Ramen vs. pho: what's the difference? | Bolt Blog (2024)

Feb 27, 2024

Ramen vs. pho: what's the difference? | Bolt Blog (1)

Ramen and pho rank among the world’s most beloved noodle dishes. While similar in some ways, they differ in their ingredients, flavours, and cultural origins.

If you’re curious about the differences, this article is your perfect guide.

We’ll compare their cultural backgrounds, broths, noodles, health profiles, and more to help you understand the differences and maybe even choose a favourite in the ramen vs. pho debate.

Key takeaways

  • Ramen and pho are famous noodle dishes with distinct cultural origins and flavour profiles.
  • Ramen originated in Japan and was brought over by Chinese immigrants. Pho comes from Vietnam and has French and Chinese influences.
  • Ramen has chewy noodles made from wheat in a flavorful broth with toppings like pork belly and soft-boiled eggs. On the other hand, pho has soft rice noodles in a light broth with beef and fresh garnishes like herbs and bean sprouts.
  • Both ramen and pho provide good amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them suitable options as part of a balanced diet.

Ramen vs. pho comparison

Let’s go back to where it all began. Ramen and pho come from different parts of Asia and represent their homeland’s unique culture, traditions, and history.

Ramen made its way to Japan through Chinese immigrants, while Pho was born in Vietnam and was influenced by Chinese and French cooking.

Over the years, pho and ramen have evolved into world-famous dishes and are enjoyed almost anywhere globally. There are also different variations of both depending on the country or the region where you’re eating them.

What is ramen?

Ramen is a noodle soup that originated in Japan. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth with ingredients like soy sauce, miso, or pork broth.

Ramen is typically served with toppings like sliced pork, green onions, boiled eggs, seaweed, and more.

Types of ramen

Ramen comes in various styles, each with its unique flavours and ingredients. Here are some popular types:

  • Shoyu ramen: a soy sauce-based broth with thin, curly noodles topped with sliced pork, green onions, bamboo shoots, and seaweed.
  • Tonkotsu ramen: known for its rich and creamy pork bone broth, this dish features thick, straight noodles and toppings like chashu pork, soft-boiled egg, and black garlic oil.
  • Miso ramen: made with a savoury miso-based broth, this ramen has a hearty flavour profile. It’s often served with thick, wavy noodles and garnished with bean sprouts, corn, and ground pork.
  • Shio Ramen: a clear, salty broth seasoned with spices and paired with thin, straight noodles. It’s commonly served with chicken, seafood, or vegetable toppings.
  • Tantanmen: a spicy ramen variety with a creamy sesame and chilli oil broth, topped with ground pork, bok choy, and chopped green onions.

Ramen history

The ramen story began when Chinese immigrants brought wheat-based noodle dishes to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Ramen gained popularity quickly, eventually becoming a significant part of Japanese cuisine.

The first-ever ramen restaurant, Rairaike, opened in Asakura, Tokyo, in 1910. Then, in 1947, the famous Hakata tonkotsu ramen was made, and the dish became even more important to Japanese culture.

In 1994 the Yokohama Ramen Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to ramen, was established. By then, ramen’s popularity had already spread beyond Japanese borders and become popular worldwide.

Today, there are tens of thousands of ramen shops in Japan, and you can also find this dish in countries outside of Japan.

What is pho?

Pho is an equally famous and tasty Vietnamese noodle soup. It’s usually made with flavourful broth, soft rice noodles, slices of meat, and toppings like bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, lime, and jalapeños.

The pho broth is often simmered for hours with ingredients like cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger to give it a rich, aromatic taste.

Types of pho

Similar to ramen, pho comes in different types, each with unique broth and toppings:

  • Pho Tai: this classic version features thinly sliced rare beef cooked in a hot broth. It’s served with fresh rice noodles and garnished with green onions, cilantro, and bean sprouts.
  • Pho Ga: this variation offers a lighter broth with tender chicken slices. It’s often flavoured with ginger and herb garnishes.
  • Pho Chay: a vegetarian option, pho chay features a clear vegetable broth with tofu or seitan, along with an assortment of vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms.
  • Pho Dac Biet: also known as ‘special combination’ pho, this version includes a mix of beef cuts such as brisket, beef steak, and meatballs.
  • Pho Bo Vien: this variation includes beef meatballs in addition to the sliced beef, adding another layer of texture to the soup.

