Here is how you can make authentic pho
In 2016, a video by Bon Appetit stirred controversy by claiming that pho was “the new ramen,” treating Asian culture as a monolith when comparing Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. The traditional cuisine of pho, a soup dish consisting of rice noodles, meat and broth is integral to Vietnamese identity and is passed down from one generation to the next to express and connect to one’s cultural identity.
“It's a very special type of comfort food,” said Lato Nguyen, a Vietnamese American dental student.
I spoke with Nygeun while indulging in his family's pho to learn more about his upbringing. Lato said that family and respect are core values in Vietnamese culture, starting with his name as his nickname.
“In Vietnamese, it means big mouth,” said Nguyen. “I love this name because it was given to me by my grandpa. Every time I hear people call me, I hear my grandpa calling my name.”
Nguyen was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States at age 14. Now in his mid-thirties, he has visited back home three times and said every visit revealed something new, but the food remains the same.
“Food is a memory,” said Nguyen. “Having pho here is very different than having pho over there. Because you are so far from home, you appreciate it more.”
Nguyen has a sacred connection to pho because of his mother. His favorite memories of his mother are of her in the kitchen while the soup simmers for eight hours. His mother's meal brings his family together through her love language of cooking and provides a valuable lesson on harmony.
“The harmony is with the ingredients,” said Nguyen. “When you eat it, it cannot be too salty or sweet. It has to balance out. There are all kinds of emotions in one dish, same with our culture. Everything has to be balanced out. You cannot do something too much and expect it to be perfect."
Take a look at Nguyen’s mothers' pho recipe to make your very own authentic Vietnamese soup dish.