An Open Letter To Pho

Dear Pho,

How are you? I’m well, a slight niggle in my right ankle but apart from that, I generally can’t complain. I’ve been thinking about writing this letter to you for a long time as you come up in conversation almost every day in my world. Everyone loves you pho, everyone’s always DYING for a pho, they just CAN’T WAIT for a pho, you’re so delicious and refreshing aren’t you? But I’m about to blow this pho conspiracy wiiideee open. And let’s just say, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pho, sounds like faux.

For those of you not in the know, pho is considered to be the national dish of Vietnam and perhaps also Dalston.



It is defined on Wikipedia as:

A Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily served with either beef or chicken.

It is only just over 100 years old and a few historical events have shaped how it has become:

The unification of Vietnam under French rule in 1887
Apparently before the French conquered Vietnam, they didn’t often slaughter cows for food. Some say that pho is a Vietnamese adaptation of the French “pot au feu” and made after the Vietnamese people used the leftover bones of the meat eaten by the French.

The splitting of the country into North and South Vietnam in 1954
This caused two types of pho to arise, pho bac (northern) and pho nam (southern). Purists say pho bac is the real pho if the French origin theory is correct and pho nam arose after many northern Vietnamese fled there to escape communist rule. The lavish southerners added more spices and meats to their pho (sounds great!).

The Fall of Saigon in 1975
As what we now know as the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon, Vietnamese people fled the country all together and took their pho to places like America and beyond!

The gentrification of Dalston
People with too much money and not enough brains got a taste for what is essentially street food and flocked in their thousands to hand over loads of money for peasant food. Vietnamese restaurant owners here regularly shower in wadges of cash, it is reported.

My main gripes with you, pho, are as follows:

Water content
Pho is basically WATER. All water. You get so much water that it is impossible to ever finish. You feel incredibly full, then incredibly empty because it’s WATER and then ironically, due to the high salt-levels, you’re thirsty. However long you scoop at it, it is never finished. NEVER choose pho on a date, if it’s going well, you can never leave, if it’s going badly, you can also never leave.

Its price
Pho is the emperor’s new clothes of foods, as far as I can see, it’s a bowl of hot water with meat that looks like it could well be pig rectum. People pay around £10 for the privilege of this never-ending ‘drood’ (food/drink hybrid) and it probably cost around 10p to make. With a delicious noodle dish (no water), it may also cost 10p to make but at least you’re walking away full. Even if you’re full of very cheap food, one box has been ticked. With pho, you are not full. It for me, is on a level with cinemas filling up your drink with ice. A CON.

The ingredients
Everyone talks of the delicious delicate flavours. Sorry if my palate is permanently down but I see this as a cover up for ‘bland’. The meat is often limp and tasteless and I think the above mentioned water is used to cover up a cacophony of low quality of constituent parts. I understand that this was originally street food but in London, it’s not sold in this context, it’s sold as a proper meal in a proper restaurant.

My one wish is that everyone would just stop pretending they like pho because it’s trendy. It sounds good when you say you’re going for a pho but please, think about it before you commit (you make be frinking (drinking food) it for a long time!). Also to anyone who says they prefer ‘fresh summer rolls’ to the MSG laden fried spring rolls. YOU ARE A LIAR.


by | February 3, 2016 · 4:29 pm

2 responses to “An Open Letter To Pho

  1. I am sorry that you haven’t had a great experience with phở. I am not defending for bad phở as there are plenty of eating establishments offer crappy and shitty watery phở that is msg-laden. I don’t even go to Vietnamese restaurant for phở anymore, unless I am in Vietnam. (I grow up in the U.S.)

    What you have not had is a real hearty homecook phở. That might change your view and give true phở a second chance.

    I enjoy reading your view.

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