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Do you add the hoisin and sriracha to the pho broth?

monopod Aug 7, 2012 02:33 PM

I recently came to the realization that all pho broth tastes pretty much the same if you put a ton of hoisin and sriracha in there. It was only when I stopped adding them (maybe just a little sriracha for heat) that I started being able to really distinguish between good and great pho broth.

Is it traditional to dump a lot of hoisin and hot sauce in pho? Or do you put them on the side and dip the meats into them (as I've heard from one source)? I wonder if including hoisin and sriracha with pho is an American thing, or if it's traditional in Vietnam too.

  1. njmarshall55 Jan 7, 2013 08:45 AM

    Late response, I know, but I only recently discovered the joy of GOOD pho. And the ubiquitous rooster sauce is there on the table. What I do is just put a dab of sauce in the spoonful of broth, only for flavor...not so much for the heat. Makes a wonderful soup to clear a stuffy head, tho, with a winter cold.

    1. Duppie Oct 24, 2012 09:55 AM

      It would depend on the Pho.... I generally taste the broth first and as all pho is not created equal, I then add each if needed. I tend to start with an order of Cha Gio and sometimes just add the dipping sauce but always a splash of fish sauce.
      I now ask for sliced hot peppers and raw onions also.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Duppie
        huiray Oct 24, 2012 10:35 AM

        To each his or her own.

        I quite understand what you and others say about adding stuff if the broth is not "up to snuff" but for myself if the broth is lacking it means just that - it's lacking. I still wouldn't add sriracha or hoisin to the broth. I'd consume what I wish of the dish in that place, and not hasten to return to that place anytime soon. My view.

        1. re: huiray
          Duppie Oct 24, 2012 11:13 AM

          I do understand but here in central NJ,good Vietnamese is just about as hard to find as edible Thai so I struggle along until I get back into NYC or drive to Pensky.

      2. njmarshall55 Oct 24, 2012 09:33 AM

        I do use the foodies "crack" (sriracha) in Pho, but only a dab on the spoonfull I'm about to enjoy. I do enjoy the spicyness of it...but cannot see adding so much heat that the subtle nuances of the food itself are lost.

        1. t
          takadi Oct 24, 2012 03:45 AM

          Pho restaurants that realize that 90 percent of their customers drown their pho in hoisin and sriracha will also realize that they can send out watered down crap and customers won't know the difference. I use them as an occasional dipping sauce for the "special" meats, but other than basil black pepper and a little extra fish sauce, I don't add anything to my pho and it is really easy to tell the difference between good and bad pho. It is really astounding what some pho restaurants think they can get away with selling

          1. z
            zzDan Aug 16, 2012 12:44 AM

            I put none of the sprouts+basil+hot pepper in the broth. I eat them toward the end as a salad.
            I eat most of the broth first. Some of it I eat by first squirting a dab of Sriracha in the ceramic (or plastic) Chinese soup spoon then carefully pooling broth into that spoon. Then consuming the broth. Hoison would ruin the broth. After I have eaten 90-100% of the broth I eat the noodles, meat etc with maybe some sriracha, maybe some hoison.

            I love pho, it's up there with roast duck-shrimp wonton-noodle soup. I know the tradViet way of eating it

            1. pdxgastro Aug 13, 2012 11:25 PM

              I add fish sauce. Sometimes it's among the condiments, sometimes it isn't. Then I have to ask the waiter for it and they always bring me some.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pdxgastro
                zzDan Aug 16, 2012 12:44 AM

                I have to start doing that

              2. tcamp Aug 11, 2012 07:30 AM

                When my bowl first arrives, I taste the unadulterated broth to check the flavor. If I'm at a new place, this is my chance to test the wares. If I'm at a familiar pho shop, I'm confirming the taste I've come to expect. Next, I add the herbs, chile slices, lots of bean sprouts, and usually a dash of fish sauce. Once I've mixed it up, I put a little sriracha and a spot of hoisin in my spoon and dip the meat and noodles into the sauce before popping into my mouth. By the end of the bowl, some sauce has transferred into the broth so the final cup or so of broth is much spicier that at the beginning.

                I happen to love the texture of tripe and tendon but the rest of my family, not so much.

