Learn the secrets and tricks of how to eat pho

A plate of garnishes to add to the pho includes: lemon, jalapenos, bean sprouts, and mint leaves.

A plate of garnishes to add to the pho includes: lemon, jalapenos, bean sprouts, and mint leaves.

Camille Anglo

Eating pho is not as simple as it seems because there is an intricate process to it. Add too much of one ingredient and you’ll wish you didn’t touched it in the first place.

When you eat pho, there are many additional sauces or vegetables on the table that can be added to enhance your pho.

There is a plate of garnish, which has a mountain of bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, jalapeño slices and lime. There are huge bottles of sauces which has Sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sate sauce (or garlic and chili-infused oil). The bottles stand next to a tower of chopsticks and tiny sauce plates.

All those side items don’t compare to the long list of pho items.

Looking at the list, millions of questions will run rampant. Should you add or not add meatballs? Do you want to go the adventurous route and try pho with tripe and tendon? Should you muster up the courage to try to pronounce the item’s name or just stick to the number on the menu?

Taking all of these into consideration does seem daunting to the typical pho newbie.

The task of eating pho won’t be so intimidating if you remember a couple of things.

You know that plate of vegetables that’s placed on your table right after you place your order? That’s no salad – those are flavor enhancers.

There’s no set formula on the proper way to use vegetables and herbs from the garnish plate. Some people add a lot of bean sprouts for some extra crunch or throw in jalapeño slices to take the heat to the next level. The slice of lime gives the broth an extra zesty touch if you want the broth to be a little tangier.

As a person who eats pho regularly, the sauces on the side add a new dimension to the soup. Personally, I use the sweet brown hoisin sauce with equal part Sriracha hot sauce and squirt them onto the saucer until it resembles a ying-yang sign. The hoisin sauce brings out the flavor of the meat and the Sriracha gives the soup – you guessed it – even more heat.

If you’re not sure about the ingredient, use a little bit of it or put it on the side. Once you add too much, there’s no way to take it out.

Another vital tip about eating pho is everyone has their own way of eating it. It’s a dish that can be altered to anyone’s preference.

When I was eating pho with a couple of friends, one of them was shocked that I was eating my pho with my Sriracha – hoisin sauce combination on the side. With the command of a captain leading a firing squad, my friend told me to grab both bottles of sauce and endlessly squeeze an infinite amount into my bowl. Sadly, it ruined the broth and I vowed to never eat pho with that friend again.

Most importantly, pho is about learning what you like and figuring out what works is the best part.

Camille Anglo can be reached at [email protected]