Pho history

Now, let’s travel 3,863 kilometres away from Japan to Northern Vietnam. Here, in the early 20th century, another famous noodle dish, Pho, was born.

This Vietnamese dish is a result of local cooking traditions influenced by China and France.

Some believe the term ‘pho’ came from ‘feu’ in French, connecting it to the French soup ‘pot au feu’.

Others say that ‘pho’ could come from the local version of Chinese flat rice noodles known as ‘fen’.

But whatever pho’s origins, it’s loved both in Vietnam and internationally.

Pho has always remained a favourite comfort food for the Vietnamese, representing local culture and tradition. Each region in Vietnam has its own way of making this soup.

There’s even a Day of Pho celebrated in Vietnam, showing the importance of this dish to the country.

Ramen vs. pho: noodles

Noodles are the key ingredient in both pho and ramen. However, each dish uses different types of noodles that contribute to their unique flavours.

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodle ingredients include:

  • Wheat flour;
  • Water;
  • Salt;
  • Kansui (an alkaline solution that imparts a springy, firm texture).

Mixing these ingredients makes ramen noodles wavy and gives them a chewy texture. To keep them firm and avoid overcooking, the noodles are boiled separately and quickly served after cooking.

Pho noodles

Pho features lighter rice noodles called Banh Pho. Before boiling, these noodles are soaked in warm water to expand and not break during cooking. Unlike firm and chewy ramen noodles, pho noodles are soft and tender.

The rice flour in pho noodles takes longer to soak up water than wheat flour, which helps them hold their shape in hot broth.

Ramen vs. pho: broths

Like the noodles, broths are another crucial attribute of pho and ramen that can make or break the dish.

Whether it’s the rich, umami-filled ramen broth or the lighter, aromatic pho broth, each has its own story.

Ramen broth

Ramen broth is made by boiling down meat and bones, which can be from pork, chicken, beef, seafood, or a combination of these.

The ramen broth also gets its taste from tare, a concentrated sauce with salt (shio), soy sauce (shoyu), or fermented soybean paste (miso), each giving it a different flavour.

These ingredients together create a rich and hearty ramen broth enjoyed by many.

Pho broth

In contrast, pho broth is characterised by its lightness and aromatic blend of spices. The broth is made by simmering bones and different meats with spices such as:

  • Cinnamon;
  • Star anise;
  • Cardamom;
  • Cloves.

This creates a seasoned but not heavy flavour.

To make pho broth clear, the bones are boiled and rinsed before simmering for a long time. This removes any residue and gives a clear broth.

This light, aromatic broth pairs perfectly with soft, delicate pho noodles and fresh garnishes, making the dish both visually appealing and delicious.

Ramen vs. pho: protein choices

Another important aspect to think about when comparing ramen and pho is the proteins they offer. Both dishes have various options, including meats and vegetarian alternatives, which make them filling and satisfying meals.

Ramen proteins

There are many protein sources in ramen, including pork, chicken, seafood, and eggs.

Chashu, the most popular topping and protein source in ramen, is made by rolling pork belly or shoulder, marinating it with soy sauce, sake, sugar, and other seasonings, and cooking until tender.

Ramen also gets extra protein from soft-boiled eggs (tamago), which add richness and flavour to the dish.

The proof that a soft-boiled egg is a perfect addition to ramen can be seen by simply Googling ramen — almost every picture includes it.

Pho proteins

While pho can have different meats or vegetarian options, beef is typically the main ingredient.

Compared to ramen, pho usually has thin slices of meat. Some common cuts of beef used in pho are:

  • Eye round steak;
  • Brisket;
  • Tendon;
  • Tripe.

Rarer options like thin steak slices are added just before serving for tenderness. You can also find variations with chicken and seafood or even vegetarian versions.

Regardless of the protein choice, the lean cuts in pho provide a lighter, more delicate balance to the dish’s soft noodles and aromatic broth.

Ramen vs. pho: toppings and garnishes

Now, let’s discuss toppings and garnishes. These additions are the cherry on top that makes each bowl of ramen or pho taste special.

With many choices, like different ramen toppings and fresh pho garnishes, customising your noodle bowl makes these dishes fun.

Ramen toppings

We’ve already mentioned chashu and soft-boiled eggs, but ramen noodle soup bowls can have many other toppings, too:

  • Menma (bamboo shoot);
  • Negi (spring onion);
  • Narutomaki (cured fish resembling pink and white pinwheels);
  • Seaweed;
  • Corn.

