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  1. Haha, I think this is my first post! Anyway, I've recently been reading the posts on eGullet (and elsewhere) regarding making Pho, and without being discouraging to those who want to try, this is what I know: • Pho is one of those dishes that pretty much has particular way it should look and taste, and that's it... (in Vietnam, there may be slight variation between north and south and the condiments used, but it's not a big difference). Big variations result in a soup which is not Pho.. • It's hard to get right. Recipes for Pho are handed down within families and they are closely guarded. Also, they are not really written down, they are taught by demonstration and practise until the student has perfected it. I have seen alot of Pho recipes in cookbooks by Vietnamese cooks/chefs released in Australia (where I live), and these recipes are rubbish. I'm convinced that these cooks are deliberately not really sharing the whole recipe or method. Maybe there Pho wasn't that good to begin with • Pho should not have an overly beefy taste, nor should the aromatics overpower the senses. I've read online that people complain about their Pho not being beefy enough - I have eaten Pho all over Vietnam, and (for the Vietnamese) the best Pho is quite clear and not too heavy with either beef or aromatics, yet you should still be able to smell everything. My friends walk into a Pho restaurant and they say that if you can't smell the aromatics mingling the beef, it's not going to be good. • It shouldn't be greasy, but it should still have little clear globules of oil on the surface. • Pho Bo is only made with beef. I've heard of people using other meat in Pho Bo (beef) - it's not right! It's called Pho Bo for a reason! I've heard friends say, oh but they use pork to make the soup... if they did, it would be another soup with another name... (there are so many different soups in Vietnam) • I live in Australia, and we have a very large Vietnamese population centred mainly around Melbourne and Sydney. I've had Pho everywhere in both these cities, and still the best tasting Pho is to be had in Vietnam. I don't know what it is, but it just tastes better... After I come back to Australia from Vietnam, I can't eat Pho for months, because it doesn't taste as good. I am convinced that in Vietnam they use ox bones as well as normal beef bones, which may contribute to the taste being different. I've have heard that there's very good and authentic Pho in parts of the US where the Vietnamese communities are centred. However, I have a friend from quite a large Vietnamese family, and his father makes very very good Pho.... better than anything I've had in any restaurant in Australia, and heading towards what you'd get in a good Pho restaurant in Vietnam. It's not always consistently great, as he hasn't cooked it every day for the last two decades (like some of the best Pho cooks do), but when it's good, it's good, and when it's not good, it's not really that bad. For years, he has refused to teach anyone the recipe (that includes my friend, the eldest son and his younger brother), as they are "not responsible" enough to know. Rumour has it he was taught how to cook Pho back in the 70's by a 'master' with the promise that he would only every teach his sons (apparently the daughters aren't allowed to learn!) and never a non-family member... that's how serious Vietnamese are about Pho! Anyway, as my friend's father is getting on, and his children (2 sons, 3 daughters) are reaching their 30's, the pressure is on for someone to learn the legendary Pho recipe, and his sons and I (as an 'adopted family member') are prime candidates to convince him to share. I have made it my mission to actually learn this secret recipe and when I do, I will share what I know on eGullet (I have no problems with open-source cooking!)... Meanwhile, anyone on this forum who is Vietnamese who has a family member who makes good Pho, should try to make themselves available the next time it's cooked and watch the process from start to finish. I'm consistently surprised at how many Vietnamese I know / meet claim that their parents or grandparents made the best Pho, yet they never bothered to learn the recipe or even observe the process!! For anyone else, if you can convince a Vietnamese cook who has been cooking Pho for decades to show you, jump at the chance! And for the record, I am Vietnamese, born in Saigon, but since I was orphaned and raised in Australia by a western family, I wasn't brought up with any Vietnamese culture... Learning to eat and cook Vietnamese dishes over the last decade or so has been my little effort to get in touch with the culture I never had!
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