Man vs. Pho

September 1, 2009

Pho Garden in San Francisco has one of those eat-all-of-this-in-one-hour-or-less-and-you-win-a-free-colonoscopy challenges that seem to define many American eateries. I suppose if eating challenges are as American as (all you can eat) apple pie, it was only a matter of time before these things started coming to the Asian restaurants as well.

Behold, the Pho Challenge. I'm sort of hazy on the details, but supposedly it's two pounds of pho noodle and two pounds of meat, all in a bowl the size of the one you will be sitting on after you finish your attempt. The throwdown: eat the whole thing (minus the broth) in one hour.

I have to tell you, I really like pho. It's not just a food for me, it IS me. After the ubiquitous "Nguyen" surname, pho is probably the one thing most people will readily recognize as being Vietnamese. And I take pho quite seriously. Below is the slow but steady descent into madness I called dinner:


You have to sign a waiver.  The Hail Mary was of my own accord

rsz_pho_start.jpgA pho bowl so large it inspired a new variety of "yo mama" jokes.

rsz_pho_end.jpgNotice the eyes.

rsz_pho_worthy.jpgI acknowledge a worthy adversary. My Chuy Li Fat Hippo Style was no match.

Needless to say, I did not finish the challenge. That small bowl is what I had left and was unable to vanquish. But I think I didn't really want to finish that bowl. I think I could have eaten more, but aside from my gastrointestinal protestations, my cultural digestive tract was gagging. In Vietnam, pho is actually a breakfast food, at least until recently. And dispatches from my friends who have been there say that a few US dollars will get you a bowl a bit bigger than the cup of your hands. So now we've moved pho over to the States and Americanized (read: supersized) the portions. People always complain about how certain westernized Asian foods like orange chicken and General Tsao's pork aren't real Asian cuisine because of the recipe, but what about the actual portions? I would contend that making something so absurd as a gigantic bowl of pho is just as bastardizing as sprinkling in sweet and sour mix.

So maybe I wasn't put on this earth to reach the bottom of pho bowls; I suppose I will have to default to my second reason for existence.*

*Yea right, I'm not going to tell you what it is.


Mic Nguyen

social media editor & blogger

Michael D. Nguyen is a writer who grew up and went to school in California and now lives in NYC. When he's not
internet shopping, he works in advertising. Follow him @mic_nguyen



I would so do this just for the awesome Facebook photo.I, too, was born to eat pho.
it was a noble effort, and i congratulate you!pho sounds so good right now. i want some now! pho is the penultimate reason for being proud to be vietnamese. :)
What are the right words ... super, brilliant idea
What a waste of food. After the whole novelty dies, you're just left with a couple of huge trips to the bathroom.