making Pho . . .
Yesterday, don’t ask me how, I happened upon a recipe for Vegan Pho. Pho, as you might know, is a classic Vietnamese beef broth, made with beef, leeks, charred ginger root and a melange of spices. When serving, the broth is clarified (defatted) rice noodles cooked and added to the broth, fresh, thin slices of prime beef, fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges, bean sprouts, siraicha and hoisin sauces. Quite elaborate for a dish that is a national country specialty, right?
I’ve never tried to make it but yesterday at our local Vietnamese grocery store, I picked up a pack of beef short ribs to add to the marrow bones I found at the butcher’s across the street from the frame shop I visited (that’s another story.)
So today, since it’s a Sunday, the sun brightening the day outdoors, I began my own experiment with making Pho. First of all, I put the beef into my Le Creuset pot, an old oval white one with unusual handles that I found online a few years ago. Sprayed with vegetable oil and put it in the oven to roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Roasting brings out the flavor in beets, butternut squash and bones/beef for making stock so that’s how I started this first try at making Pho. Afterwards, I broiled sliced onion and ginger root until it was charred as called for by some Pho recipes online, the funniest one located here with some hilarious puns using the word Pho, but pronounced (“phuh”) you get the picture, right?
Then I sliced a robust stalk of leek lengthwise, washing it carefully first because there’s usually sand caught in the crevices; and sauteed it in vegetable oil first before cooling and adding to the beef/bones/onion/ginger. (I defatted the roasted beef in the pot, pouring off the grease and trimming off the biggest fat pieces without sacrificing the leaner beef.) A little spring water went in next to boil and ladle off the grey scum that always appears when you cook meat in water. De-scummed, I added 2 X beef broth and 1 X spring water to the pot now containing charred onions, ginger, leeks, short ribs and marrow bones. Simmered for three hours which the cooking experts say is the amount of time when all flavor is extracted from the bones.
Had to go to the store to buy some of the spices (coriander and fennel seeds.) I was surprised to find beforehand that I already had cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, whole cloves and star anise.
Sliced a rib eye steak into thin pieces (partially froze it first,) cooked the rice noodles; ladled the clarified stock, noodles and uncooked beef into large soup bowls, added garnish of basil and cilantro leaves. On the side were fresh lime wedges, siraicha and hoisin sauce (couldn’t find fresh bean sprouts today.) This Pho dish reminded me of a more elaborate version of Japanese shabu-shabu which is prime slices of beef cooked in water with vegetables and cellophane noodles dipped in a sauce which we had in Truro.
The year is starting off well with a classic asian dish that I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook. What would I do differently the next time I make it? Remember to buy fresh bean sprouts at the asian market and possibly invite more people like my daughter, C. when she comes out next to share this delicious meal. G. and I enjoyed it together on a Sunday evening when Downton Abbey will begin Season Three with a two-hour episode tonight. What more could one ask for? Hope you will want to try making it too on a cold wintry day!