Thursday, February 19, 2009

What the pho?

I'm sorry, I lost my camera today, so I'm going to have to put someone else's picture on here. but I think I have a sense of what Bourdain keeps raving about when he talks about his trips to Vietnam. The item in question: pho, pronounced "fuh." The concept: hot beef consomme' with thin ingredients that cook in your bowl. Easy, but really good! And, it forced me to experiment with the Asian market, which if you know what you're doing (which I rarely do) is the cheapest place to get awesome ingredients.


  1. 4 quarts of beef broth. You want to make your own right? How about oxtail, or neck bones or whatever. It looks more awesome if you make your broth clear. This can be done any number of ways, one of which is mixing a couple of eggs into the stock when it is cold and heating up, then straining. See Julia Childs Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  2. Spices. I used a packet of Asian soup spice that had star anise, ginger, cinnamon, some weird looking red berries, and other powders and bark and roots that I couldn't make out.
  3. Beef. This can be either tri-tip, flank steak, sirloin, skirt steak. Something with a little marbling. Slice the meat as thin as possible.
  4. 1 cup of scallions, diced. If you don't want that, you can do thinly sliced onions marinated in a little vinegar.
  5. 1 cup of cilantro, diced.
  6. 2 cups of bean sprouts.
  7. 1/2 cup of minced jalapeno or some Asian chile.
  8. Vietnamese glass noodles. Can be vermicelli type or thin and wide. Whatever they are, they need to be able to cook super quickly, and this is enhanced by soaking in hot water for about 30 minutes before assembling the soup.
  9. 2 limes, quartered.

Assembling the soup
Bring the broth to a low boil and keep it there. The hotter and saltier the stock the better.
In a bowl place about 6 slices of beef, a small handful of bean sprouts, generous handful of noodles, small handful of onions/scallions. Ladle the piping hot broth in your bowl over the ingredients, and let the meat cook a little bit. Top with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and squeeze a couple of lime wedges into it. Optionally you can season with Sriracha or some other type of hot sauce. Eat with a wide Asian style spoon and chopsticks.

It doesn't sound like there's much to it, and there's not really. It's just an awesome thing to do with stock if you have some or want to make some. The broth with the combination of the flavors is really tasty! Once you make it, I'm pretty sure you'll try it again and go looking for it.

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