An Injustice to Pho: Rachael Ray's "Phunky BBQ Pho with Pork" Recipe

Updated 10-27-10. Rant alert! Here's the latest offender: Rachael Ray and the Phunky BBQ Pho with Pork and its pho recipe.

One of my reasons for creating this Vietnamese pho blog is to help tell the real and authentic story of Vietnamese Pho to the blogosphere. I saw so much inaccurate renditions of pho online that I felt the need to present the noodle dish in a more correct fashion. I try to stay true to what pho is, and where I falter, I depend on the wiser others to help point me back to the facts. Pho itself is good enough to stand on its own so there's no need to further embellish it.

The dish/program name itself, Phunky BBQ Pho with Pork, is enough to send chills up my spine. What's really annoying to me is the casualness that these inaccuracies are presented by Rachael Ray and her program. Andrea Nguyen herself was distrurbed enough to write a commentary about it. You can follow the link to read her "How funky is Rachael Ray’s Phunky Pho?" Here are a few of her key points which I totally agree with:

  • Pho is not Thai. It’s Vietnamese. Maybe they were thinking about Pad Thai? But that's stir-fry. Anyway I don't get it.
  • Pork. Enough said for me. Pork really has no place in pho. It's great in hủ tiếu though.
  • Lack of fish sauce. It's one of the key ingredients, can't do without it.
  • Angel hair pasta. Ugh, this is ugly! It should be bánh phở rice noodles. Maybe Ms. Ray tried to reach the widest audience possible, where there is no banh pho available?

The whole program leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Beside Andrea's points above, here my other peeves:

  • The show, and Rachael Ray herself, not showed total disrespect to Vietnamese (and Thai) foods, but also to their own audience's intelligence, though I could be wrong here since there are 578 Facebook Likes for the recipe as of the date of this post. Amazing!
  • In this 21st century global economy and awareness, there is still lack of knowledge and education in mass media production. What did it take to produce a Rachael Ray episode, how many people were involved in such production? I don't care if the program was entertainment or educational, and we aren't really talking about perfection here. However, a little accuracy on the basics would be nice.
  • Makes me wonder how much other craps are out there... I know, I know. Dumb question.

According to Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, synonyms for funky include: bizarre, bizarro, cranky, crazy, curious, eccentric, erratic, far-out, funky, funny, kinky, kooky (also kookie), offbeat, off-kilter, off-the-wall, outlandish, out-of-the-way, outré, peculiar, quaint, queer, queerish, quirky, remarkable, rum [chiefly British], screwy, spaced-out, strange, wacky (also whacky), way-out, weird, weirdo, wild. True.

So what do you think about this episode? Do you agree or not agree with points discussed above? Please take the poll or leave a comment.

Rachael Ray and the Phunky BBQ Pho with Pork.

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  1. Erin 27 October, 2010 at 15:55 Reply

    This irritates me. I live in Seattle where there is a huge Vietnamese population and Pho eateries are almost more plentiful than a fast food joint (oh hooray for that!). To broadcast a recipe for Pho and not get it right is just disrespectful, embarrassing, and doesn’t give someone who has never had Pho a totally inaccurate experience. Such a shame. Pho is the food of the Gods.

  2. Cuong Huynh 29 October, 2010 at 22:16 Reply

    Hi Erin: I agree with your points. This not only misinformed the uninformed, but also propagated the confusion about what pho is or should be, even among those who had tried pho before.

  3. John 7 January, 2011 at 06:08 Reply

    Angel Hair? I’m getting queasy just thinking about it. Did she make it in 30 minutes? I run by Pho Hoa at 5am and I can smell them making the broth already. I always wonder if you can still get the best product at opening time, or if it’s better to wait a few hours

    • QUYNH TRAN 4 April, 2016 at 14:44 Reply

      A Pho master told me (yes, the equivalent of a Sushi master) she got up and makes the Pho broth at 3 AM, everyday.
      Yes, and there are secret spices she add in the broth, she did not tell me what is in that small cotton pouch of spices she drops in the pot.
      She will tell me then she will have to kill me…

      • Cuong 5 April, 2016 at 20:27 Reply

        @Quynh Tran: Thanks for sharing. I always admire people in the old days who had to do what they had to do to make a living. Many actually became very good at what they did, thus we consider them masters. it’s a title they totally earned and deserved.

        Nowadays, with the volume demand in North America, Australia, Europe and even in the larger restaurants/chains in Vietnam, plus the requirement to serve pho through lunch and dinner hours, the old ways is not going to cut it any longer. Ever since Viet people arrived in North America after 1975, methods of making pho have forever changed. In fact, modern ways of making pho have been set in motion, and many pho restaurants are now serving more than 500 bowls a day easily. I think making pho broth at 3AM is soon to become a thing of the past, pretty much the way of the xích lô (cyclo), sadly.

  4. Greg 10 January, 2011 at 14:21 Reply

    Was just spending the afternoon doing my favorite thing, checking out authentic VN food recipes. I’m of Polish/Hungarian descent, but fell in love with VN food when living in Edmonton, AB and hanging out with my VN classmates. I now live in a remote area, 10 hours from the nearest major city, but I can still make REAL VN food at home. All I need is a car with lots of room, and a visit to the nearest Chinatown (1200km away). So Rachael Ray, COME ON!!!! If I can get my hands on Bánh phở tươi, mắm ruốc Huế, mam nem, nuoc mam, and some good recipes from Nguyen and Wandering Chopsticks, you can sure as hell get at least the provenance of the recipe right…..We have to protect PHO!

  5. Cuong 13 January, 2011 at 21:03 Reply

    Hi John: Yeah, angel hair is a definite never an acceptable substitute, no matter how you look at it. With respect to Pho Hoa at 5AM: like many other pho shops, part of the morning stock may have been stewed the day/night before if they actually used bones in the stock and needed more than 3-4 hours to simmer. So what you smell at 5AM may be their preparation and reheating of already finished stock, plus final taste adjustment. With respect to time of day to get your best bowl of pho, I have no theory because there should not be any theory that can affect it, except that the stock may be best at the beginning when it is first ready to be served. I’d be interested in hearing what others think about when during the day they may get the best product.

  6. Cuong 13 January, 2011 at 21:07 Reply

    Hi Greg: I agree, we have to protect pho. Protecting pho is our mission. I’m with you. If you can do what you described, then the network army that supports the Rachael Ray show should be able to do at least just as well.

  7. mac 30 July, 2011 at 20:22 Reply

    Rachael is funky, spunky, and fun. She’s a very good Italian-American cook, but she’s way out of her depth and kinda dumb regarding Southeast Asian cuisine. Same as Bourdain with all his “expert” culinary travel shows.
    Someone should do a rebuttal video and teach Rachael that Spaghetti Bolognese is actually from Bolivia and is made with Ramen noodles, topped with salsa, and chicken liver.
    Freaking idiots, the lot of them.

  8. Ivan 13 April, 2012 at 17:22 Reply

    could have been worse. Could have been Sandra Lee and her kwanza cake (nasty thing with huge candles) but even worse was her horrid hannukah cake made with lard! At least Rachel has an inkling. Sandra is horrifying (google those cakes and watch the youtube videos and be prepared to scream)

  9. Ivan 13 April, 2012 at 17:23 Reply

    well folks it could have been worse. This could have been Sandra Lee and her kwanza cake (nasty thing with huge candles) but even worse was her horrid hannukah cake made with lard! At least Rachel has an inkling. Sandra is horrifying (google those cakes and watch the youtube videos and be prepared to scream and fall down in laughter)

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