Seriously, Hipster Chefs Really Need to Stop Calling Their Non-Pho Dishes “Pho”

I normally refrain from publishing two rants back-to-back, but this next subject has got me so salty I can't wait.

People really need to stop calling their random-ass food creations “pho” whatever. Seriously. In the last few weeks, I've seen a pho sandwich and pho nachos, and I'm sure there's a “pho burrito” or “pho tacos” or “pho chow mein” or something else out there.

Why would you even call non-pho food pho something? You're not opening a Vietnamese restaurant; you're just confusing people.


First off, the entire identity of pho is that it's pho. It's a soup, it's made with (most of the time) beef, and contains pho noodles. Remove the noodles? Not really pho. No pho broth? Nope, not pho. Put it in a bread bowl? Definitely not pho. You don't see people going around calling Chicken pot pies Chicken Soup Hot Pockets, don't call your food pho.

I'm sure at this point, some of you are thinking it's about the flavors — that if something tastes like pho, it's perfectly okay to use pho as an adjective. To you, I ask you to imagine a “pho sandwich.” What's in your head? Something like a french dip but with broth instead of jus? That sounds pretty good. Maybe served with Sriracha and hoisin sauce. Yeah, I'd eat that.

Okay, now I'm going to show you a picture of a pho sandwich from New York's Sunny and Annie's Deli.

Look at it. Tomato. Avocado. Not a hint of pho broth or pho noodles. That's not a pho sandwich, that's a torta with bean sprouts. Pho sandwich is a complete misnomer.


And then there are the dishes that don't even sound appetizing. I'm not going to even ask you to imagine pho nachos, I'm just going to show them to you.

I don't even know where they're from, but boy, that looks like a cluster. Why would you want bean sprouts on your nachos? SERIOUSLY. I know Mexican and Vietnamese food are strangely similar (banh tet and tamales, anyone?), but what part of pho nachos sounded appetizing? You're taking two great foods and you're ruining both of their good names. What you're doing should be a hate crime, or at least slander.

Listen, by this point I sound kind of like an old man, complete with the get-off-my-lawns, but I've made my peace (mostly) with Asian and Vietnamese fusion cuisine. I know it's the future, and there's nothing really I can do about it, rants be damned. But please, please at least put some effort into it. If you're going to call something pho, make it taste like pho.

And if it's just a sandwich with some Vietnamese flavors or a plate of horrible nachos well, own up to it. Don't try to ruin the pho hype train just to sell some more plates. Come on, faceless restaurant owner, you're better than that.

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You can also follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam. He's less sardonic there, we swear.

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