Many phở restaurants have names with numbers in them. Why is this?
Like many other famous comfort foods in various cuisines, phở was originally only cooked in the home. Gradually, as Vietnam became industrialized and people were less able to make time-intensive dishes on their own, phở-making matriarchs started selling their phở to workers who did not have the time or relatives to cook their own phở. Since these women were usually cooking and serving from their own homes at that time, people needed a way to distinguish the various phở sellers. Names were of course one of the first identifiers used, but when two people who both sold phở had the same name, they would use their house or street number to identify themselves. This eventually evolved into the tradition of phở restaurants with names and/or numbers.
After the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese refugees settled in the United States and across the world, Vietnamese restaurateurs started using numbers with strong personal or numerological significance in their restaurant names instead. 1975, the year Saigon fell, is commonly referenced in phở restaurants as “Phở 75,” since that may be the year the owners left Vietnam. 8 is a lucky number in Chinese and Vietnamese numerology, and so names like “Phở 888” are not uncommon either.
This tradition of choosing numbers that have personal meaning or importance is something we also follow here. Our name, Phở 83, is of special significance to us because it represents both the birth year of the owner and the year in which his parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam.