There is a Phở noodle place near work, Phở Hoa, that serves the best Phở Tái, Nạm, Gân Sách, which is basically Phở with steak, flank, tendon and tripe. Small little bits of goodness that make me smile with “Phở joy”. Take a gray, rainy Seattle day, have a little Phở, some Thai Iced Coffee and maybe a spring roll and the gloom melts away like tendon on the tongue. Yummy.
So today I offer my own version of a Phở Bo and Spring roll. Enjoy.
Phở Bo ( Beef Phở)
First off, we need to create a clear broth for the Phở. I know not everyone eats meat, so I tend to use a vegetable base for the broth so that friends can enjoy the pho as is, without adding the beef. To create the broth, rough dice carrots, celery and onion and place in a large pot and cover with cold water. 2 things here, I’m not giving amounts because it depends on how much broth you want to make. It’s not rocket science. If the broth turns out a little strong, add water. Not flavorful enough, more veggies. You really want to make this broth like a day ahead anyways, so experiment. 2nd thing, use cold water. If you put in warm or hot water trying to save time, the broth will come out cloudy. Cold water people. Cold.
Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to just keep it a high simmer. You want steam to be forming, but not a rolling boil. Gentle. Next add in a spice bundle of 1 cardamon pod, a tbsp of fennel seeds, 4-5 star anise, 1 medium cinnamon stick, about a tbsp of coriander seeds and 5 cloves. You can sometimes find these already in a mesh bag at a good asian grocery. If not, just bundle them all in a cheesecloth bag and toss in. What you are looking for is a good flavorful broth, but not over-powering at all. The great thing about Pho` is that each diner can tailor the soup to their own personal liking.
When you get a good broth, add in some fish sauce. Okay, come back here. Look, it’s not like it sounds. It’s salty with just a hint of the sea. Get a good kind though, it’s worth it. Now, strain the broth and put back in the pot if using now, or place in the fridge/freezer.
Assembly of the Phở
Prep the add-ins. Take some good beef, but it doesn’t have to be filet. A nice flank steak works great. Slice the steak very very thin. I’m talking paper thin. Hint: If the steak is slightly frozen, it slices easier. Don’t try it a room temperature. Toss the thin slices in a bowl and add the juice of a lime or 2. Toss to coat. Next, take some fresh Thai Basil and place on a plate. Cut up 1-2 Jalapenos into rings, and place next to the the Basil. Cut up 2 limes into wedges and place on the plate. Finally take some bean sprouts and place them on the plate. In the center of it all, place the small bowl with the sliced steak.
Take some rice noodles. Use a nice wide one, like maybe 1/4”. Drop in boiling salted water until done. Just like doing a good pasta, you want them a little al dente. At this point also make sure the broth is boiling hot, you’re going to need it in a second.
Into a deep soup bowl, place a good portion of noodles. Ask who wants beef, and place 3-4 slices on top of the noodles. Yes, yes yes…I know. BUT IT’S ALL RAW AND ICKY!!!!! Calm down. It won’t be raw for long. Now take the boiling hot broth and fill each soup bowl. The hot soup will cook the beef.
Now the fun part. Each diner takes his or her bowl and makes it their own by adding any of the items on the plate you arranged, plus have available Chili paste, Nuc Nam, Soy Sauce as well as salt and pepper. I like my Pho` with 2 rings of Jalapeno placed in early, extra fish sauce, just a small dab of chili paste and some salt. Stir it around a bit, then I add some basil. At this point I enjoy just smelling the steam coming off the bowl, take a sip of Iced Coffee, then dig in. As the noodles start disappearing, I add in the sprouts. Perfect. Just perfect.
Dead simple this one. Take a rice wrapper. Cover half with a thin layer of sushi rice, then thin strips of carrots and cucumbers, a nice large basil leaf, and finally a good size cooked shrimp, no tail. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and roll up. Serve with a peanut sauce made from peanut butter, Nuc Nam, and a little rice wine vinegar.
There you have it, both dishes are low fat, low in sugars ( if you forgo the peanut sauce), and yet high nutrients.