Pho

My daughter introduced me to Pho a few years ago. What a revelation of flavours! Actually, quite difficult to describe – I think it must be tasted to be appreciated.

Pho can be complicated or not. There are shortcuts that can be taken and, if it’s a choice between taking a shortcut or not having the soup, take the shortcut.

Pho requires broth, homemade or not. It requires rice noodles. It requires vegetables. And it requires some fairly common spices.

Ingredients:

  • Broth – at least 2 cups per person – there needs to be lots of broth. I used some chicken broth my son made last month but beef, mushroom, vegetable – any of these would work. As a shortcut, buy a couple of cartons of whatever one you want. I wouldn’t use bouillon, simply because of the sodium.
  • 1 cinnamon stick – or 1 tsp ground cinnamon, which is what I used because that was what I had
  • Cardamom – I used 5 green cardamom pods
  • cloves – I used 5 whole clove buds. 1/2 tsp ground cloves – you don’t want to use too much or your mouth will go numb for a while
  • fennel – I used 1/2 tsp
  • whole star anise – I used 2
  • 1/2 coriander seeds or coriander powder
  • 1 coffee filter and some string
  • 3 TB fish sauce
  • 1 large onion, sliced into big chunks
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced up

On stove, put a dry frying pan on the burner at medium high heat and add onion chunks and ginger slices. Let them char. Not burn, but get some colour. This step isn’t strictly necessary, but it adds a nice depth of flavour that isn’t there when the vegetables go in raw.

Start up your slow cooker – crank it to high and dump in the broth, fish sauce and charred vegetables. Add all the spices into the coffee filter and twist up the top to hold it all in, wrap the top with the string, tie a tight knot and drop it into the broth. I didn’t do this previously and it isn’t necessary, but it is nice there’s no sludge of spices at the bottom of your bowl. If you use strictly whole spices, cinnamon stick not ground, cloves not ground, cardamom pods not ground….you get the picture, you don’t need to do the coffee filter pouch.

Chicken broth – made in March and frozen in 1/3 cup cubes until I need them.

Let it boil & bubble all day.

Near supper time, it will be time to prepare some toppings.

Ingredients:

  • rice noodles (you could use ramen noodles also, they’re just thicker and have a different texture)
  • bean sprouts
  • bok choy
  • spinach
  • green onion
  • red onion
  • cooked chicken
  • cooked pork
  • tofu
  • rare beef or raw beef cut into very, very thin slices
  • hoisin sauce
  • hot sauce
  • cilantro
  • lime juice (lemon juice works also)

Any other toppings you can think of.

We used bok choy, cooked chicken, green onion, cilantro, hoisin, hot sauce and bean sprouts.

The rice noodles are really simple to make. Boil a pot of water, drop in the desired amount of noodles. Turn off the heat and let the noodles soften. When they’re done (3-5 minutes), scoop them out of the water into a strainer or straight into the bowls you’ll be eating out of.

Chop up the toppings you’ll be using and set them out for everyone to choose what and how much they would like.

Load up each soup bowl with the noodles and toppings wanted, then strain the broth over top. Don’t eat the onions or ginger that have been cooking all day, they won’t add to the experience. 🙂

I like cilantro! A whole lot!

**if using raw beef have it ready. Fill your bowl with the noodles, toppings and put the beef where it will be exposed to the hot broth. Ladle the broth in and over the beef. The heat will cook the beef to rare. **Do NOT do this with chicken or pork!**

This may seem like a lot of work, but when you break it down, it’s mostly all hands off cooking time. You char the veg at the beginning and chop the veg, heat some noodles and cook or chop some meat at the end.

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