Monday, September 8, 2008

Sep 08: Homemade attampt at Pho

Most of the time what I decide to cook comes about based upon my cravings and shopping while hungry.

For example, I spied a package of beef neck bones. Looking at the beef bones, I thought to myself, “How about making a soup? Let’s try my hand at Pho (pronounced, "fuh")?”

Pho is a flavorful Vietnamese beef soup served with rice noodles, bean sprouts, holy basil and lime. Condiments used in the soup are typically hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot sauce.

I was first introduced to Pho by a Vietnamese classmate in college back in 1987, 1988 or 1989. (Hmmm… I guess it's true what is said about the mind going first when you get older. lol!) He was kind enough to drive me home from college during a holiday. We stopped in San Jose, which has a large Vietnamese population, for a bowl of Pho.

Pho? What's Pho? Wikipedia comes through with a description: Pho lol!

My reaction upon tasting the soup was wow! This is a great tasting soup with a lot of flavor from star anise and other new flavors! This hot sauce is hot, but I can’t stop eating it. :) Afterwards, I made it a point to stop by San Jose for a bowl of Pho when I had a chance.

Currently, pho restaurants are becoming mainstream and quite popular so my need to drive to SJ can be appeased locally.

Searching the internet, there are many recipes but I homed in on this one… which I used as a basis. I didn’t make the recipe verbatim. I didn’t buy enough soup bones so I used it as a guide.

Pho Broth
2 lb Beef Bones, meaty ones preferred
1 lb Chuck Steak
5 Cloves
2 Star Anise
1 inch pieced of Ginger
1 Onion, halved
1 T Rock Sugar (about the size of a tablespoon)
Water for parboiling the bones.
3 quarts of water for the broth
2 T Fish Sauce

1. Bring a pot of water (enough to cover the bones) to boil and add the beef bones. Boil about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the bones. Wash the pot of any residue.

2. Since I don’t have a gas stove, charred the onion and ginger under the broiler.

3. Salt and pepper the chuck steak and brown in a frying pan with a little oil.

4. Add the 3 quarts of water and all the ingredients, except the fish sauce.

5. Bring to a boil and let simmer. (I actually placed in a 175F oven for overnight.)

6. After the broth is done… add the fish sauce plus salt to taste. Refrigerate to de-fat the broth.

This is the finished broth. Darker and not as clear as I wanted. Also, the flavor is kind of mild. It doesn't have the “Wow!” I was looking for.

Thank goodness for pictures on packages. The rice noodles for the pho. Rice noodles are reconsituted by soaking in boiling hot water for about 5 minutes.

My bowl ready for the broth - bean sprouts, limes, holy basil, chili paste and hoisin sauce.

The finished bowl... Hot broth added and limes squeezed.

Overall, the broth was dark and slightly cloudy. The taste was a little on the mild side. Lack of beefiness? Adding the chili paste and the hoisin sauce helped, but I was hoping the broth could carry the Pho without those additions.

Next time, I should boost the amount of beef bones and beef. Some recipes call for using oxtails, but oxtails are just as expensive as a decent steak, or I should just follow the recipe. :-)

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