The list goes on, but each topping adds special flavours and textures to the dish.

Pho garnishes

On the other hand, pho is typically garnished with various fresh herbs and vegetables. Some common garnishes for pho include:

  • Thai basil;
  • Sliced chile;
  • Lime;
  • Cilantro;
  • Bean sprouts;
  • Coriander;
  • Mint.

These garnishes introduce vibrant aromas and contrasting textures to the light pho broth.

Ramen vs. pho: nutritional values

Nutrition is an important factor when comparing pho and ramen. Both are comforting and tasty but have different nutritional values that might affect your choice based on your diet and preferences.

Comparing the 2 might be a bit complicated since the nutritional value of the dishes will vary based on their ingredients and toppings.

Here are some important points from Nutritionix when comparing the nutritional values of the same serving size of pho and ramen:

  • Calories: ramen has more calories per serving (954) compared to pho (638).
  • Total fat: ramen has more total fat per serving (35g) compared to pho (14g).
  • Saturated fat: both ramen and pho have saturated fats, but ramen has more per serving (12g) compared to pho (3.1g).
  • Cholesterol: ramen has more cholesterol per serving (227mg) compared to pho (86mg).
  • Sodium: pho has more sodium (3268mg) per serving compared to ramen (2691mg).
  • Total carbohydrates: ramen has more total carbohydrates per serving (111g) compared to pho (78g).
  • Protein: both ramen and pho have a good amount of protein, with ramen providing 48g per serving and pho providing 47g per serving.
  • Vitamins and minerals: both dishes contain various vitamins and minerals. Ramen has more iron (9.7mg) and calcium (124mg) compared to pho, which has 6.7mg of iron and 113mg of calcium.

If you’re looking for something with fewer calories, fat, and cholesterol, pho might be a better pick. But keep in mind that pho has a higher sodium content.

Both pho and ramen give you plenty of protein and different vitamins and minerals. Overall, both dishes can be part of a healthy diet as long as you eat them in moderation.


Let’s wrap up the ramen versus pho discussion on a positive note — they’re both winners in their own right.

With distinctive tastes and cultural backgrounds, these soups have become famous worldwide because of their tastiness and comforting nature.

Having a preference is great, but it doesn’t mean sticking to 1 dish only.

So, whether it’s a ramen day or a pho day — open the Bolt Food app, choose the noodle soup you’re feeling the most, and get it delivered to your door in minutes.

Frequently asked questions

What are the main differences between ramen and pho?

The main differences between ramen and pho are their origins, ingredients, and preparation methods. Ramen originates from Japan and features wheat noodles with a rich, umami-filled broth, while pho originates in Vietnam and uses rice noodles in a clear, aromatic broth, typically garnished with fresh herbs, vegetables, and lean cuts of meat.

Is pho healthier than ramen?

Pho is usually considered a healthier choice than ramen because it tends to have fewer calories and less fat, making it a lighter meal.

But both pho and ramen still give you a good amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals. So, if you don’t have any specific diet needs, you can enjoy either dish as part of a healthy diet.

Which has more flavour, pho or ramen?

The question of which has more flavour, pho or ramen, depends on personal taste. Pho has a savoury taste with a simple and clear, light broth. The broth gets a natural sweetness from beef bones.

Ramen, on the other hand, is generally made by boiling chicken or pork bones, resulting in a thick, rich, fatty broth packed with savoury umami flavour.

Can I make pho and ramen at home?

Yes! For homemade ramen, you’ll need noodles, broth (which you can make from scratch or buy), toppings like vegetables, protein (like chicken, pork, or tofu), and boiled eggs.

For homemade pho, you’ll need a flavorful broth with ingredients like beef or chicken bones, onions, ginger, and spices (like star anise, cinnamon, and cloves). You’ll also need rice noodles, protein (like thinly sliced beef or chicken), and garnishes like fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime, and chilli peppers.

Check out Bolt Market for all the ingredients and get them delivered fast.

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Ramen vs. pho: what's the difference? | Bolt Blog (2024)


Ramen vs. pho: what's the difference? | Bolt Blog? ›

Ramen has chewy noodles made from wheat in a flavorful broth with toppings like pork belly and soft-boiled eggs. On the other hand, pho has soft rice noodles in a light broth with beef and fresh garnishes like herbs and bean sprouts.

