For the fifth or sixth time in less than a week, I am driving through the Lion Arch at the Eden Center in Falls Church, the commercial heart of Washington's Vietnamese American community. At my side, a worn canvas tote bag contains several plastic to-go containers filled with soup.
In the buildup to the Lunar New Year, I am delivering my version of Vietnam's traditional beef noodle soup, pho (pronounced fuh), for tasting by chefs and merchants who grew up eating it.
Pho is supposed to be simple. But so far, the response to my efforts threatens to drive me round the bend.
"Too much spice," says one Vietnamese expert.
"Not enough spice," says another.
"Too much beef."
"Not enough beef."
"The problem," opines one restaurant owner, "is not enough depth."
Who knew this steaming soup, swimming with rice noodles, filled with heaps of cilantro and other herbs, could stir such different opinions? Yet, such is the nature of pho...
- From How's the Pho? - One Man Gets Passionate Feedback About His Version of Vietnam's Favorite Soup, in the Washington Post