Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Faux Pho"

My husband, Jon, gets credit for the name of this one, as well as the inspiration. He found the recipe we based this off of (as well as doing most of the cooking for it). We both love Asian food, and one of my favorite grocery stores is the local Asian market around the corner. There are a number of pho restaurants in the area near the market, but even though Jon eats meat he also keeps kosher so he can't just walk in there to get pho. So we decided to give it a try at home. 

I have to double check the ingredients on the veg "oyster" sauce and packaged veg "beef", but I believe this recipe would also be vegan. It's a great comforting soup, and this could serve a good crowd. I look forward to making it again in the depths of winter to cheer me up (it makes the house smell great too). This recipe makes a large batch. I chose to go ahead and do the whole pot of broth and freeze about 2/3 of it for future meals. Since we are not using raw meat, it will be a pretty simple matter to make a couple of bowls of pho for a future meal. Or, if you don't feel like cooking for a crowd, just cut the amounts in half.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Let me know how it goes for you!

Thanks to Andrea Nguyen for the original recipe: 

My comments/changes are in red, the rest of the recipe is Andrea's work.

"Beef Pho Noodle Soup"  Recipe (Pho bo)
Makes 8 satisfying (American-sized) bowls
For the broth:
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 pound total)
vegetarian "beef" boullion-style cubes (the appropriate amount for 6 quarts of water
4-inch piece ginger (about 4 ounces)
5 star anise (40 star points total)
6 whole cloves
3-inch cinnamon stick
(Note: if you don't have all the spices on hand, or are just feeling lazy, I found a Pho spice mix at the Asian market in the spice aisle. It combines the above 3 ingredients, plus a couple, into something resembling a large tea bag. This makes it very easy to pull all the spices out before serving.)
salt to taste - most boullion cubes are pretty salty, so be sure you taste before adding any!
4 tablespoons vegetarian mushroom "oyster" sauce (this replaces the fish sauce, as I have yet to find a veg version of fish sauce)
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar (duong phen; see Note)
For the bowls:
1  1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles ("rice sticks'' or Thai chantaboon)
1 package soy vegetarian "beef" (I used Nature's Soy Vegetarian Beef, also from the Asian market)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, left to soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, cut into thin rings
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (ngo)
Ground black pepper
Optional garnishes arranged on a plate and placed at the table:
Sprigs of spearmint (hung lui) and Asian/Thai basil (hung que)
Leaves of thorny cilantro (ngo gai)
Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
Lime wedges
Prepare the pho broth:
Char onion and ginger. Use an open flame on grill or gas stove. Place onions and ginger on cooking grate and let skin burn. (If using stove, turn on exhaust fan and open a window.) After about 15 minutes, they will soften and become sweetly fragrant. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. You do not have to blacken entire surface, just enough to slightly cook onion and ginger.
Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Otherwise, use sharp paring knife to remove skin, running ginger under warm water to wash off blackened bits.
Start the broth: Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer.  Add broth ingredients and simmer for 30-1 hour. (The original recipe says much longer, but you really just need to get it very hot and give the spices a chance to do their work. Once it has all that wonderful flavor there's no real need to simmer longer.)
Strain the pho broth through fine strainer (if you used the separate spices and not the packet). Discard solids.
Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, vegetarian "oyster" sauce and yellow rock sugar. The pho broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you've gone too far, add water to dilute.)
Assemble pho bowls:
For food safety, I preferred to lightly saute/heat the vegetarian "beef" we used. This probably is not entirely necessary as it is not actually a raw meat product, so it is really up to you. If you just brought it to room temp and added boiling broth over, it would likely be sufficient.
Heat the pho broth and ready the noodles. To ensure good timing, reheat broth over medium flame as you're assembling bowls. If you're using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.
Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl; the latter is for noodle lovers, while the former is for those who prize broth.
If desired, after blanching noodles, blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.
Add other ingredients. Place slices of "meat" atop noodles. Garnish with onion, scallion and chopped cilantro. Finish with black pepper.
Ladle in broth and serve. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to warm ingredients. Serve your pho with with the garnish plate.

Note: Yellow rock sugar (a.k.a. lump sugar) is sold in one-pound boxes at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. Break up large chunks with hammer. (I found this right next to the other sugars in the Asian market, and it was called Yellow Rock Candy. Exactly what it looks like.)

No comments:

Post a Comment