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Pho The Love Of Slurping Noodles

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Feb 15, 2016

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Pho (rhymes with "duh") is like a buffet in a bowl.

There are just so many different ways to combine the noodles, meat, broth, and add-ons -- like bean sprouts, basil, lime, chilies, and hoisin sauce (below).


But for Dan, eating Vietnam's beloved breakfast dish can be stressful:

"I always felt like I wasn’t quite eating it right," he confesses in this week's episode. "There was a flavor combination I wanted to unlock, but I just couldn’t find the key."

Enter Chef Charles Phan (below) -- famous for his masterful Vietnamese cooking at San Francisco's The Slanted Door restaurant and author of the 2014 cookbook of the same name.


We were eager to get Chef Charles's expert advice on composing the perfect bite of pho. But things got off to a rocky start when Dan tried to add hoisin sauce (a salty-sweet, plum-based condiment) to the broth:

"Most white people pour the hoisin right in there and they kill my broth," Chef Charles scolds. "I just love the purity of the broth. You should never dump stuff in it. I see it all the time and it just drives me bonkers."


Condiment strategies aside -- Chef Charles also has some strong opinions about how to eat pho:

"I like to slurp it down with the bowl in my face," he says, adding: "But if I’m in a serious meeting, chances are I’m going to sacrifice my soup and focus on closing the deal."

Listen in the the full episode to learn how Chef Charles composes his perfect bite of pho and to hear what happens when Dan violates good chopstick etiquette.


Later in the show, Dan talks to Professor David Hu (above) from the Georgia Institute of Technology -- a mechanical engineer and an expert in the science of slurping noodles.

"Slurping noodles can be highly dangerous," Dr. Hu warns. "You could create a mealtime disaster."

The problem is that our lungs generate incredible force when we slurp noodles. All of that kinetic energy applied to a long, thin, flexible strand of pasta makes it a sauce-flinging weapon.

"When you have high speeds applied to flexible objects, they start generating what we call instabilities [and] whipping around," Dr. Hu explains. "It’s like taking a spoon [full of sauce], holding it back, and just flicking it at the table."


Will the world ever be safe for noodle slurpers? Do sauce selection, noodle length, and shape make a difference?

Listen in to the full episode for Dr. Hu's science-based strategies for re-engineering your noodle slurping. And be sure to check out this related bit of research into the science of maximizing flavor through slow and steady slurping.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Connect with me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook!

Music in this episode from Black Label Music:

- "Steady" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Clear As Day" by Erick Anderson

- "Hound Dog" by Jason Mickelson

- "Coffee and Sunshine" by Erick Anderson

Photos: FlickrCC/insatiablemunchies; FlickrCC/ayustety; FlickrCC/vasso miliou; FlickrCC/jennifer yin; FlickrCC/Carey Ciuro; David Hu 

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