Phở, fuh, and the secrets of Vietnamese noodles

A bowl of phở with chopsticks on a wooden table.

By Guest Contributor: Nam Le

“It’s pronounced phở, not fuh.” 

It is a joyless sentence to say, if I am ever saying it at all.

My first language is a rusty hand-me-down — the kind of thing I am shy to show in public, because it always has to be wrangled out of my pockets awkwardly. But it does work; and on this occasion, it strains and reaches for the last inflection —a balloon rising out of the throat —then sticks the landing.

The distinction does not register.

“I don’t get it. I’m saying what you’re saying. Fuh.”

“You know what? It’s fine. Let’s just go eat.”  

I leave the rest of what I am thinking unsaid—because it has to be.

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