January 25, 2012

Enjoying Pho Noodles at Home!

Pho. Most of us know that it is pronounced Fa- the "a" being long
but quick, but we usually call it Pho (Fo).
Among all the wonderful Vietnamese dishes that have
migrated to the USA, the most known and popular is the
acceptance of Pho.  Pho is actually considered the
national dish of Vietnam. I bet you didn't know that.
I think the western world is fascinated with Pho
because of its deceptive simplicity.
You taste it and think,  hmmm, what is in this broth....?

All kinds of soup can be a great comfort food and when you add
noodles to the soup it's even greater and more fun.
Restaurants that serve Pho are usually very inexpensive which
people love.  Good food + cheap prices = a giddy smile while
happily rubbing the tummy.

The history of Pho only goes back about 100 years.
Many people may not realize but it is almost impossible to go to
2 different restaurants that serve Pho and have the same tasting broth.
It's so close but so different at the same time.
Another thing you should know is that there is MSG in Pho noodles.
As we know many restaurant foods have MSG in them.
Don't be fooled with the no MSG message or the fact that they will
leave it out if you request it. MSG is already put into the sauce/broth
that later gets ladled in at some point to your food.
MSG also comes in other names as well,
"Accent" being a popular one.

Anyways, you can have fun making this deceptive yet simple
noodle dish at home with family or friends.

Now, it's not as simple as making ramen noodles but it's the same
concept of a broth and then adding noodles with a flavorful garnish.
For the beef  stock you simply get a pot of water going.
Let it heat up and the more broth the better. (you can store or freeze the
broth if you even think you will have any leftover)
As your water is boiling, you want to add a stalk of lemongrass,
about an inch of ginger, a garlic clove or 2 and a few Star Anise.

With the lemon grass, I usually just give a quick chop and slice the ginger.
(Keep in mind this is just for the broth- these items will be strained out
once the stock is done) I also add some beef.
I used the cut of beef with the round bone in the center
because good broth comes from the simmering of bones for
a long time. What's nice is that it has enough meat on the outside
that I can cut into thin slices and put aside the slices so I can use
it as a topping at the end with the noodles and I don't have to
buy separate beef just for the topping.

Once the beef, garlic, ginger, star anise and lemongrass have been
boiling away you can drizzle some hoisin sauce and fish sauce
(about 2 TBSP of each).  The broth should come to a boil and then
you can turn down the heat a little to medium low and as you taste
the broth you will notice that familiar taste from the restaurants.
I recommend the stock to cook at least  45 or so minutes (at least)
If the broth is too brown and not as opaque, I recommend adding
a little more water.  You want the stock to be a  brown-ish hue
but also see through if that makes any sense.

After the stock has been cooking for about an hour, you can strain
everything out of your pot. Put just the broth back into the pot
and with the stove turned to medium high- add your rice noodles
and let them cook for just a few minutes (maybe 4-5)
and then you are ready to garnish and slurp away.
(This is the time to add your thin slices of beef into the pot as well.
(The beef slices will cook right before your eyes in the heat of
the hot broth- it doesn't need any extra heat turned on from your stove)
 Add your noodles and broth to your favorite over-sized soup bowl
and then garnish it with Thai Basil (sweet basil is a perfectly fine
substitute as well) and lots and lots of cilantro of course.
Add a handful of sprouts to the top for that healthy crunchiness and
then add your favorite hot sauce, Sriracha sauce, drizzle some more
hoisin sauce if you'd like, even a sweet chili glaze sauce is good as well
and lastly some people like to squeeze some lime into it also.
Make it your own- the way you love it!

Not too difficult ay?  The combination of the star anise with
lemongrass and ginger is the complexity of this beef broth.
Oh, and there is no MSG in this one when you make it at home,
 just fresh yummy goodness.

ingredients for stock:
~ beef with a bone preferably
~ 1-2 stalks of lemongrass  (cut to about 2 inches)
~ 4-6 star anise (whole)
~ onion (optional- chopped)
~ handful of cilantro and basil
~ 5 TBSP of hoisin sauce
~ 3 TBSP (or your liking of spice) of sriracha
~ 3 TBSP of fish sauce
~ 2 limes (juice)
~ 4-5 whole cloves of garlic (cut in half)
~ 1 inch of ginger (sliced to infuse more quickly)

condiments:  to your liking and are optional
~ sprouts
~ onions
~ more fresh cilantro and or basil (sweet or Thai)
~ drizzle of hoisin
~ drizzle of sriracha
~ lime wedges
~ protein of liking
~ slices of hot peppers

Zestfully, Let's Cultivate Food