The first time that I had Pho was at a restaurant with Vu. I did not like it. I could have cared less if I ever went back. A few years later Vu and I were engaged and Vu’s mom invited us over for dinner and she made Pho. And it was amazing. I LOVED it! I figured that maybe I just didn’t like the way that particular restaurant made it. Vu’s mom made if for me a few more times after that. Then Father’s day came around and she was out of town, so Vu wanted to take his Dad out to a Vietnamese restaurant. When he got there Vu suggested that I order the Pho (because he didn’t think I would like anything else there). And I was really excited about it. And then I ate it. And I was reminded of my first experience.
Fast forward and we are married and we just bought our house, that was going to take 9 months to build. Our apartment lease ended and the rent increased significantly. Vu’s parents generously offered to let us live with them for free until our house was finished being built. I had come to the realization at this point that I don’t like most Vietnamese food. Except Pho. I asked Vu’s mom why hers was so much better than any that I had at the Pho restaurants. It’s because the proprietors have this idea that Americans like their food bland. And they cut out a bunch of the flavor. So taking advantage of the temporary living situation I asked Vu’s mom if she would teach me how to make Pho. And let me tell you, it is a process. It takes 2 days. It also isn’t an exact recipe, it’s a “taste and add this” kind of deal. I did nothing except watch her and take notes.
So over a year later and I finally got ambitious enough to try it on my own. It took me 2 days. When Vu came home he said it smelled like Pho. When I poured it into the bowl it looked like Pho. But when we ate it, it did not taste like my mother–in-law’s Pho. The restaurant Pho was better than this. Which was very, very sad. Vu said it was inedible. For all of that cooking down and simmering, there was still no flavor. And the noodles were undercooked. My noodles were better than Vu’s, but still not cooked enough. And as we know from “Top Chef” if you serve something undercooked, “please pack your knives and go.” Before Vu’s mom taught me she was a little bit hesitant because she was afraid if I learned how to make it for myself, then I would never want her to make it for me. There is absolutely no danger of that happening. Maybe in a long while I will try again. As long as my mother-in-law comes to my house and watches me do the whole thing. It may take me my whole lifetime to achieve her perfection. Or I may give up and never try to get there. It’s a lot of work for a dish that is “inedible.” We shall see.
Also. It’s possible I love cilantro. And put way more in than is normal.
Also. Vu’s favorite Vietnamese dish is a spicy beef soup and he doesn’t love Pho. When we lived with Vu’s parents and his mom found out I liked Pho she made it all the time and not the spicy beef soup. 🙂