Thursday, January 15, 2009
What in the world is Pho (properly pronounced, 'fuh')? According to everyone who has ever had it, it's near Heaven on Earth. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup, commonly eaten for breakfast but equally good at any moment of the day.
Pho is one of those dishes that spurs on much discussion, from how long to cook the broth to exactly which garnishes are best and whether or not chicken Pho counts as 'real Pho'.
Never mind all that - the answers to everything you'd like to know about Pho are at Andrea Nguyen's website. Andrea Nguyen is the author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors and keeper of Viet World Kitchen. For Pho, there are three separate posts; the history and evolution, the secrets and techniques and the beef Pho recipe. I highly suggest reading all three, in the order given, before you undertake the making of Pho.
I'll let you get the recipe there and I'll simply tell you what I did that may or may not be different from the recipe that Ms. Nguyen offers.
1. For beef bones, I purchased cows feet. They are full of marrow, fat and flavor and the stock I got from them was perfect.
2. I didn't only char the onions and ginger, I also charred the bones. It may be habit from my own beef stock making, but I think the char on the bones adds to the overall flavor.
3. The rice noodles I used were labeled as 'Pad Thai' - which you can certainly use them for, but don't be fooled by the name, they're the same rice noodles used for many, many dishes.
4. There are no peppers in my photo, that's simply because the kids aren't big on the heat factor and that was one of their bowls.
5. Ms. Nguyen is RIGHT about the 3-hour simmer for the stock. The only reason it seems as if simmering longer is more flavorful is that there is evaporation and consequent concentration of the stock. If the full amount of liquid were to remain, you'd see that 3 hours is sufficient to extract the necessary flavors for this.