It’s easy to make puns on the word pho, but I’m going to resist the urge, especially since those puns tend to rely on a mispronunciation of pho, which should be more akin to the French word feu than faux.
Naturally, the core of pho – as of any soup – is the broth. While it may be tempting to take a Western-style beef stock (which I usually have on hand anyway) and fortify it with Asian aromatics and seasonings, the purist in me insisted on a purpose-built broth. I used the recipe in Authentic Vietnamese Cooking, which is based on several cuts of beef, plus onion, ginger, star anise, clove, cinnamon and pepper.
And then, there are the garnishes. Although pho garnishes are usually done to taste by the diner even in restaurants, the array of possible garnishes is endless when you’re preparing them at home. In this case, it was the fried shallots that made the dish for me: presumably common in the streets of Hanoi, I don’t think I’ve ever had fried shallots on a bowl of restaurant pho in Canada… which is too bad, because fried shallots are delicious! Crunchy and sweet, I should be making these by the boatload and putting them on everything from omelettes to steak. Naturally, with so many garnish options, I loaded up my bowl to excess. And then went back for more.
The advantages of making pho at home are certainly not economic. There is a case to be made that doing so allows you to control all the variables, both for quality and taste. But sometimes it’s not about any of those things; sometimes it’s just about getting your hands dirty, and eating what you like.