Point-Counterpoint: Is Pho King or Is It Pho-King Awful?

Categories: Chow Bella

Pho .jpg
Flickr: toolmantim
Vietnamese Pho Bo Tai

We had so much fun chucking Chow Bella contributors Ando Muneno and Lauren Saria into the ring over Alton Brown, food trucks and movie theaters with food, we put them back at it again.

This week's topic: Pho, Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Pho joints have been growing in popularity throughout the Valley and we've reviewed more than a couple of them.

Ando: Pho is pretty much the best thing ever. I rank a good bowl of pho up there with a hamburger, pizza, and CoCo's curry. When I was in the Navy, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I had all the curry I could eat, but I longed for a competent hamburger, a slice of pizza that didn't also have squid and corn on it, or a simple bowl of pho with all the fixings. Just as a hamburger is the culinary equivalent of the golden mean, balancing meat against bread against condiments, pho is the perfect confluence of noodle, broth, and just enough meat bits to keep it interesting. It's fresh, it's filling, and when it's done right, it'll feed your soul and clear your sinuses.

That's right, I assert pho is superior to all other noodle/soup configurations because of its health benefits. Bring it, FDA.

Franz Shiro Matsuo, founder of Shiro's Saimin Haven
Lauren: I feel toward pho the way I feel toward a lukewarm piece of delivery pizza, just . . . meh. The watery broth, the sides of raw veggies, the thin anemic-looking noodles -- pho starts my heart longing for a warm bowl of hearty ramen. There's no way you can tell me that pho (even the name sounds un-enthusiastic) is a better "noodle/soup configuration" than ramen! Pho is pho is pho. But there are dozens of variations on ramen, every one of which is a filling meal with delicious, salty broth and hearty noodles. I grew up on the stuff and there's no way you'll convince me pho is in any way superior.

Ando: Pho is king; it's pho-king good. There's nothing unenthusiastic about that.

That said, you're asking me to pit two things I love against one another and I don't think that's fair. Pho is a very different food than ramen although they do share some commonalities. What makes pho special is that it IS a lighter dish than ramen or similar noodle dishes. It's a dish adapted to Vietnam's impressive heat and crushing humidity. I've eaten pho for breakfast in Vietnam, squatting in a grade-school courtyard slurping noodles and "weak" broth while watching the sun bring the surrounding area to a rolling boil. It's at times like that and in places like Phoenix when a hearty bowl of ramen will feel out of place.

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Greg Propper
Greg Propper

Lauren, have you been to Pho Thanh or Davang?  Neither place has "watery" pho.  If you don't like your Pho then you need to play more with greens that come with it or the sauces on the table.  Davang is ok & beats that round eye crap served at Cherry Blossom, but Pho Thanh is the best.  

Lauren Saria
Lauren Saria

Thanks for the suggestions Greg. I haven't been to either and I'll have to check them out. Full disclosure, my family's Hawaiian roots make it hard to imagine I'll ever love pho the way I do ramen/saimin, but I'd love to grow my appreciate for the dish!

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