What's the difference between ramen and pho? ›

The main differences between pho and ramen are the broths, noodles, and toppings. Pho noodles are clear, tender, and made with white rice flour. Ramen noodles are yellow, bouncy, and made with wheat flour. Pho has a clearer and lighter soup than ramen.

Does pho have less sodium than ramen? ›

Both pho and ramen are very high in sodium. Pho has about 1,500mg of sodium in an average bowl – which is a lot! Believe it or not, ramen is actually even higher with an average bowl containing anywhere from 1,750mg to 2,000mg of sodium.

Why is pho so good when sick? ›

Pho contains B vitamins - responsible for metabolizing the food we eat into energy - Vitamin C- great for fighting off viruses and aiding in iron absorption, Iron is important for maintaining healthy blood cells. Pho is also very high in calcium and is a great source of protein!

How is ramen different from soup? ›

Simply put, ramen is a Japanese noodle soup, with a combination of a rich flavoured broth, one of a variety of types of noodle and a selection of meats or vegetables, often topped with a boiled egg.

What the heck is pho? ›

Pho is a Vietnamese soup consisting of bone broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced meat (usually beef). It may also be served with bean sprouts, fresh herbs, limes, chiles, and other garnishes.

What is so special about pho? ›

The broth is typically crafted from beef or chicken bones, simmered for hours with a symphony of aromatic spices, including cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and cloves. This slow-cooking process extracts the essence of the ingredients, creating a rich, flavorful base that distinguishes Pho from other noodle soups.

Does pho have a lot of MSG? ›

Chinese cuisine and many other restaurant foods are notorious for having lots of MSG in them. Restaurant pho is no different. In fact MSG use in many pho restaurants is so prominent and unmistakable that you can literally taste it instead of the flavorful pho broth that it should be.

What is the healthiest pho to eat? ›

Chicken pho generally has the least fat and is a good source of lean protein.

Why does pho make you feel better? ›

Protein & Fiber

Traditional pho is served with thinly sliced beef, but it can be made with any type of meat. Including a serving of meat gives you added protein and combining it with plenty of vegetables gives you a healthy dose of fiber, both of which help you to feel satiated longer.

How unhealthy is pho? ›

Due to its nutritious ingredients and high protein content, it may offer several benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved joint health. Still, it can be high in sodium and calories, so portion size is important. Overall, pho can be a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet.

Can you eat pho every day? ›

Experts also suggest that if pho is used for breakfast, then you should avoid salt for the rest of the day. To avoid imbalanced nutrition, you should not eat pho too often, and you should switch up diet with other food products. Any food, no matter how good it is, won't be good for your body if consumed too much.

What is healthier, ramen or pho? ›

Pho is usually considered a healthier choice than ramen because it tends to have fewer calories and less fat, making it a lighter meal. But both pho and ramen still give you a good amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Does pho taste like ramen? ›

Broth: Pho broth is generally clear and lighter in flavor. There are many types of ramen broth, but most are darker (due to soy) and cloudy. Main flavors: Pho is flavored with fish sauce, lime, chili, and warming spices (such as cinnamon, clove, and cardamom).

What is the difference between ramen and pho bowls? ›

Pho (pronounced fuh) is a light Vietnamese noodle dish with herbal broth and rice noodles, and ramen is a Japanese noodle dish with hearty broth and wheat noodles. If you compare the two soups side by side, the noodles in pho are soft and translucent, and the noodles in ramen are firm and chewy.

What is pho broth made of? ›

Vietnamese pho is all about the broth! In this authentic recipe, beef bones, fish sauce, star anise, and ginger simmer for at least 6 hours, creating a complex, aromatic broth that may not be quick, but it's certainly delicious.

How do you pronounce pho? ›

"Pho," which first appeared in print in English in 1935, was borrowed from a Vietnamese word which was spelled "phở." English speakers replaced the vowel with "o" but preserved the pronunciation as "fuh," rather than "foh." Another Vietnamese food word that was borrowed into English is "nuoc mam," which refers to a ...

Is pho spicy or not? ›

The answer to that question is mostly no. The spices used in the preparation of Pho are whole spices whose purpose is to provide aromatic and flavorful effects. Here is the spice lineup that is used in making delicious pho, star anise, cinnamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and black cardamom.

What does pho taste like? ›

In Northern Vietnam, especially in Hanoi, Pho is known for its savory taste and features a lighter broth that embodies simplicity. The broth is transparent and less fatty, deriving a natural sweetness from beef bones, allowing the inherent flavors of the ingredients to shine.

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