Really truly good pho: restaurant vs homemade pho?
Is it just me thinking this or is it universally true that:
The best pho will always be found in restaurants, because good homemade pho doesn't really mean much as not many people know about it and thus can judge it? At least in restaurants, you can judge or vote by the number of people willing to pay to eat there.
I've heard many saying (and am sick of hearing it) stuff like "my mom makes the best pho" or "there is no pho that can compare to what my grandmother made".
Maybe what we need is a pho smackdown, uhh... maybe just a competition like they have at BBQ festivals and such, a competition where the best pho is judged by somebody or group of bodies with authority to say "this is good pho" or "this is not so good pho", with certificates and accolades to go with it. This way your mom and grandmother can actually claim such title if it's really true.
Put your noodle where your mouth is.
Secret ingredient, family recipe, no msg, kobe beef, we use only the best ingredients, blah blah. The cynic in me says bs. I think busy pho shops don't need such gimmick because they make good pho. I'll go wherever people line up out the door.
I agree with you. I think if you're not familiar with a pho place, then the only reliable way to tell is the number of people eating in it. For me it used to be the number of Vietnamese people eating in it, but may not be necessairyly true these days.
@giangdinh903: Like your thinking, completely agree. Good reliable pho is all I want. And a little msg is not going to kill me. Why would anyone pay a lot more to have kobe beef in their pho? I don't get it.
I guess when someone claims that their mother or grandmother makes the best pho, you just have to take their words for it unless you are actually invited to their dinner table. And even if that happens and you agree that it's the best pho you've ever had, it's still a deep secret because still not many people know about it to judge for themselves.
From my consulting experience, it's very rare that anyone actually has a secret ingredient, or that any additional ingredient actually being used really makes that much difference. So I tend to agree: being good must be judged and accepted the mass which in most situation means pho served at a restaurant.
It's very easy. Everyone has his/her own opinion, but here's the formula:
eat the food + own opinion + come back for more = good pho for one person.
When you add up all the "good pho for one person" and get more than 50% then you have good pho for that population. And the market is big enough for more than one good pho place.
One can't say they have the "best pho around" without at least passing through the above gate. MHO.
INteresting premise. It really depends on how "best" is defined. I guess if you compare a good homemade pho (that serves maybe 10-20 friends and family members, maybe once a week or even less frequent) to a good restaurant pho (that serves several hundred paying customers a day, 365 days a year), then the better pho option may be clear.
While everyone’s opinion is difference, this is not unlike a good movie versus bad movie. There’ll always be some people who don’t like a particular movie, but if it won an Oscar then it won an Oscar. And if a homemade/low budget movie gets enough exposure, buzz or even accolades, then it may become a successful indie film.
Let the debate continue.
I think it may not be that hard to find and invite individuals who can serve as judges for a pho competition. Though the selection committee (whoever it may consist of) should be clear about its goals and desired outcome, and maybe even put a clear boundary around what is acceptable as pho and what is not.
In my mind, to begin formulating such an event, we would need clear categories for competition and judging. Maybe there's "authentically prepared" pho in one category, "fusion or anything goes pho" in another category, and even "modernized pho with old recipe using modern methods and equipment" category. Yet a couple of others maybe pho from South versus North Vietnam.
Next we may have a panel of professionals/experts consisting of successful restaurateurs, people from culinary academic fields, even authors, artists and filmmakers, and foodservice industry who have shown passion for pho and pho promotion.
It's not unthinkable to actually create this event in a convention format, with the competition as the main highlight of course, but there would be ancillary or parallel sessions of how-to, techniques, and ingredients seminars, how to create and run a pho business seminars, or even product showcase and demonstration from equipment manufacturers and distributors, plus farm sourcing of ingredients as well.
Now this would be a very good start.
When people pay to eat, they actually make a selection, a vote, a choice. When people cook and eat at home, or serve to family and friends, it's a totally different emotion.
For example, you may choose to go to this restaurant instead of that restaurant, but you are unlikely to decline invitation to a home cooked pho and choose to pay at a pho restaurant. The emotion and motivation is different.
Like it or not, as social creatures, we definitely display and prefer mass-driven behaviors. In this sense, pho that serves thousands of paying eaters everyday has pretty much been chosen as good pho, while great pho made at home still needs to convince the mass that is is good, and thre's no guarantee that such great home made pho is still good when scaled up to big volumes. It's like comparing a Toyota Camry to a handmade Rolls Royce. You may be impressed by something, but you'd rather have something else that is just as good for you.
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