                Boy, I know what I am having for lunch.

                1. t
                  thimes Aug 10, 2012 11:15 AM

                  Very interesting - I do add both to my Pho - as well as the chili slices and lime.

                  I would say where I go the Pho is quite good but I like the little added complexity with the hoisin. But I'm as lilly white as you get, so I can't be held accountable :D

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thimes
                    huiray Aug 10, 2012 11:40 AM

                    "... added complexity with the hoisin..."
                    I confess (for myself) I fail to see how that can be, rather than a masking of what the broth tastes like. :::Shrug::: But to each his own.

                  2. c
                    cheesemaestro Aug 10, 2012 10:47 AM

                    Even worse than adding hoisin liberally to pho is dumping it into non-pho Vietnamese soups, such as those made with seafood. I've seen people do that. A few drops of fish sauce might be in order, if one prefers a saltier broth, but that's about all that should be added to a seafood soup.

                    On the other hand, I don't object to adding a little hoisin (a small squirt) to pho. Vietnamese restaurants are everywhere now and some of them, unfortunately, don't have the tastiest broth. If I'm in a place for the first time and find the broth to be insipid, I'll add a little hoisin and maybe even a little hot sauce. If the pho is properly made, I don't add any condiments.

                    1. Ruth Lafler Aug 10, 2012 09:41 AM

                      I've seen people add both and I always shudder (I have a friend I'm trying to break of dousing his food with salt, pepper and condiments, often before he even tries it -- if food is made right, with good quality ingredients, the flavor should come from the ingredients! The over-use of condiments is a result of years of eating bad/flavorless industrial food!). There should be jalapenos to add if you want heat, and herbs if you want more complex flavor. If you aren't given either of these, then don't eat there. Hoisin is too strong to go with pho, and sriracha is only for dipping your meats/veggies into.

                      1. e
                        evansp60 Aug 10, 2012 07:47 AM

                        My favorite PHO is a spicy version from Central Vietnam.
                        I add the basil, cilantro and lime in moderate amounts.
                        When I scoop up the noodles I apply the Siracha and Hoisin directly onto
                        the noodles nott into the soup. This way the broth is unadulterated but you
                        get the Siracha/Hoisin blast direct from the noodles. Best of both worlds.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: evansp60
                          huiray Aug 10, 2012 08:14 AM

                          Are the noodles used fatter and rounder than what is typically used for Phở and did your dish look like one of these? https://www.google.com/search?q=bun+b...

                          If so then it is more usually known as Bún bò Huế.

                        2. m
                          mike0989 Aug 10, 2012 07:35 AM

                          No to both. I may use rooster on a rice dish, but not a soup. I have no use for hoisin. I have a salt tooth, not a sweet one. I will sometimes add a glop of some evil dark stuff in a jar next to the sambal. I have no idea what it is, but I like it in both my Pho and Bun Ho Hue.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mike0989
                            huiray Aug 10, 2012 08:14 AM

                            Bún bò Huế.

                            1. re: huiray
                              mike0989 Aug 10, 2012 08:29 AM

                              Probably why I just say no 21 when I order

                          2. klyeoh Aug 10, 2012 02:59 AM

                            I actually never knew that some people add 'hoi sin' (Chinese) and 'sriracha' (Thai) to pho (Vietnamese) broth! Must be an American thang.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: klyeoh
                              huiray Aug 10, 2012 06:12 AM


                              1. re: huiray
                                klyeoh Aug 10, 2012 07:48 AM

                                Thanks - very interesting. especially this extract from the article:
                                "Diners also started adding tuong (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) directly to their bowls."

                                I'd not seen my Vietnamese colleagues/friends in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon do this though. They'd add a squeeze of lime, or some fish sauce or even soy-sauce to their pho. Maybe the decades after the reunion with the North Vietnamese had seen them revert to the "purer" way of enjoying pho.

                              2. re: klyeoh
                                Mer_Made Aug 10, 2012 07:36 AM

                                It's not really Thai. Sriracha, at least the stuff with the red rooster is, it was created by Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant for the Vietnamese market in the US. It just co-opted by everyone because it is amazing.


                                God bless the man.

