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American vs. Vietnamese pho differs in more than just ingredients

A staff member serving Pho to customers at Pho 79 restaurant. (Photo: Thien Le/Nguoi-Viet).

Titi Mary Tran/ Nguoi-Viet English

Pho.

The comforting Vietnamese beef noodle soup that I look for when I’m sick. The best cure for a sore throat during the cold winter. A nutritious bowl of clear, aromatic and herbal broth that heals my ailing body and soul without failing every time.

Who makes the best pho always is a great debate among Vietnamese foodies. People tend to agree to disagree that Mom-made homemade pho is the best, but the addition of the soup from the Pho 79 restaurant in Garden Grove, Calif., to the James Beard America’s Classics list has kicked the pho debate to the national level.

The James Beard Foundation receives tens of thousands of submissions for award consideration every year. Anyone may submit a chef or restaurant for consideration during an open call. Pho 79, located at 9941 Hazard Ave. in Garden Grove, was recognized for its contributions to the country’s dining environment.

The restaurant opened in 1982.

Pho 79 restaurant on corner of Brookhust and Hazard Street of Westminster city was added to the James Beard list of American’s Classics. (Photo: Thien Le/ Nguoi-Viet)

For many Americans, pho became a popular food choice after several waves of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants brought the dish to the country. The Vietnamese, as with most refugees and immigrants, leveraged their unique cuisine with American ingredients for their survival.

Though the herbs and spices that go into pho – star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, clove, coriander seeds and such – are imported from around the world, the main ingredient – beef – is local.

In short, pho is now an American dish, like that of hamburgers and steak, as implied by the James Beard America’s Classics.

An image of Pho bowl. This is a vegetarian Pho. (Photo: Titi Mary Tran)

For Vietnamese Americans, pho — “the American dish” — is from the original. Pho’s ambiguous origin from somewhere in Nam Dinh, Vietnam, that combined the French way of simmering broth with Vietnam’s rice noodle, has been redefined and re-established in the United States.

This story of Vietnamese pho, unfortunately, carries the blood and tears of a war-torn country.

I taste the struggles of my people in pho. The Vietnamese history is instilled in me, one scoop of broth at a time.

So who makes the best pho is still up for debate. No matter the recipe, pho in Vietnam is different from pho in Little Saigon, for its truth is not the same.

Video: Tin Trong Ngày Mới Cập Nhật

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