Jan 11, 2009

Pho King & Queen :)

Well I haven't posted a lot lately. Too distracted with all these crappy holidays and weird weather we are experiencing in my part of the world (avalanches, mudslides, floods, snow, etc..). Thought I would share with something Jarrod and I have been making a lot of lately.
Pho soup, if you never had it, you must try it. I would suggest getting some at your local vietnamese restaurant before venturing into the process it takes to make this wonderful deliciousness yourself. You need to taste it to know what it's supposed to taste like! But if you try it and you like it as much as we do, you may be saving yourself some serious moola by making your own. Not to mention all the garbage that comes with the take out order, that is what motivated us (though I supposed you can bring your own containers when you order it to go, just make sure you have a couple big ones).
We started with our turkey carcass from Thanksgiving. The usual would be to use a chicken, but hey it doesn't really matter. Pho lends it's beautiful flavors to all sorts of meats so use what you like. You can make a vegetarian version of this but I honestly don't think it will taste the same (good maybe though) and I really like vegetarian as often as possible but this just doesn't seem the same without the stock.
 If you do go the veggie route I recommend getting some broth like Imagine's "No Chick Broth" or just one of your favorite broths and using 1 part broth to 1 part water to get the flavor right before you add the other spices and such. Also try tofu in it or better yet, fried tofu. I've adapted a few recipes to create this one. After you have made it a couple times, you will want to adjust the seasonings to your own taste. Add more coriander, or less anise, more dish sauce, less sugar, whatever you prefer.
Pho is pronounced "fuh" though if you read it like it's spelled most people will know what you are talking about. The most typical, basic pho is made with beef, but since I don't eat beef this is the version we make, Pho Ga. I sometimes like to grill shrimp or scallops (amd slice the scallops when they are done) and then throw them in with the chicken or just use the seafood as the protein. My husband doesn't like seafood in his soup though so it's usually a mix for me. I think the seafood is delicious in it.
This will make a lot of broth. If you end up with a lot leftover (which I recommend making enough for leftovers- double it) you can store the broth in the freezer and anytime you want more it's that much faster. You can buy stock, but it won't be the clear enough (and will have other ingredients) to be the best for pho. To get it "right" you need to make your own and strain it.


  ~~~Pho Ga~~~
2 yellow onions, about 1 pound total
unpeeled 4-inch section fresh ginger
1 chicken or turkey carcass (bones mostly)
5 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1-inch chunk rock sugar* (about 1 ounce) (or just use 1/4-1/2 cup sugar)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for about 1 minute until fragrant
4 whole cloves
4-5 whole star anise (this is not traditional for the poultry pho but I prefer it)
1-2 cinnamon sticks *(optional)
1/2 large bunch cilantro (bound stems about 1 inch in diameter) 1 1/2–2 pounds small flat rice noodles (bánh phở),
fresh Cooked chicken, at room temperature
1 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
3 or 4 scallions sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves of garlic smashed
Black pepper
**will need cheesecloth and a strainer
Optional garnishes
3 cups mung bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
10 to 12 sprigs mint (húng)
10 to 12 sprigs Thai basil* (húng quế) (or regular basil if it's all you can find)
12 to 15 fresh cilantro* (ngò gai) leaves
2 or 3 Thai or serrano chiles (or jalapeno), thinly sliced
2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce

sriracha hot sauce
Make the broth

1. Place the onions and ginger directly on the cooking grate of a medium-hot charcoal or gas grill (as pictured, to the right) or a gas stove with a medium flame, or on a medium-hot burner of an electric stove. Let the skin burn (if you’re working indoors, turn on the exhaust fan and open a window), using tongs to rotate onion and ginger occasionally and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. After 15 minutes, the onions and ginger will have softened slightly and become sweetly fragrant. There may even be some bubbling. You do not have to blacken the entire surface. When amply charred, remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Rinse the cooled onions under warm running water, rubbing off the charred skin. Trim off and discard the blackened root and stem ends. Use a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or the edge of a teaspoon to remove the ginger skin. Hold it under warm water to wash off any blackened bits. Halve the ginger lengthwise and bruise lightly with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife. Set the onions and ginger aside.
3. Put the chicken carcass into the pot.
4. Pour in the water so that that carcass is covered with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Use a ladle or large, shallow spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the top. Add the onions, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, coriander seeds, cloves, anise, garlic and cilantro and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a gentle simmer. (you can tie the seeds, cloves, cilantro and garlic in a peice of cheesecloth if you want it less messy) Meanwhile, keep the broth at a steady simmer.
5. Adjust the heat to simmer the broth gently for another 11/2 hours. Avoid a hard boil, or the broth will turn cloudy.
6. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth positioned over a pot. Discard the solids. Use a ladle to skim as much fat from the top of the broth as you like. (To make this task easier, you can cool the broth, refrigerate overnight, lift off the solidified fat, and then reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust the flavor with additional salt, fish sauce, and rock sugar. There should be about 4 quarts (16 cups) broth. Assemble the bowls
7. If using dried noodles, cover them with hot (boiled) water and let soak for 15 to 45 minutes, or until they are pliable and opaque (watch these! and don't let them get gummy). Drain in a colander. If using fresh rice noodles, untangle them, place in a colander, and rinse briefly under cold running water.
8. Cut the cooked chicken into slices about 1/4 inch thick (also slice scallops if you are using). Set the chicken aside. Ready (rinse and slice and/or soak) the yellow onion, scallions, cilantro, and pepper for adding to the bowls. Arrange the garnishes on a plate and put on the table.
9. To ensure good timing, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. (For an extra treat, drop in any unused white scallion sections and let them poach in the broth. Add the poached white scallion sections (called hành chần) to a few lucky bowls when ladling out the broth.)
10. Raise the heat and bring the broth to a rolling boil. Do a final tasting and make any last-minute flavor adjustments. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl, distributing the hot liquid evenly to warm all the ingredients.
11. Top each bowl of noodles with chicken, arranging the slices flat (same with whole shrimp or sliced scallops) . Place a mound of yellow onion in the center and then shower some scallion and cilantro on top. Finish with a sprinkle of pepper.
Serve immediately with the garnishes (let people choose what they want to garnish with). Some like to keep a dish of hoisin on the side to dip the meat into, some like to put the hoisin right into the soup, also the sriracha is for additional spice. I like mine with all garnishes, but a lot of basil and a squeeze of lime. the way to eat this soup is with chopsticks and a large spoon.
This soup takes awhile to make so start early! Or make the broth the day before.

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