Want the Lime Taste in Your Pho? Don’t Serve It Like This

Updated 04-18-19. The first thing I do when served with a bowl of Vietnamese pho is to enjoy its fragrance steaming up out of the hot broth.

The second thing I do is to take a sip of that broth to taste its goodness in its most unspoiled state.

There are pho broths out there good enough for me not to have to enhance them with additional sauces or condiments.

Regardless of how good the broth is, though, I must have my squeeze of lime in my pho. To me the fresh tangy lemony flavor is an absolute must-have flavor in a bowl of pho bo or pho ga, no exception. But this is where I have a problem with how lime and pho come together.

Take a look of the following pho photos from typical search engine. You will find similar photos in many cookbooks and printed publications as well. What is common among these photos? Can you see a common no-no in almost all of them?

Whole lime wedges in your pho

Whole lime wedges in your pho

Yes, it's the piece of lime in the bowl, peel, sometime seeds and all! All brewing and cooking in the hot broth.

OK it's very simple:

  1. You don't want to cook the lime peel and seeds in the hot broth. Yuck!
  2. Do I use my fingers to snatch out the piece of lime and squeeze it to get the lime juice? Double yuck!

Lime in my pho photo

This post is not about judging the validity of recipes, ideas, ingredients or viewpoints of pho writers and bloggers on the sites above. And I'm not poking fun at photographers taking liberty and creative license with their culinary works. I respect all of that.

Instead this is actually about the presentation, and conveying the subject matter in the proper manner. If we want to share, educate and inform one another about Vietnamese Pho, then let's do it right. Providing good, accurate presentation of what pho is, is a very big part of this sharing, educating and informing. Pho veterans will like it, and pho newbies will appreciate it. We as publishers have at least some responsibilities here, right?

The bottom line: Creative photography or not, let's serve the lime where it belongs: as a side item of pho, as an option. This way a pho eater has a choice of using it or not. This is especially important to help pho newbies. People do get the first and best impression from images. So please present pho correctly.

Oh one more thing. Some of these photos show way too little amount of pho broth in the bowl. To properly serve a bowl of pho, you need to use plenty of broth to cook all ingredients within the bowl, and that means most everything should be submerged except for the garnishing for the finishing touch.

By the way, many pho zealots agree with me when it comes to the taste of lime in pho. Check this out, as of this writing, this LovingPho.com running poll indicates that lime is the top item to enhance your pho experience. If you haven't done so, take the poll and share with us your preference.

What's in your pho?

  • Culantro (15%, 407 Votes)
  • Thai basil (17%, 457 Votes)
  • Lime (18%, 499 Votes)
  • Bean sprouts (16%, 454 Votes)
  • Chiles (12%, 336 Votes)
  • Hot chili sauce (12%, 342 Votes)
  • Hoisin sauce for pho (9%, 259 Votes)

Total Voters: 608


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  1. Kim Mills 20 February, 2012 at 20:47 Reply

    Cuong, I agree, but I am in desperate need of traditional viet recipes for starters, main and especially desert. HELP. Contact me.

  2. Cuong Huynh 20 February, 2012 at 21:26 Reply

    Hi Kim Mills: Traditional Viet recipes for starters, main and dessert? Hmmm, as I am all about pho I cannot personally help you with your request. But I can pass you on to Andrea Nguyen who can certainly help you. Just check out her website at Viet World Kitchen.

  3. Paul 28 February, 2012 at 23:40 Reply

    I am nuts about the Hoisin, but I dont put it in the broth. I actually dont put much of anything in the broth. I taste it first to see if I need to. But I do unapologetically squeeze a dot of Hoisin onto each moutful of noodles dangling from my chopsticks before greedily inhaling them. And that is with consistency, I eat the noodles in my pho more quickly than any other food. I find I often need a second bowl because I couldnt pause long enough to taste the first!

  4. Cuong Huynh 7 March, 2012 at 01:17 Reply

    Paul: Thanks for sharing your pho rituals. You may want to order a side banh pho noodle, or just call extra banh pho. Otherwise you’re wasting all that pho broth goodness. I hate it when that happens 😉

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