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Thursday, May 13, 2010

We want the pho, gotta have the pho.

It is pronounced "FUH" like "funk" and not "fo" like "fo sho", and that is why the title of this post works and I am funny.

Pho is Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup, typically sold as street food. You start with the noodles and some raw beef, pour boiling stock over them to heat up the noodles and cook the beef, and then choose from a variety of fresh herbs and greens to garnish.

The stock is the first "layer" of flavor in your dish. I've had pho at a few different restaurants, and found the broth to be pretty similar. From what I could tell, at a taste, it was beef broth, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mirin and sugar. When I was looking around online at different recipes to get the basic gist of what I would need to make my own I discovered that pho is a dish with many regional variations - in some areas they use cardamom and/or fennel, in some the broth is bitter from charred onion, in some the broth is sweeter. (For this meal I decided to go with a pretty basic recipe, to see what the family thought. )

The next layer of flavor comes from the garnishes. This is the fun part.

Greens include but are not limited to: Thai Basil, cilantro, fresh mung bean sprouts, scallions, any kind of leafy green (watercress, baby spinach), and culantro. Limes or lemon can be squeezed into your bowl, and you can basically go crazy on the sauces. I love going into the local Asian market and buying sauces and condiments, even if I don't know what they are. Here's some examples from my pantry:

L-R: Plum Sauce is kind of like duck sauce but tangy-er, Chili Garlic "Rooster" Sauce is hot with a nice rounded garlic flavor. Sweet Soy is what it sounds like; it's a thick, almost molasses-like syrup. It's kind of weird on it's own, but excellent when paired with Sweet Chili sauce. The two of those drizzled over any fried Asian appetizer like won tons or spring rolls or Crab rangoons = OMG SO GOOD. The last sauce is Sirracha. Sirracha fans will put that sh*t on everything. Pizza, burgers, scrambled eggs, you name it. It's spicy, like burn your lips spicy, but it's got a great kind of fresh flavor all it's own.

You can switch up/ add on to the protein, as well! I've had pho with brisket and meatballs, and I've seen tripe, tendon, and different organ meat on the menu. As you can see, tonight we added hard boiled eggs. I just found out that my local market has fresh quail eggs - so excited - they're going in next time.

Okay so the point is that there is a lot of choices here, don't get confused. Try whatever you like! As long as you have a nice rich broth, you can't go wrong.

Traditionally, the broth is simmered for hours and hours and starts with an oxtail. I was not up for an all day project, and Stop & Shop was fresh out of oxtail. You can definitely fake it if you start with a good quality beef stock.

I also want to add that you really need access to an Asian market or bodega for this one. Regular grocery stores might have some of this stuff, but it's going to be that super overpriced 'Taste Of Thai' nonsense.

White Girl Pho

1/2 gallon beef stock
1" piece of fresh ginger, smashed
1/4 small onion
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 tsp Five Spice powder, or more to taste
1T sugar

Place all of the above ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and then lower hear and simmer for as long as it takes you to prep all of the other ingredients. (minimum 30 minutes)

Cook one package "rice sticks" according to directions. Rice sticks are those flat, clear noodles that are also used in Pad Thai. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water. This will stop the noodles from cooking and keep them from sticking together in a big sad clump.

Prep all of your vegetables and herbs. I don't bother chopping the herbs like basil and such, we tear them with our hands, straight into our individual bowls.

(Thai Basil, watercress, cucumber, mung sprouts, limes, scallion)

Slice a 1 pound steak in very thin strips. Thin is the key here, you want it to cook on contact with the boiling broth.

Like so.

Now assemble; noodles, then raw beef, then ladle the broth in. Garnish to taste, then enjoy!

This was devoured by the whole family, by the way. It's nice because we all had slightly different dinners, to our own taste. Kind of like build-your-own-taco night.


Jon said...

You are a superheroine disguised as a mom. I'm onto you!

Holly said...

You can't prove anything.