Nothing ruins a meal like qualifying its authenticity. You know the drill: You slurp down a big bowl of aromatic pho, you really enjoy it, and then your brain kicks into gear. It didn't take you to the streets of Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. You have become the Regina George of food, someone who blights a lover by saying things like, "Yes, I love you, but..."
What makes one food more legitimate than another? Is it the cook's nationality, the waiter's birthplace, or the language printed on the menu?
In reality, none of those things really matters. The only factor that counts is taste.
So I recently set out to find Miami's best pho -- a noodle soup great because of its flavor and not its immigration status. A good pho hinges on the broth, a clear liquid produced by beef bones, fish sauce, and spices such as cinnamon and star anise. Served with rice noodles, the stock pairs with various cuts of beef and accompaniments such as Thai basil, chilies, and lime. My quest began in Miami Lakes and finished at a 30-year-old restaurant in Little Havana. Throughout this traffic- battered journey, there was only one rule:
No authenticity talk allowed.