Pho

I was walking around the city, I don’t seem to remember where, with @calvinator_18, his missus and the great @vip_nair, when @calvinator_18 pointed out that the vietnamese soupy, noodley, brothy thing who know as ‘pho’ wasn’t pronounced ‘foe’, but ‘fuh’.

A couple of weeks later, I ended up dining with Aadisht at Phobidden Fruit.

And then, I needed to make some. At home.

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I read everything on this blogpost one evening, and decided it needed to be done.

I learnt that there are several components that make good pho.


Pho Spices
The spices that go into making the broth for good pho are: cinnamon, cloves, coriander pods, star anise and cardamom. You can either use individual spices, or buy spice packets from a super-market. I remember picking up these cutesy spice packets from the market in Barcelona. I chose to use whole spices for my recipe, however.

Rice Noodles:
Rice noodles come in varying grades of thickness. Flat rice noodles also cook differently, than most other kinds of noodles. I quite bombed my first couple of times using rice noodles. The trick, here, is to dunk a whole bunch of noodles in boiling, hot water after taking it off the heat and let them sit around about thirty minutes. Following that, drain the hot water and pour some cold water over the noodles and let the water drain. They’re ready to use – either in pho, or to stir-fry.

Stock:
Marrow and bone is often used to make stock. Both times I’ve done Vietnamese recipes, I’ve used vegetarian stock and added meat or shrimp sauce or fish oil. In case you want to use meat, to make your stock, I think the tips given on the link I’ve posted above should work brilliantly.

For the vegetable broth, along with the spices, I used some charred onions and charred ginger. They imparted a wonderful flavour to the broth. You can roast the onions and the ginger in the oven or on an open flame, using tongs.

Remember to strain the broth before you use it in the pho!

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Meat:
A lot of pho recipes use beef. I used chicken for the pho. And a mix of crab meat, squid and shrimp, for the bun rieu.

With chicken or beef, one recommends thinly sliced meat. With sea food, it usually already is in manageable pieces or as a paste.

Other Ingredients:
Sriracha
Sprouts
Basil
Wedges of Lime
Diagonally sliced red chillies, if you have any at hand
Mint leaves
Coriander
Hoisin Sauce
Just about anything

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And finally, the recipe I used:

Ingredients:
(serves 2)
250 grams of chicken breast, cut into thin slices
2 onions, halved
2-4 pieces of ginger, about an inch or more long
A pot full of water
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
4-5 star anise
2-3 pods of cardamom
6-8 whole cloves
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 one inch stick of ginger, cut into thin slices
A handful or two of rice noodles
Bokchoy or spring onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Cilantro, to serve
Mint leaves, to serve
1 red chilli, cut diagonally and de-seeded, to serve
Bean sprouts, to serve
Sriracha hot sauce, to serve

Method:
1. Roast the onions and the ginger by sticking skewers through them or using a pair of tongs, and working them on an open flame. Alternately, char them in your oven by setting it to the highest temperature, lightly coating the onions/ginger with some oil and roasting for about 10 minutes.
2. Fill a pot with about 5-6 cups of water. Add the onions, the ginger and the dry spices (coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon). Bring the water to a boil, on low heat. This can take upto an hour.
3. Strain the water and keep the spices for re-use later, or toss them. Your call, entirely.
4. In the meanwhile, prep the noodles. Bring some water to a boil. Take it off the heat and soak the rice noodles in it for about thirty minutes or until the noodles easily wrap around your fingers.
5. Drain the hot water and rinse the noodles in cold water. Allow the water to drain and set the noodles aside.
6. Heat some oil in another large vessel, and saute some juliennes of ginger and some garlic, until lightly brown. Add the chicken and the fish sauce and cook for a couple of minutes.
7. Toss in the green, whole spring onions,or bokchoy and cook for a minute.
8. Now add the broth and the noodles and bring to a boil.
9. Adjust spice and salt, as required.
10. Serve with garnishes.

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Pho, in the rains. I couldn’t have asked for a better weeknight meal. Really.

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