Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fun Weekend Recipe - Vietnamese Pho

I love Pittsburgh. My husband and lived there for just shy of four years right after we were married. And each time we're back for a visit, we have to stop by Tram's Kitchen, a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant run by a very energetic and intense Vietnamese gentleman. The traditional Vietnamese soup, pho (pronounced foo), is heavenly. The perfect blend of fresh, crisp ingredients. The only thing better than Tram's pho is perhaps his spring rolls, but that's a recipe for another day.

In an attempt to recapture Tram's pho, my husband and I have tinkered with a number of recipes we've found online. Here's our best effort, though it still does not compare to Tram's.

PHO - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

  • 1 pkg. chicken legs (approx.6-8)
  • 2 large yellow onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, scraped and thinly sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 pieces dried star anise
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • Chili garlic sauce to taste (rooster on bottle)
  • 1 pkg. rice vermicelli
  • Salt to taste (approx. ¾ tbs.)
  • Couple bunches of scallions (at least 6 stalks)
  • 2 limes, halved, then quartered
  • bunch of fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • Bunch of fresh Asian, Thai purple basil
  • 10 cups water
  • Nouc Man (fish sauce) to taste

  • Put chicken legs in a frying pan in about an inch of water. Cook covered on low to medium heat for about 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove meat from bones, discard bones. Keep the broth for the soup, though skim off some of the grease.
  • Add the broth from the pan to a large soup pot. Add 10 cups of water, onions, mean, can of broth, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, and peppercorns. Slice the scallions into ½ inch sections and add the white ends to the soup; keep the green pieces for later. Bring to boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 1 hour.

  • While soup simmers, put rice vermicelli in another pot of room-temperature water for about an hour to soften the noodles.
  • Once the noodles have softened, boil until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and rinse.

  • Blanch bean sprouts.
  • Wash basil.
  • Arrange bean sprouts, basil, green portion of the sliced scallions, and limes on a plate. This will be passed around for people to add toppings to their soup after the soup is served.
  • Put chili-garlic sauce within reach of those who would want it (caution: might be too hot for young palates.)

  • Fill up bottom of soup bowls with cooked noodles.
  • Ladle soup on top of noodles. Make sure to avoid (or strain out) star anise, ginger, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns.
  • Let guests top their own soup with desired scallions, bean sprouts, and big pieces of ripped up, fresh basil. Guest can also mix in a bit of chili garlic sauce, Nouc man, and lime juice. Enjoy!

  • The broth for this soup is very light compared to European style chicken soups.
  • Do not combine noodles and broth until you are ready to eat. After eating, store leftovers in separate bowl, otherwise the rice noodles turn to goo.
  • A spoon just won’t work. You’ll need chopsticks or a fork to eat the solid parts, and then have fun slurping up the broth.

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