                                1. re: Mer_Made
                                  klyeoh Aug 10, 2012 07:52 AM

                                  Well, that certainly explained a lot. I'd always thought "Sriracha" was a Thai-American invention anyway (like fortune cookies being a Chinese-American thing) as Thais would inadvertently look at you quizzically were you to ask for Sriracha sauce in Bangkok or Chiengmai.

                                  I wonder why the inventor chose a Thai-sounding name for his sauce, instead of a Vietnamese one?

                                  1. re: klyeoh
                                    JMF Aug 10, 2012 08:58 AM

                                    Sri Racha / Si Racha (alt. spelling) is actually a city in Thailand and they do make a hot sauce there. I was there briefly several years ago.



                                    1. re: klyeoh
                                      luckyfatima Aug 10, 2012 11:09 AM

                                      Sriracha is just convenient, ready made tuong ot, which some people prefer to make at home, but most just use the bottled stuff at restaurants.

                                2. luckyfatima Aug 9, 2012 06:47 PM

                                  I always add lime juice and chile slices, plus the other fresh ingredients. I taste it, and if it is good, I don't add anything else. Though if towards the end of the bowl, the flavors need a boost, I might add some in for a hot and sweet change.

                                  After reading about it (maybe here), I also tried combining Sriracha and hoisin in a little bowl and dipping my meats in that while I ate, but I found that the taste of that in my mouth overpowered the pho broth sips and made it less enjoyable.

                                  Basically I only add those two condiments to bad broth, which I haven't found in a long time, lucky for me.

                                  1. babette feasts Aug 9, 2012 06:42 PM

                                    I add lime and chili oil/paste to the bowl, then have a dish with about half and half sriracha and hoisin on the side for dipping the meats. I like a spicy broth. And love tripe in my pho.

                                    1. JMF Aug 9, 2012 09:29 AM

                                      I dump in about half the herbs and sprouts to the bowl, squeeze lime etc., then taste. Maybe add a tiny bit of hoisin or sriracha, but only as a tiny bit of seasoning. I sometimes make a sauce with them and dip the meat. I add more herbs and sprouts halfway through.

                                      1. c
                                        cgarner Aug 9, 2012 07:33 AM

                                        hmmm after all these responses, I'm wondering if the pho at the restaurant which we've been frequenting isn't as 'great' as it should be
                                        as a pho novice, I sat and watched how Asian families were eating... what's proper ettiquete for how to eat it and what to add, not add

                                        I observed more than one putting a squeeze or two of hoisin and sriracha into a bowl and one lady putting a squeeze into nearly every spoon full

                                        (I actually like the flavor of the broth of the "special" beef pho, that I order, it's quite rich and flavorful and I don't feel the need to add much more than the chile's that are served as garnish for heat)

                                        1. s
                                          Steve Aug 8, 2012 01:39 PM

                                          Sometimes I'll add to the broth after I've eaten 3/4ths of a bowl. Just to have a different flavor profile.

                                          Never at the beginning of the bowl.

                                          1. f
                                            FoodPopulist Aug 8, 2012 09:02 AM

                                            Do people see a difference between adding siracha and adding the chilies that are usually on the plate of garnishes?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: FoodPopulist
                                              Crockett67 Aug 8, 2012 09:05 AM

                                              Yes, they are different to me. Not faulting those who choose one over the other. Taste is very personal and while other's like their broth clean and untainted by the additional sauces I perfer it with them.

                                              It's like hainanese chicken, no two people probably eat it the same.

                                            2. s
                                              seamunky Aug 7, 2012 11:33 PM

                                              No I don't add hoisin or sriracha to the broth. But there are some sriracha lovers who claim to love pho and dump tons of sriracha in the broth. It makes me question whether they love pho or they love sriracha. They would do the same to a bowl of instant ramen so I can't imagine how the delicious fragrant pho broth can taste any different than their bowl of instant noodles. For me, sriracha has such a strong garlic powder taste that dominates and just doesn't go with pho. Garlic has no business in pho.

                                              1. v
                                                VitalForce Aug 7, 2012 09:04 PM

                                                The Sriracha and Hoisin would mask the flavour of the broth, which distinguishes a good bowl of pho. I’ll typically add a little basil, lime, and a few bean sprouts. The rest can be dealt with in tandem with the bowl. The inclusion of specialty meats like tendon and tripe can be a real pleasure if the restaurant does a good job of the soup.

