Andrea Nguyen cracks the code of pho for the home cook
Every Saturday, when Andrea Nguyen was a little girl in Vietnam, her mother cooked up a pot of the flavorful noodle soup known as pho, charring onions and ginger, then simmering meat and spices for hours. “We all have those smells that remind us of who we are, and pho is that for me,” she says. These days, you can get pho in practically any town in the West, but a great home-cooked version is a world away. In Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press; $20), the James Beard Award–nominated author explores the history of Vietnam’s national soup and offers scrupulous recipes for beef, chicken, vegetarian, and vegan pho, along with regional twists and ways to use leftover broth and meat (pho fried rice!). For her Fast and Fabulous pho, she hit on a brilliant shortcut: Use a pressure cooker to get authentic flavor in about a third of the time. Home-cooked or not, says Nguyen, pho has the same irresistible appeal: “It’s brothy, spicy, restorative, gluten-free … It’s comfort food, yet it’s light. And it’s great for hangovers.” What better food for the cool season?