Whitesplaining on How to Eat Pho
Pho is all about using garnishes that preserve and accentuate the flavor of the broth, and Akin has a pretty specific set of rules to follow to get the most out of your soup. Hits of flavor from jalapeño, lime, and Thai basil—all served as a pretty standard set of garnishes—they provide a fresh jolt of energy to a warm comforting soup. Akin cautions that adding sriracha or hoisin sauce destroys the broth’s flavor, which the chef worked so intently on building. Adding some of the sauce to your pho is fine, but just make sure you try it on its own first. That way you can taste the dish as the chef intended it, before customizing it to your liking.
Akin also demonstrates a chopstick technique that leaves you with a substantial group of noodles, instead of picking and slurping your noodles one by one. It’s a simple twirling technique that’s a little bit mind-blowing. Whether you agree with his chopstick maneuver or not, just promise us this: When you’re charged with the task of dressing your pho, listen to Akin. Show your pho the love it deserves.
I really don’t know where to begin. In the video, Akin talks about pho being the new ramen and the “dos and don’ts” when eating pho. Also, for that twirling the noodles technique? Um… ok.
To each his own, and I actually don’t have a real problem with that. That’s the beauty of Pho. It’s the person eating that has the power to customize their own noodle soup. If you want hoisin sauce and sriracha? Go for it! If you want extra lime juice in it? By all means! Do you want it with thai basil and bean sprouts? It’s there as an option.
But what gets me with this Bon Apetit feature is the fact that there is no cultural context at all. No mention that Pho is from Vietnam or any recognition of where it came from. No recognition of all the mom and pop places that have been around for years, as livelihood for the tens of thousands of refugees who made America and other countries their home, and also popularized this particular noodle soup into what it is today.
Granted, I don’t know Akin’s backstory or how he came to revere Pho and make it a signature item in his restaurant’s menu. But, like all cuisine, especially ethnic cuisine, there’s a story behind it. It’s holistic and we are not getting the full picture here. And as of now, this is just another prime example of whitesplaining.
So, cheers to you, Chef Akin, for teaching me how to properly eat my Pho.