Food Adventures: Pho

6 08 2010

So I recently moved into a house of my own (living with four other people) and will totally admit that I have been spoiled by campus life for the past four years. Cooking has never been my strong point, mainly because I’m picky, and because I’m so limited in what I can eat because of all my food allergies. When I did cook it was probably once every two weeks, because I got used to having mediocre food from dining halls for the convenience factor.

So this summer has been about getting a little creative about what I make for myself, figuring out what I can eat AND cook, and making every dollar stretch so I can eat healthy on a tight budget. Most recently, I made pho, a popular Vietnamese noodle dish. In Viet Nam, you can find pho sold on carts on the street (so I’m told), and in Vietnamese restaurants, my family and I judge their pho very seriously, because my mom makes the best pho in the world.

So with some help from my mom, she told me the recipe (I didn’t have time to watch her make anything, so I had to try and remember watching her years ago in the kitchen) and gave me some the harder-to-find ingredients (the asian spices) so that I wouldn’t have to search too hard. All I needed was a big pot and some beef and I would be all set. So here’s what came out of it:

First I had to boil the beef … for 3 hours. Mind you, this was early July and it was about 95 degrees in my kitchen (horrible ventilation) and I had to watch beef and skim the fat off for a painstakingly long time. However, this is the short version of the recipe – other recipes you’ll find call for 6-8 hours of cooking the meat, so I was happy this didn’t take as long as my mom normally does it.

Once the beef was done, it was nice and tender, and the broth was already ready flavorful. I sliced the beef to add back to the soup later.

Then came all the other stuff – star anise, ginger root, onion, black pepper, and cinnamon. Plus chicken stock too. I let that simmer for a while, and at the same time soaked my rice noodles (vermicelli) in cold water for an hour to get it ready for the soup. I added some fish sauce to taste, and voila.. four and half hours later .. PHO!

So I brought the broth back up to boiling, boiled some water in a separate pot and boiled bunches of the noodles for about 20-30 seconds each, enough to cook but not make them too slimy. The noodles went into the bowl, along with the beef, raw beef eye rounds, and onions. I ladled the broth over the noodles and meat, added some cilantro, green onions, and lime, and I had my bowl of pho!

All in all it was a great experience and I would totally do it all over again, with the exception of the horrible heat. Now that I have the recipe down I can play around a little more with the spices, meat, and overall flavor of the broth and how I can change it. I shared the soup with two of my friends, and they both seemed to like it. I even impressed myself! I didn’t think it would be so easy. My mom bought me pre-packaged spices for the next time I make soup which is a great help, since the Asian food store around my house is about 30 minutes out of the way and it’s hard to find time to get there.

I’ll continue to blog about my food adventures as much as I can – today I used the wok my mom gave me and her recipe to make homemade fried rice – with peas, carrots, egg, onion, garlic, and chinese sausage. It came out pretty good and I can’t wait to make it again – unfortunately I forgot to take pictures so I’ll just have to share those next time I make the dish.

For someone who doesn’t think they can really cook, this summer has really been about teaching myself how to do it all. Let’s hope I can keep it up once school starts!




3 responses

14 02 2011
Momma’s Beef Stew « Notes Of Orchid

[…] I’ve been slowly collecting my mother’s recipes and learning how to make them all. (Such as pho and pate chaud).  I’ve also been making a lot of soups since it got colder, like baked potato […]

3 04 2011
Vietnamese Roasted Chicken (Ga Ro Ti) « Notes Of Orchid

[…] slowly adding these to my recipe book, although I am still the most proud of my ability to make pho. […]

21 07 2011
…and, we’re back! « Notes Of Orchid

[…] recipes now.  I’ve made chicken marsala, lots and lots of pasta salad, and most recently, beef stew.  This week I think I’ll be working on some salmon teriyaki, and then next week I think […]

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