                                                1. Melanie Wong Aug 7, 2012 08:32 PM

                                                  If the pho stock doesn't have enough flavor to stand on its own without dumping in hoisin and/or sriracha, I get up and leave that bowl behind.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                    ipsedixit Aug 7, 2012 08:53 PM


                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      huiray Aug 7, 2012 09:05 PM

                                                      I'll eat it - desultorily - then never return. But, certainly, no hoisin or sriracha goes into the soup even then.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        FoodPopulist Aug 8, 2012 09:01 AM

                                                        That seems wasteful to me. As long as it is reasonably edible, or can be transformed into such, I can't stand the idea of not trying to use it up.

                                                        1. re: FoodPopulist
                                                          Melanie Wong Aug 8, 2012 09:25 AM

                                                          Dumping in hoisin and sriracha sauce is not my idea of edible and simply a waste of condiments. LIfe is too short to eat bad food.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            ipsedixit Aug 9, 2012 07:58 AM

                                                            The restaurant wasted the food in preparing it the way it did.

                                                      2. c
                                                        chocolatetartguy Aug 7, 2012 08:10 PM

                                                        From what I see others (including many Asians) doing, it is quite common to add plum sauce and hot sauce to the broth. Personally, I don't see the point. If the broth is good, then you don't want to mask the beefy goodness. If it isn't, why bother with the place at all. I eat the meat with bites of the hot peppers and don't sauce the dish at all.

                                                        1. viperlush Aug 7, 2012 07:19 PM

                                                          I taste then add. Sometimes some sriracha, sometimes a squirt of lime, sometimes basil, and usually sprouts. If I don't add the sriracha to the broth I'll mix it with some hoisin in a dish and dip the meat in it.

                                                          1. Crockett67 Aug 7, 2012 07:11 PM

                                                            I do! But I do taste first to determine how much to add.

                                                            To me the hoisin adds depth and the sriracha adds heat. I don't add the jalapenos or fresh hot peppers since that's too hot for me!

                                                            1. chefj Aug 7, 2012 06:10 PM

                                                              A South Vietnamese friend taught me to taste first then add as needed or wanted. She suggested when adding Hosin and Sriracha to make a smiley face using the Sriracha to make the circle and the Tương to for the eyes and mouth. Cutesy but a good place to start and keeps a much lighter hand for those unfamiliar with Phở

                                                              1. huiray Aug 7, 2012 05:57 PM

                                                                So glad you stopped dumping hoisin and sriracha into your phở broth. To me it simply overwhelms the delicate taste and aromatic properties of the broth as you have now found.

                                                                Some Southern Vietnamese may add hoisin to the broth, but Northern Vietnamese frown on it.

                                                                I have read of USAmerican folks who think phở is not sufficiently KAPOW! WHAM! KABOOM!!! in taste to them and dump in hoisin *and* sriracha then still say it tastes blah to them.

                                                                10 Replies
                                                                1. re: huiray
                                                                  FoodPopulist Aug 7, 2012 06:15 PM

                                                                  The Northern Vietnamese also don't typically include the plate on the side with things such as sprouts or Thai basil.

                                                                  I say that you should do what you like, but you should be aware of your options. I typically taste the broth first, then decide how much hoisin or siracha, if any I feel like putting in. I'm more likely to add more than just a touch of hoisin sauce if the broth feels like it is lacking in the umami department. People who automatically add condiments are like people who automatically season with salt or pepper without tasting first.

                                                                  I judge pho eaters more on how willing they are to consume tripe/tendon with their soup than how much hoisin they add to the bowl.

                                                                  1. re: FoodPopulist
                                                                    huiray Aug 7, 2012 06:38 PM

                                                                    "The Northern Vietnamese also don't typically include the plate on the side with things such as sprouts or Thai basil."

                                                                    "I judge pho eaters more on how willing they are to consume tripe/tendon with their soup than how much hoisin they add to the bowl."
                                                                    For myself I think I would be saddened more by the hoisin+sriracha dumping. The texture of tripe/tendon may indeed be a severe turn-off for some folks.

