I have a confession. Brace yourself. Are you ready?
I hate pho. I loathe it. It is the only food I would turn down if it was offered to me free. It is the only time I will tell my friends no when invited out and not already busy. The first time I had it, I was apathetic. Now, three additional attempts later, it is my enemy.
Before I go any further, I should clarify two things.
I really love food. I’ve been known to get giggly or even teary-eyed when I eat something really good. I can name you plates I’ve had that have changed how I look at the world.
Additionally, even if I really hate something I’ve eaten, I will try it on at least two different occasions. After that, I give up and move on to better things.
Very occasionally, I try things I don’t like more than twice. Pho is one of two of those occasions. The only reason I have put myself through this experience of eating this awful dish so many times is because of the reaction I get when I tell people that I don’t like it.
In Seattle, specifically my neighborhood, pho is a cult. I watch people eat it at all hours of the day. Disowning pho is like telling a vegan how much you love KFC. Almost every single time, people need to tell me how wrong I am and how I must try it at their place and add just the right amount of Sriracha and not doing this is why I didn’t like it.
I don’t like it because it’s just bland noodles and sort-of salty broth. Seriously, that’s it. I really think you guys think it’s much more than that. Yes, I realize it usually has meat and some weird veggies in it, but bean sprouts and Thai basil also aren’t that good. Not even lime can save it, and that says something. All four of my experiences have involved eating pho just the way the person who dragged me there told me to eat it, and three of those times have been at highly-rated restaurants and none of that has made a difference.
Pho takes a lot of work to eat. I know a lot of people who swear by pho as a hangover cure, and as the perfect sick food. But this soup is arduous and messy when you’re healthy and hydrated. I can’t imagine trying to put together the magical potion of perfect pieces when you’re distracted by dehydration or the sniffles.
My real dissatisfaction comes from expectations that have been failed to be met. Everyone who tries to convert me swears pho is the best thing ever and that not liking it makes me a hedonistic mutant. Being at least pho-tolerant would make my life so much easier. As it is, this soup has never made me feel anything except frustration and disappointment.
It’s time to face the music, Seattleites. Pho is awful. Can we please stop pretending it isn’t?