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What's your favorite Pho toppings?

When I originally started eating pho I did the basic beginner/newbie pho with sliced rare steak (Pho Tai).

I presently like pho with well-done flank & well-done brisket.

I can't seem to be adventurous enough to get the tripe or tendon yet.

What are people's favorite renditions of pho? Also is there such thing as flank or brisket that isn't 'well-done'?

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  1. I love it all -- rare meats, tripe, tendon -- everything except for the meatballs. I have never seen flank or brisket that isn't well done. I think it would be too tough for most people to chew. And you can't forget the herbs. Love cilantro, mint, holy basil, scallions. And the squirt of Srichara and lime (not lemon).

    3 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle

      Miss Needle, I agree with you. I like everything except for the fishballs. I always feel bad for leaving the fishballs in the soup. Sometimes I take a bite or two, but I really don't like them that much. Everything else is good. Sometimes, I don't use the bean sprouts-- depends on the day.

      1. re: katkoupai

        Funny, I also don't always have the bean sprouts. Personally, I feel that it dilutes the overall flavor. I've also noticed that most places in New York do not serve it with the meatballs unless you ask for them. But in LA, I remember being served pho with the meatballs already in there.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I live in LA, and some places don't add the fishballs. It seems to depend on location. As for the sprouts, I feel it makes the bowl of soup even larger-- sometimes I can't finish it as is. I crave pho often, though, and usually get the combo beef pho, with tripe, tendon, and two kinds of beef. :)

    2. I too like most every combination I've seen, but ultimately I return to Pho Tai about 95% of the time. This is one case where I wouldn't consider it "beginner/newbie" because its all just about personal preference. The whole concept of pho is that its a noodle dish to which you add the things you like best.

      For me, thats fresh herbs, some citrus, fish sauce, chili sauce and onions.

      1. I'd encourage you to try fat brisket, tendon, and tripe. For me, a lot of the enjoyment of pho is textural. These toppings add a nice chewy texture that you simply aren't going to get from any of the lean cuts. It's a complete dimension that you're missing. Try it! It's good!

        I am usually happy to throw in the fresh toppings, although I go easy on the sauces (srirachi, bean sauce) and sometimes don't use them at all, since the *other* part of the enjoyment of pho is a good, fragrant broth, and I don't like to alter it to much. ymmv.

        1. I haven't been able to really enjoy the fatty brisket and tendon, but for me now, it's not pho without the tripe--I love the crunch that it provides!

          I used to put in a lot of Sriracha, but now I like to appreciate the broth on its own. I mix Sriracha and hoisin in another dish and dip the meats in that after I fish them out of the soup.

          6 Replies
            1. re: aussieeater

              No...it is pronounced like 'fuu' as in the curse word with out the ck. That is why you see restros with names as 'What the Pho" and as a friend once told me. They wanted to open a pool hall that serves pho and call it 'Pho Q'

              1. re: justagthing

                I think it's pronounced Fuh? with a rising tone at the end like asking a question.

                1. re: JMF

                  correct, i meant a short u sound not a long u. like i wrote, kinda like the f word, but without the ck

            2. re: Nettie

              I also use the Sriracha dipping technique, but do so with every bite, beef AND noodles!

              1. re: DezzerSF

                Me too- and I also like to wrap the dipped meat in a large basil leaf and eat like a packet.

            3. Doesn't matter what kind of pho, but the herbs make the dish for me.

              Got to have good ngo gai (cilantro) and hung que (basil) ... those are THE critical components.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                I thought ngo gai was 'saw-tooth herb' (aka: mexican cilantro/culantro/eryngium foetidus).

              2. easy. lots of tender but not falling apart tendon and brisket. raw beef on the side.

                oh i forgot the greenery. lots of basil, the whole plate of bean sprouts, and sawtooth herb if i can get it. a few sprigs of cilantro and a smatter of green onions.

                lime not lemon

                hoisin and sriracha on the side for me, dip meat in and put in my soup spoon as opposed to the bowl. what can i say, i eat things my way.

