest trend.

What is Ramen?

Ramen is a noodle soup that originated in Japan.

It is unclear exactly how it came about but, like pho, it was said to have been inspired by Chinese immigrants who operated noodle stalls throughout the Japanese cities.

It may have been a direct takeoff on the Chinese noodle dish lamien.

Ramen was enjoyed throughout the country for several years, but it became even more popular in the 1950s when Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen.

This allowed people to enjoy the hot noodles at home by adding water to the raw, packaged form. With this invention, the dish began spreading across the world.

By the 1980s ramen had been adopted as a popular American meal with several varieties offered.

These vary greatly from the traditional Japanese ramen which was a combination of meat, noodles, and vegetables.

Today, the ramen trend is continuing to grow with five-star restaurants dedicating themselves to ramen advertising it as a healthy meal.

Ramen are not the only Japanese noodles! Here we listed 8 Different Types of Japanese Noodles (With Recipes) for you.

Ramen and Pho: What’s the Difference?

So far, we know that ramen was made in Japan and Pho originated in Vietnam…

but other than that, they both seem to be noodle dishes made with beef and veggies. So what’s the difference?

Well, let’s take a look.

How Pho is Made

The first step in making pho is the broth.

This is usually a beef broth (although chicken is sometimes used) that’s combined with charred onion, ginger, cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The resulting broth is fresh and light.

Then the noodles are added. Pho noodles are rice noodles made from rice flour and water to produce a light and translucent texture.

The meat is typically different cuts of pork and beef that is thinly sliced.

Finally, sides of herbs and sprouts are added as well as various other garnishes like freshly cut chili and cilantro and finish it off with a squeeze of lime,

Some also enjoy fish sauce, hoisin sauce, or chili oil with their pho.

How Ramen is Made

Ramen has a thicker texture and a stronger flavor than pho.

It is usually made from chicken or pork along with other ingredients.

These are some typical ingredients found in ramen:

Soy sauce, miso, and soup base add to the flavor.

There are three main types of ramen;

  1. The first is shoyu ramen, which has a soy-based broth,
  2. Then there’s shio ramen which is salt-based
  3. And third, there’s miso based ramen, a broth flavored with fermented soybean paste.

The noodles themselves are made from wheat flour which makes them heartier and more filling than pho.

They also have an ingredient called kansui added which is a type of alkaline mineral water that helps the noodles stay firm after they have been in the water for long periods of time.

The noodles can be thick, thin, wavy, or straight.

Like pho, you can add any type of meat to your ramen including meat, chicken, pork, and so on.

However, the meat used tends to be fattier and thicker.

Ramen is also much more customizable than pho. There are many options when it comes to what you put in your ramen.

Check out my article on the best toppings for your ramen for everything you can add, but roasted chashu pork along with some boiled eggs and a little chopped green onions combine well with some nori seaweed and bean sprouts that you’ll often find.

Oh, and corn is often added to give it a little sweetness to counterbalance the salty broth.

Those are just a few that come to mind.

Want to really be polite? Know how you say “thank you for the food” in Japanese!

Ramen vs. Pho: Nutrition

Now let’s take a look at how these dishes measure up as far as nutrition goes.

Pho Nutritional Profile

The nutrition information for pho varies according to how much meat or veggies are in the meal as well as the serving size.

However, beef ramen with four ounces of beef, six ounces of noodles, and 20 ounces of broth along with assorted veggies and herbs is 350 to 450 calories, 35 to 50 grams of carbs, 30 grams of protein, and a whopping 1500 mg of sodium.

Ramen Nutritional Profile

Although Ramen is now served at fine establishments across the country, it is often purchased in 3 oz serving packets which can be bought in the grocery store.

The packages have a calorie count of about 180. Carbs are around 27 grams and protein is around 5 grams. It also has 891 grams of sodium.

Different Types of Pho and Ramen Dishes

Pho and Ramen have several regional variations that are usually categorized according to whether they come from the northern or southern parts of the country.

The main differences lie in the soup, broth, and toppings. Here are some examples of each.

Pho Dish Varieties

Pho that originates in North Vietnam has a savory broth.

It relies on garnishes like green onions, coriander, garlic, and chili sauce to balance the taste.

Hanoi, which is located in North Vietnam, serves a style of pho that features a tasty, clear broth, wide noodles, and a few extra garnishes. It may have green onion, fish sauce and chili sauce added.

Southern pho has a lighter taste and uses garnishes like bean sprouts (just like in ramen) and add some lime and a bit of freshly cut chili as well.

Saigon serves a Southern Vietnamese pho that has a sweeter broth and thinner noodles. Garnishes like basil, bean sprouts and coriander are added.

Common condiments include chili and hoisin sauce and you can add additional flavor, freshness, and spiciness by using some freshly squeezed lime and a few cut chilis.

Pho can also be distinguished due to its meat content. For instance:

  1. you can add pork which would make it pho heo
  2. or add beef which would make it pho bo
  3. you can also add fish and it would be called pho ca

These are all delicious options you can choose from.

Ramen Dish Varieties

The two main types of Ramen are domestic and Chinese. These differ in their soup base and their meat content.

Common types of ramen include the following:

These are only a few of the many regional variations.

Other popular ramens include Sapporo Ramen which is made with a miso-based broth.

Soki soba features a spare rib topping.

The Art of Ordering Noodles

Other key differences between pho and ramen lie in how they are served and ordered in their countries.

How Pho is Ordered and Served

Pho can be found just about anywhere in Vietnam.

It is served at street stalls and in casual and upscale restaurants. It is commonly eaten for breakfast.

When ordering pho, you will first need to choose your broth. You will typically choose from options of chicken or beef.

Then you will need to decide what type of meat you want in your soup.

The most popular options include steak, brisket and meatballs. If you want to get more adventurous you can try flank, fatty brisket, tendon and tripe.

The meal will come with a plate of vegetables, seasonings, sauces and spices that you can add to your dish if you desire.

How Ramen is Ordered and Served

Ramen is sold in restaurants and street stalls throughout Japan.

The food is so popular, there is even a Ramen Street in the country where you can find wide varieties of restaurants and stalls.

When you order ramen, you can expect plain ramen with the original toppings of green onion, mushroom, and pork.

However, there are other types of ramen you can order.

For instance, try the aji-tama ramen where you get a soft boiled egg on top, or you can try the ever-popular cha-shu-men ramen where you get an extra piece of the famous chashu pork.

You can also order a specific firmness of your noodles. Order futsu for regular noodles, katame if you want firm noodles, and yawarakame if you want tender noodles.

The thickness of the broth will also be up to you. Order usume for a thin broth. Futsu will get you regular sauce and kiome means thick.

You can also choose how oily you would like your broth to be. Sukuname means little oil, futsu means regular and ome means oily.

Now that you know the difference between pho and ramen, you will be able to enjoy these meals to their fullest.

Which do you prefer?

Read next: Rice or Noodles: which is healthier? Carbs, calories & more.

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.