This comes from PHO, our next issue, out May 17! Subscribe today to get it when it comes out.
There was a stretch of my life when all I ate was pho with my dad every day, in Annandale, Virginia, where the pho is very, very good. I have drunk deeply of the anise-scented broth, and peered deeply into it, and I have seen this: ramen’s popularity has created an opening for pho. If anything’s going to kill ramen, it’s pho, and I’m excited about that.
I believe wholeheartedly that pho is the future of noodles in America. It’s simple to make, but not that simple. It’s easier to make than ramen; it’s lighter than ramen. It uses less meat, so it’s less resource-intensive, but still very, very delicious. To me it’s the ultimate sandbag dish—one that rewards impressive and extensive mise en place with a not-actually-that-difficult bit of last-minute work on the pickup.
Now here’s the thing: conversations about pho, as with so many foods, usually devolve into Oh, this is the best bowl of pho. The truth is that, because there are really only two varieties of pho, the game is limited right now. But this is where the possibilities become really interesting. I think we’re going to see pho change, the same way that ramen and pizza have evolved into many different things. Pho is a blank slate for people to work with. Look at what ramen in America was decades ago, and all the regional and shop-specific styles that have popped up since. We’re only at the starting line with pho.
You’re going to begin to see innovation, and you’re going to see some really wacky-ass shit. Some will be great. Some will be terrible. At the end of the day, the reason why we love pho is because it’s hot, it’s salty, it’s umami; it’s got acid, it’s got heat and texture from all the stuff you add in as you’re eating. To me, as long as you retain those qualities, reconfigured however you like, it’s still pho. The paths it will travel are going to be awesome to see.
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