Popular Food Blogger Called Out for Whitewashing Pho, Disappoints Many With Her Response

Tieghan Gerard

Popular food author Tieghan Gerard has sparked an online backlash from the Asian American community over a recipe that failed to give justice to a beloved Vietnamese dish.

Gerard earned the ire of many of her fans after mislabeling a random “noodle soup” recipe as pho on her Half Baked Harvest website.

The food blogger shared the controversial recipe on the site and Instagram earlier this month with the title “Weeknight ginger pho ga (Vietnamese chicken soup).” 

Gerard’s dish, which she says can be prepared in an hour, is made up of caramelized chicken and a “sweet, spicy, tangy sesame chile sauce.”

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Those familiar with the iconic soup understand that preparing actual Pho requires long hours of cooking, in order to bring out the broth’s distinct flavor. In addition to the broth, traditional pho is also made with rice noodles, usually beef or sometimes chicken meat and special fresh garnishes.

The backlash was immediate, with many pointing out the many ways the author got Vietnam’s most internationally recognized dish wrong.

“I really LOVE so many of your recipes, and I appreciate what you’re doing, but this is not pho. And to call it pho (even chicken pho) is not only appropriation, it’s honestly hurtful,” a commenter wrote on her blog. “This recipe does not reflect the actual ingredients of Vietnam that go into pho, all of the time and work that goes into pho or the actual flavors OR presentation even of pho.”

While she initially ignored the critical comments from her readers, she was eventually forced to rename it as “Easy sesame chicken and noodles in spicy broth,” as the criticisms mounted.

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She also started posting a canned reply to each negative comment:

“Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I understand where you are coming from and have decided to change the recipe tittle [sic]. It was never my intention to offend or hurt anyone or the culture. I will make sure do be much more conscious when deciding on recipe tittles [sic] in the future and be sure to do more research. Thank you for kindly bringing this to my attention, I really appreciate you kindly letting voicing your concern. xTieghan”

Some of the critics were not satisfied with Gerard’s title change and response, reports BuzzFeed.

Stephanie Vu told the platform that she reached out to Gerard via Instagram expressing her feelings about the recipe but was further disappointed with the response she received.

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“I described actual pho and the entire recipe on the blog,” Gerard responded, “and state that this is just my creation of what you can make at home.”

Vu lamented Gerard’s “lack of acknowledgment” which she says can “really hurt the Asian community.”

“This specific example, despite the fact that it’s ‘small,’ can be extrapolated to casual appropriation situations that Asian Americans experience…the fact that she dismissed me really hurt me,” she explained.

Back in 2016, a Philly-based chef, Tyler Akin of Stock restaurant, was embroiled in a similar controversy after participating in a video on “PSA: This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” by Bon Appétit Magazine.

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Feature Image via @halfbakedharvest

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