As the creator of a web site whose very name extols the virtues of Asian food and bone marrow you might think I enjoy the latest trend in pho, the add-on of a roasted marrow bone. After all what’s more comforting than a bowl of beefy noodle soup? And what’s more sumptuous than a cross-cut roasted marrow bone, its cavity filled with meat butter?
Just because they are both good separately doesn’t mean they belong together though. Because I am at heart a gluttonous carnivore, I want to like the combination, but it’s just a ploy by restaurants to jack up the price of a humble noodle soup while feeding ravenous hordes of Instagrammers.
Placing a roasted marrow bone in a bowl of steaming bowl of pho ruins both. I’ve come to this conclusion after trying this ungainly Flintstonian combination three times. The last time the marrow bone had a bit of char and left an acrid black slick on the side of the bowl.
When I called my friend Corinne Trang author of Authentic Vietnamese Cooking: Food from a Family Table, she said she hadn’t heard of this trend, which seems to be everywhere among newer Vietnamese restaurants in Queens. At first she thought I was talking about the practice of cooking marrow bones when making pho, but I assured her that there are restaurants placing roasted marrow bones in bowls of the beloved Vietnamese noodle soup.
“The broth should be clean and clear,” she pointed out. “The minute you star putting something charred in it, it becomes acrid, pho should be sweet not acrid.”
So rather than muddy the waters of pho, I’ll take my bowl with lean rare beef, brisket, and tendon, 86 the bone marrow. Though I must say the idea of several roasted marrow bones served with a salad of Vietnamese herbs, a toasted baguette, and a mug of beef broth does sound appealing.