(Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Pho is my north, my south, my east and west. My working week and my Sunday rest. Apologies to W.H. Auden, but my pho, my beloved pho, is just that wonderful. Forever and ever amen. It’s an elixir, a cure-all, a restorative. When I’ve been alone or sad or incomplete I’ve ordered this soup and it restores me. Whether you have a stomachache, the flu, or a broken heart, pho can fix it. The meaty broth sinks into my belly and soul and once again, I am whole.
It’s a soup the Vietnamese have perfected, and they’re smart enough to have restaurants only serving pho. Nothing else. For $5.95 I can go down to the local Pho 75 (or 69 or 74 or 21), and buy myself a huge bowl of make me well. You can have grandma’s chicken soup. I’ll take my pho.
I remember the first time I tried pho in a strip mall restaurant with only Vietnamese families and Vietnam vets for company. A calmness settled over me and I knew I’d never be the same. My life would be driven by my craving of good pho. My laminated-list-death-row-meal. I eat pho and I think of major life changes, because every time I needed to have a serious talk with someone, or make a decision, or had a life crisis, I went running for my pho.
I love the taste of it, like the broth has been simmering for weeks and is now the essence of beef. How the noodles slurp and slide. How the steak and beef balls are chewy and hearty. I love all the condiments! How you add a little basil, a little lime, a little chili pepper, maybe a spoonful of hoisin. Definitely a squirt of Cha-Cha sauce (what we call Sriracha) for some sweet heat. No bowl of pho is ever alike because everybody’s “dab of this, squirt of that” proportions are different. Pho-reaking fantastic, pho-abulous pho.
Which makes it all the more bittersweet I now live in a ‘ville with no pho. No authentic pho anyway. There are plenty of imitations, but none that possess the aroma, the deepness of flavor, the scrumdily-umptiousness that a real big bowl of pho contains. So when I heard the next Project Food Blog challenge would be to make a dish from a different culture, one out of your comfort zone, I knew what I must do. Attempt my own bowl of comforting cure. Like a mad scientist I would set out to do the impossible – create a REAL bowl of pho in my kitchen. Imagine my utter glee when I discovered you can make pho…………IN A CROCK POT! Were three words ever more magical? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:
Crock Pot Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
from Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden Hair
It turned out wonderfully. Not perfect, but awfully darn close. Here are a few helpful hints should you attempt this dish, and you should, it’s just that easy:
- I spent all day running around for ingredients, trying to use only local businesses. Got my bones from the organic butcher, the noodles and beef balls from the local Asian market. Had to use The Teat (our nickname for Harris Teeter) for the spices. In hindsight I remembered Relay Foods, a TREMENDOUS service we have in the ‘ville. You order online from over 30 different local businesses and they do the shopping for you! Doh! *smacking self in head*
- Careful with the fish sauce! I spilled some and let’s just say it’s STANKY! Real stanky.
- STRAIN THE FAT. Jaden doesn’t mention this, but you must run this soup through a gravy strainer, or let it sit overnight and scrape the fat off in the morning. Beef marrow = fatty-fat-fat-fat. I didn’t pay attention to her ratios, figuring more marrow = more flavor. But you must de-fat this broth unless you want it to taste like an oil slick.
- Cook the broth separate from the noodles. In fact, only cook as many noodles as you think you will eat. The broth keeps, but cooked rice noodles get gummy. We cooked fresh ones the next night for leftovers. BEST leftovers evah.
- Ten minutes into the cooking, the house smelled INCREDIBLE. After 8 hours, Hubby could smell it from outside. Arriving home from work, he raced into the house at breakneck speed, dancing around like a little kid, “Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet? Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy…” Adorable.
- Pho would be a perfect assemble-your-own party food, but I think you’d need a cauldron instead of a 7-quart crock pot (what I used). This made 8 regular size bowls of pho, or 4 restaurant-size.
Needless to say, I’ll be making pho again. It was easier than I don’t know what, and while not Pho 75, certainly a reasonable facsimile. “Restaurant quality!” Hubby proclaimed. He always asks me to make him Torta Rustica as a treat. It’s an Italian stuffed pie, an all day construction affair as it contains four different kinds of meat, cheeses, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. After downing his first bowl of my homemade pho, he looked at me pointedly remarking, “You can make this instead of Torta Rustica honey. Um....when are you making it again?” High praise indeed. Tweet