We have a guest blog section this week. I’ve not been to Vietnam, but my wife has. So – here is Desiree:
As you were making the Pho this afternoon it brought it all back. I think it is the fish sauce bubbling away mixed with all the sweet smelling spices that reminds me of walking along in the sweltering heat of Ho Chi Minh. Pho was street food which we bought in foil trays and slurped sitting on the steps of buildings watching the madness of the city unfold. I remember the thousands of bicycles and crazy drivers trying to mow them all down (or that’s how it looked). I remember the motorbikes with babies with no helmets on, sat on the handlebars. I remember the dogs trying to get at me and me screaming and pouring the pho all down me. I remember how some Pho were mild and others like fire. I particularly remember how you only had to show photos of designer clothing to the incredible tailors there and within hours you had superb replicas.
We spent time visiting the beaches in Vietnam and seeing their unspoiled emptiness . By the sea I remember eating the best spring roll I have ever eaten. Not deep fried, but wrapped in rice paper it was bursting with freshness and from that day I can’t eat the sickly fried cousins. I had the impression whilst I was there that I was lucky to be seeing the country in its true, raw form and before the West ruined it. There were a splattering of US restaurant chains, but nothing offensive. I was there 7 years ago and I will take you there sometime - but I am nervous it won’t be as I remember. Back to you Joe.
I’m not sure if everyone who cooks a lot experiences the same as me, but I have one bogey ingredient and almost every time I use it – the dish is ruined. For me it’s Fish Sauce. I don’t know whether I don’t really like the flavour as much as most, but I seem to overpower any dish I use it in- it just seems to dominate. So, when one of the prominent ingredients of Pho was Fish Sauce I was nervous.
I am delighted to say that my fears (this time) were unfounded. This soup/ noodle dish was delicious. You could tell there was fish sauce present, but it wasn’t pungent. Instead the fresh coriander came out, as did the zing of the chilli which comes right at the end. The noodles gave it the body to ensure this could be a main dish and the fact that it was simmered for 3 hours made the flavours taste complex. Our house now smells of Vietnam and it’s a great smell! Definately give this a go (if you have a muslin and about 3 hours).
Ingredients (for 2):
- 1 Fist Sized Fillet Steak.
- 2 Onions
- 2 Inches Ginger
- 2 Birds Eye Chillies
- 1/2 Cup Fish Sauce
- 1 Cup Beef Stock
- 250g Handfuls of Beansprouts
- 250G Noodles.
- Spice Mix. I made it out of Star Anise (3), Coriander Seeds (1tbsp), 1 Cinnamon Stick, Fennel Seeds (1 tsp) and Cloves (4).
Ingredients for dressing the Pho:
- Plum Sauce
- Basil ( we wanted Thai Basil but couldn’t get any)
- Chilli Sauce
- Firstly take the steak and put it in the freezer. Set the timer for 1 hour. It will be much much easier to slice then when it is nearly frozen.
- Take a casserole/ large dish and slowly sweat one chopped onion and half of the ginger (chopped) in some oil.
- As this is sweating and in a frying pan, fry off the other chopped onion and the rest of the chopped ginger. Do this with no oil and just brown them. This will bring out some sweetness and once done add them to the main pot.
- Into the pot add one or two chilies depending on how hot you want it. Also add 10 cups of water, 1/2 a cup of fish sauce and a cup of beef stock (strong).
- You also need to add the spice mix, which you need to tie into a mesh like this.
- We used a baby muslin which works fine.
- Once the muslin is in the pot, let it all simmer for 2 hours slowly on a low heat. You don’t want more than 20% to evaporate. If it does, add some more water – but try not to let it.
- After two hours what you need to do is get only the clear broth so sieve everything out and discard- and return the broth to the boil. Add the beansprouts and the beef (sliced very thin).
- Whilst the beef is poaching in the broth (it can be in there for up to 15 minutes) prepare the noodles (depending on the type you have) and arrange them at the bottom of bowls.
- When ready to serve, the broth should be poured over the noodles and then you can dress the dish as you choose.
Load it up with the dressing ingredients and enjoy!