                                                                    Also for myself I have *never* added hoisin or sriracha to my phở broth - or even used any of either as a dip for the meats etc.

                                                                    1. re: FoodPopulist
                                                                      michelley Aug 11, 2012 10:46 AM

                                                                      I do the same with adding a little hoisin if I feel the broth is lacking. I always add herbs and bean sprouts, always dip the meat in a mix of hoisin and sriracha, usually just eat the lime or lemon. Usually leave some noodles, I wish I could get less noodles and more broth but I've been unsuccessful in getting servers to understand that.

                                                                      The strange thing I've noticed lately in places in both New York and Maryland is Asian, (I assume Vietnamese), people eating the noodles and leaving most of the broth.

                                                                      1. re: michelley
                                                                        chefj Aug 11, 2012 01:32 PM

                                                                        I think that is fairly typical it is the same here in the Bay Area.

                                                                        As for you stock:noodle problem Just order a small bowl and ask for an extra bowl of broth on the side. I often see extra bowl of stock brought out to diners here.

                                                                        1. re: chefj
                                                                          michelley Sep 26, 2012 04:35 PM

                                                                          Thanks! I will try that. Once, there was no omosa in my soup and they brought out some tripe in broth.

                                                                        2. re: michelley
                                                                          huiray Aug 11, 2012 10:38 PM

                                                                          "The strange thing I've noticed lately in places in both New York and Maryland is Asian, (I assume Vietnamese), people eating the noodles and leaving most of the broth."
                                                                          Nothing strange about that to me. It's the same principle as eating white rice 'accompanied' by small portions of meat and larger amounts of vegetables. I myself might drink most of the broth but often do not.

                                                                          Similarly, East/SE Asian noodle soups of many kinds are commonly consumed in like fashion - the ingredients and noodles are usually eaten and the broth or soup often only partially drunk. In many such cases the soup has been made more salty/intense so as to provide appropriate flavor when the noodles and other stuff is consumed, so some folks would also find the leftover soup (or other stocks like laksa broth) at the end just "too salty" (or too thick/rich/much) to finish off by itself.

                                                                          Yes, Westerners/Caucasian folks might tend to eat far more meat, meat and more meat - plus a bite of vegetables maybe - with their starch as some bread or potatoes.

                                                                          1. re: huiray
                                                                            michelley Sep 26, 2012 04:35 PM

                                                                            You're quite right, I wonder if they make the broth milder for us, knowing that is the case. I also notice that we always eat all of the herbs and most of the sprouts, the Vietnamese families not so much. This goes for the lettuce and mint with the spring rolls too.

                                                                          2. re: michelley
                                                                            JMF Aug 12, 2012 08:12 AM

                                                                            Traditionally pho is a vehicle for noodles, not a soup. Many Vietnamese don't even finish the broth. I was surprised to learn that on my visits to Vietnam.

                                                                            1. re: michelley
                                                                              takadi Oct 24, 2012 03:51 AM

                                                                              I'm vietnamese and I rarely drink the broth at the end. It's just way too loaded with sodium and MSG. There have only been a couple times where the pho was so good that I was compelled to consume every last drop of it. Most of the time though, it's just not worth feeling thirsty for the rest of the entire day

                                                                              1. re: takadi
                                                                                michelley Jan 6, 2013 06:22 PM

                                                                                I guess our usual place is really good, (most of the time that is, sometimes midweek I feel that they've watered it), because it's not that salty, and I know what you mean because some places I've been in and out of town are very salty and msg laden.

                                                                        3. a
                                                                          antennastoheaven Aug 7, 2012 02:42 PM

                                                                          I dip the tofu and veggies from my pho in hoisin/sriracha. I might add a little chili sauce to the broth if I'm feeling that. I have never heard of putting the hoisin and sriracha directly into the broth.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: antennastoheaven
                                                                            FoodPopulist Aug 7, 2012 06:17 PM

                                                                            I've never really like the feel of straight-up hoisin as a dipping sauce. It feels to thick. I have mixed hoisin and siracha and diluted it with a bit of soy sauce or water to get a more liquid sauce, but the last time I did that, I was eating rotisserie chicken.

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