During our years in Seattle we discovered Pho and fell in love. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with a very distinctive, delicious broth garnished with basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, limes and fresh chiles. (And, by the way, the pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” like a question. Funny huh?) It can be chicken or beef or vegetarian…it’s all about the broth. When it’s done right, nothing beats it on a cold, dreary day.
Since moving back to Texas we’ve searched for the elusive broth and some place that does this yummy soup justice. My husband has found a place or two that will satisfy the craving, but none that have totally knocked his socks off. He was hopeful and excited about this challenge.
There are some key elements to the broth: charring the onions and ginger, toasting the spices, the right amount of fish sauce and allowing the broth to simmer long enough for the flavor to really deepen as it should.
The broth simmers for about 3 hours and the aroma is so yummy and distinctive it is nearly impossible to wait that long! When it is finally time to serve you place cooked rice noodles in a bowl with very, very thinly sliced raw beef and some of the beef from the bones used to make the broth. The hot broth gets ladled in, “cooks” the beef and gets soaked up by the noodles.
Then comes the fun part: garnishing with an assortment of delicious greenery and sauces – basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, fresh chiles, limes, Sriracha and Hoisin sauce.
And when it all comes together…mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
So, the verdict? Well, it was mixed. The flavor was definitely there and nearly perfect…but it was light or thin…it didn’t quite have the depth we were looking for. Naturally, the next day the broth was a little more complex and much closer to the pho grail we seek. Also, I think it needed more fish sauce.
Next time – and oh yes there will be a next time – I will up the fish sauce, allow the broth simmer for a bit longer and let it sit overnight before serving. I suspect it will make us happy, happy…like, maybe even Seattle happy.