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Phở: The Next Great International Dish?

As Vietnam's culinary ambassador to the world, phở is a soup which needs no introduction. Some of us grew up with it, slurping the noodles for breakfast or breathing in its steamy aromas when we had a cold. Others converted later in life, using its few simple elements as a training ground for our chopstick prowess and a gateway into the wonderful world of Vietnamese cuisine.

Whatever your relationship to the national dish, it garners many opinions and, over at Lucky Peach, was considered hallowed enough to warrant an entire issue of the culinary magazine. Among the pages of this phở anthology, one Dave Chang presents his very optimistic outlook for the soup, praising the Vietnamese dish as the future of noodles in the United States.

“To me it’s the ultimate sandbag dish—one that rewards impressive and extensive mise en place with a not-actually-that-difficult bit of last-minute work on the pickup,” Chang writes.

However after crafting his ode to the standard bowl of piping hot, anise-scented phở – something many a food writer has done in the past – Chang goes on to unpack a world of opportunity for the soup, pointing out the limited number of variations on phở in both Vietnamese and American kitchens.

Combined with all its goodness, Chang believes, this is what makes the soup a prime candidate for culinary revolution, employing traditional phở as a base upon which contemporary Vietnamese – and even outsiders – can bring new and interesting alterations to the table. In much the same way chefs have managed to innovate pizza or ramen, the writer argues, so, too, can we reinvent a bowl of phở.

“You’re going to begin to see innovation, and you’re going to see some really wacky-ass shit,” Chang writes. “Some will be great. Some will be terrible. At the end of the day, the reason why we love phở is because it’s hot, it’s salty, it’s umami; it’s got acid, it’s got heat and texture from all the stuff you add in as you’re eating. To me, as long as you retain those qualities, reconfigured however you like, it’s still phở. The paths it will travel are going to be awesome to see.”

While the soup's Vietnamese path seems to be strongly tied to tradition, we're keen to experience its reconfigurations, wherever they appear.

[Photo via Vimeo user TungPham45]


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