                1. For me it's all about the broth, I like mine with a deep beefy flavour topped with the fatty brisket and tripe. As for the herbs and vegetables, I'm with Miss Needle and never add the bean sprouts as it waters down the broth too much. I do add 1 little green chile ( snapped in half), basil and keep the sriracha / hoisin mix in a seperate little bowl.

                  When I'm in the mood I ask the kitchen to add a little sate sauce on top.

                  1. Tripe and rare steak. I tried the tendon, just didn't do it for me.

                    Basil is ok, lemon or lime is ok. I dip the steak in a lot of hoisin sauce. Bean sprouts are an abomination.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Louise

                      Pho is amazing. It's so simple and in a way, delicate, yet delicious and filling. I'd take it over a porterhouse any day. Yet I always forget there's a Pho place nearby (it's only a year old, first one in our area)... but because of this thread we had some tonight.

                      To answer the question, I just throw it all in, including the sprouts, hosin, purple basil, lime and sriracha. It's all good. I can take or leave the tripe. Tendon isn't offered here.

                    2. Lime, sprouts, basil ... Just about anything they serve it with, except lemon. If they accompanying plate comes with a wedge of lemon on it, I get a funny look on my face.

                      1. For me, rare steak, brisket and tendon are the must-haves. I like tripe, but can take or leave it (and often have to leave it if I'm sharing a bowl with someone). I like to put a fair bit of squeezed lime in mine, and a good handful of bruised purple basil (dates often look at me funny when I rough up my herbs, but it really lets the flavor out). I almost never add the bean sprouts, but do occasionally nibble them on the side. I'll add a few drops of sriracha to the broth, but like several others, keep it mostly in a bowl on the side for dipping. Here in Arizona, they usually serve it with a few slices of jalapeno, too, which seems like overkill to me.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Booklegger451

                          I actually love the jalapeno in the broth. I always add 3 slices.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            Now I am fairly new to the Pho game so how do people feel about adding the sauces to the soup? Are you supposed to? Is it just a preference? Which ones do you add?

                            1. re: FoodDude2

                              I don't add any of the sauces to the soup. If there are the little dishes available I put the sauces in them and dip my meats if no little dishes are available I put the sauce on top of the meat when it is on my spoon. Good pho broth is already perfect and should not be adulterated.

                              1. re: FoodDude2

                                It is and entirely personal preference. There are no hard and fast rules and no insults implied by adding things to pho. That's why there are so many sauces, herbs, citrus, etc available. So each person can customize their pho. Certainly take a taste of the broth before adding things, but I like mine a bit saltier than most broths come, so I almost always add some fish sauce. I also like a little bit of heat and so often add a bit of srircacha. If i use hoisin sauce, I normally put it in a dish and dip the meat in it.

                                If you watch a bit at a pho house, you'll see people add all kinds of things in all sorts of amounts. The whole point is only to find what you like.

                          2. Always get mine with rare and well done beef.

                            I've had the chicken as well and it's excellent too.

                            I like lots of the basil, some sriracha and a fair bit of hoisen. I like how the broth gets a little thicker and is very rich.


                            1. Raw beef that cooks in the hot broth and the lovely firm beef meat-balls. On top has to go a whole lot of fragrant thai basil and saw-tooth herb/ngo gai and some bean sprouts. Then a good bit of sriracha.

                              I guess I like a fragrant herb-based southern Vietnamese pho. Although good Pho Bun Hue isn't bad either (with an ultra-rich dark stock, lots of spice, vermicelli not rice noodles, cooked beef and form black tofu?).

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                The "black tofu" is cubes of blood.

                                1. re: Humbucker

                                  Really? It comes with my local restaurant's vegetarian version too. But, maybe that should read 'vegetarian' version -- although, they do change the beef broth out to a shitake based one.

                              2. Unlike most posters, I find the rare beef to be the least interesting meat. I love the soft and flavorful flank and brisket better and enjoy the textural contrast of the tendon and tripe. I usually add all the basil, lime juice, and bean sprouts (bean sprouts for their crunch more than the flavor). For some reason, I prefer to add the jalapeno slices instead of sriracha just because the heat they provide is subtler and more in the background - but I don't eat the chilies. If I want more heat, I will usually have bun bo hue or another spicy dish.