12/06/17 12:02am

Please Stop Putting Bone Marrow in Pho

Roasted marrow bones have no place in pho!

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.

A proper bowl of pho, sans marrow bone.

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.

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14 Comment

  • Hear hear. Although I really like Hanoi House, I am not a fan of the bone marrow pho. I don’t know if other places are following their lead and doing that as well.

  • Bone marrow in pho, is a great thing and old school in Hanoi. “Phở vui”. It’s not served with the bone but is delectable. I get my bowl of marrow pho on 25 Hàng Giấy, Hanoi. Beef brisket, marrow slices, and a northern style broth(less sweet, low on the earthly spices, higher on the herbs).

  • Yeah…is not like it’s good or anything or how Vietnamese people ACTUALLY EAT IT LIKE THAT, crazy right?

    When ppl tell you how to eat your food from your own country

  • You aren’t even Vietnamese, how you gonna tell Vietnamese people how to eat THEIR NATIVE DISH. We eat it with bone marrow. End of story.

    • This! Seriously…nothing irks my nerve more than a non-native telling the natives what’s right/wrong/good/bad. I’m Vietnamese but I don’t tell a Hispanic person how to make the perfect taco or an Italian how to make the perfect bowl of pasta.

  • They serve it that way at Pho Best. There are already two locations that I am aware of even though the first is quite new, in the Arcadia Mall. When I ate at Spicy & Tasty last week there was another one almost next door. I think there Pho is good. I just ordered it without the bone marrow.

  • Perhaps I should get into the business of telling DiStefanos how they should be making their pasta. After all, it was brought back from the Orient by Marco Polo in the 13th Century… No wait, that would be incredibly stupid, and arrogant of me. Excuse me.

  • Here’s an article you can read Joe! “Please Stop Telling Vietnamese People on What They Can and Cannot Put in Their Pho, Especially When You’re Not Vietnamese and Stop Using Your Token Vietnamese (Or Asian) Friend to Seek Validation Because That Friend Doesn’t Speak for All”

  • Joe, do you know that Sphagetti tastes better with fish sauce.

  • A dish can take different regional forms. Since you were introduced to pho one way, that does not mean it is the only way. Since your Vietnamese friend/cookbook author said it should be one way, also does not mean it is the only way–that may be the way it was for her when she grew up. My dad, who grew up in Saigon and whose father owned a noodle shop, makes his pho with charred onions. He cuts an onion in half, heats up one of the coil burners on the stove, and puts the onions cut-side down until it is smoking and the cut sides have black char marks on them. They impart a delicious flavor to the broth. And no guest at our house has ever said the broth was acrid. I think it’s just weird to take this statement that pho broth should be clear and use that as the basis to judge all soups. My dad is proud that his soup isn’t crystal clear like restaurant broth; they don’t use as much of the good stuff in their base.

    • Thanks for your well reasoned response Julie. Your father’s pho sounds delicious. My preference is just not to have roast marrow bones in my broth. Cheers–Joe