An American chef has ignited a storm of criticism with a video advising people not to add sriracha or hoisin sauce to their bowl of pho, but it turns out not everyone from Vietnam, the dish’s birthplace, is against him.
On Tuesday, the Bon Appétit Magazine posted a video showing Tyler Akin, chef of Philadelphia-based Stock restaurant showcasing the “proper consumption techniques” for pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup with beef.
The video quickly went viral, and Akin was strongly criticized, for his several pieces of advice.
He suggested people avoid adding Sriracha or hoisin sauce, which will destroy the broth’s flavor, but recommend that diners “squeeze as much lime as they give you” into the bowl. He also showed people how to twirle the noodles into a ball as if they are eating spaghetti.
The American chef was criticized for trying to showcasing his knowledge to a food without fully understanding about it, and teaching Vietnamese to eat their proud delicacy. Some even mocked that thanks to him, the Vietnamese people now know they had been eating pho the wrong way for generations.
However, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday asked its readers to voice their opinions about the ‘to sauce or not to sauce’ question, and quickly fielded mixed feedback.
Taste is personal
It turned out some Vietnamese are backing the U.S. chef, when it comes to customization to the soup.
“Adding sauce or not depends on everyone’s taste,” Thanh Van, one of the readers, wrote.
“To taste the pho as it is served, we should not add Sriracha or hoisin sauce, but put the sauces in separate small dishes.”
The idea is backed by a reader named Thanh, who wrote: “Cannot agree more! Adding the sauces will really destroy the typical flavor of the pho.”
Cao Hieu supported the idea of having extra dishes of the sauces, saying “how could the pho keep its flavor with the addition of sauce?”
These arguments are supportive of one thing Akin mentioned in his video: one should try the broth first to ensure they can taste the pho as the chef intended it, before adding any customization.
Where you eat pho also matters
From the readers’ comments, it can be seen that the answer to the sauce question varies among southern and northern eaters, or whether you eat pho in Hanoi or Saigon matters.
The northern style, as described by reader Phuong Duy, is to never put the sauce into your pho.
“The prime part of pho is its broth,” he wrote. “But it is OK for me to add some lime.”
Duy also recalled being “surprised to see people in Saigon have pho with a lot of Sriracha or hoisin sauce into their bowls.”
Still, he agreed that “taste is personal,” and “it is up to everyone to add nothing or something to their pho.”
Obviously, diehard fans of southern-style pho fought back, saying pho should never be eaten without the black and red sauces.
“The two sauces and lime all elevate the flavor of pho,” Hieu Nguyen Trong, who claimed to “have eaten pho for the last 39 years,” wrote. “The proper way to eat pho is to put all those things to your bowl”.
With the ‘to sauce or not to sauce’ question really dividing Vietnamese pho lovers, Tuoi Tre News would like to hear from you expats also. Do you eat pho the way it is served, or will you add some vegetables, sauces and lime? Are you a fan of Saigon- or Hanoi-style pho?