Originally Posted by MarjorieMargarine
Weird. I've ONLY had sweet Pho and I've had it at several different restaurants. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it says that it's a regional variant- especially from Southern Vietnam- they make it with "yellow rock sugar." Maybe my city's Vietnamese restauraunteurs are all southerners.
It IS delicious, if you've never tried it, but honestly I'm kinda jealous that ya'll have some without sugar!
You may be able to ask for it without sugar or sweetener, because in our area the "best" restaurants serve the Pho with a condiment cart and customers customize the soup to their own preference. Sugar and other sweet condiments do come on the cart, but it's an optional ingredient customers can choose or omit.
This is apparently very common, but other restaurants allow fewer condiments or no condiments and season the broth to their preference. Even those who do the pre-seasoning, often don't add the sugar until after adding the broth - so you may be able to ask for them to omit the sugar for you.
If you can find a restaurant that does have the condiment cart, you'll be amazed at what can be used to adjust the flavor (and calorie count) of the soup.
In our favorite restaurant they would bring out a dish of bean sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro, white or red onion, cilantro, lime, and sometimes lemon. Then the condiment cart would have beef paste, a rice wine vinegar or two, sweet thick soy (thick and sweet like soy-sauce flavored molasses), white sugar, sometimes brown sugar or a tamarind paste, Golden Mountain seasoning sauce (a lightly seasoned diluted soy like a thin teriyaki sauce), mushroom soy sauce, Kikomman soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut butter - sometimes chunky AND smooth, a couple different fish sauces, Sriracha chili sauce, chili-garlic paste, fermented bean paste, fried crispy onion or garlic (sort of like a slightly more browned Durkee onion) and several others (there were some I never tried and didn 't recognized).
We became very good friends with the Hmong owner and her family. She, her husband and their children all seasoned their Pho differently (the kids preferred it sweeter - one liked it sweet and spicy, the other liked it sweet and sour).
If you can find a restaurant that has a loaded condiment cart, Pho is incredibly fun as an interactive dining experience. Though it can take some practice to customize the soup exactly as you want it (I'd use Splenda instead of sugar, because I liked the sweet-spicy broth best, but didn't want the calories and carbs of the sugar).
I usually would eat some of the soup without condiments or with minimal condiments, and then would add different seasonings half-way through the meal, so it was like getting two different bowls of soup for the price of one.
(But as hubby says, I am a condiment freak).