Monday, July 21, 2008

Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho bo)~

My apologies to Ginni and anyone else who might have been wondering what great recipe I cooked and consumed Saturday night for supper, and promised to blog about on Sunday - I am just now getting here after a packing marathon to get my two older kids off to camp as youth counselors - a last minute request from our pastor...

But, they are on the road now, and I have a few minutes.

Y'all. May I say, I have now made Pho Bo (except I don't have the font to put the proper dots and squiggleys to make it look like it should) which is, as the title says, Vietnamese beef noodle soup. And may I say, it took a long time to complete it. And may I also say, it was 100% well worth it.

The recipe comes from a cookbook that a wonderful friend and fellow rose grower/food lover sent me, to "christen" the new blog. (Thank you, Anne! XOXO)! Am I supposed to post recipes from new cookbooks, are they copyrighted? Right now, I won't post it, because I'm not sure, but the cookbook is written by Andrea Nguyen, and it's called "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors" and it's absolutely beautiful, both recipes and photographs.

At this time, I'll just sort of list the ingredients and the steps I took to make it, and there are a few photos to go along with it.

First, I dug around a bit in the freezer and took out 2 packages of soup bones. These are wonderful bones, because they come from steers that my daddy raised and fed out. The meat is tasty and there was a good bit of marrow in them as well. I thawed those and then put them in water to cover in a large stock pot, and set it to boil.

Those are figs from my mom's tree, there in the back. I've already put those in the freezer for future cakes and biscuits, yum!

While the bones were heating up in the water, I lit the grill outside and charred some whole, unpeeled yellow onions and a big piece of ginger. Never knew something burned could be 'pretty' LOL.

While they were cooking on the grill, the soup bones came to a boil, and I let them boil hard for 5 minutes, dumped everything in the (clean) sink, and rinsed off the bones with clean tap water. Then I cleaned the pot, put the bones back in, and added 6 quarts of cold water, and set it back on the stove to come to a boil again. This got rid of tons of impurities (all that nasty brown foamy stuff). I had to lightly skim the pot once or twice more, but nothing like what came up with that first boil.

When the onions and ginger had cooked for about 20 minutes on low heat, I brought them in and peeled them, and washed them off; then I added them to the stock pot, along with the required spices and seasonings: cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fish sauce, rock sugar, salt, and several chunks of chuck roast. When it came to a rolling boil, I turned down the heat to a steady low simmer and left it for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure it was still simmering. Oh, I almost forgot, don't cover the pot (psst - in addition to the figs, look at all the beautiful tomatoes my brother gave me!).

After 1 1/2 hours, remove the chunks of chuck roast, and cover them with water for a while to cool them; drain and put in a bowl, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the bowls of soup. Let the rest of the ingredients remain in the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours more.

Next, strain the soup, removing everything, leaving a clear, beautiful broth. This is the point where my daughter and I tasted it. I thought my eyes were going to roll back in my head. I've never made a broth with "cake spices" LOL ~ but it was absolutely the smoothest broth I've ever had. My daughter loved it, even though earlier, when my older son asked "what's cooking?" she replied "some stinky soup." haha

I let the broth cool, then refrigerated it over Friday night, because I wanted to pick up the fat off the top and toss it. I did leave a little bit of fat for more flavor. You can see it in this photo, glistening on the surface.

My broth may not be as clear as it's supposed to be, I'm not sure. But I was pretty happy with it, for my first time ever.

OK - chow time! I took the broth out of the fridge, removed most of the solidified fat, and heated the broth to a rolling boil. In the meantime, I set a pot of water on to boil, and placed some small rice noodles in hot water to soften. While all that was going on, I chopped some yellow onion, green onion tops (I don't have shallots), and cilantro, and sliced the cold chuck roast into very thin slices. You can use thin slices of uncooked sirloin in addition to the cooked meat, but I didn't do that this time. After 10 minutes of soaking, I took a serving size bunch of noodles, placed them in a long handled strainer, and boiled them for about 1 1/2 minutes, then drained them and placed them in a large bowl. I laid slices of chuck over the noodles, put a big spoon of chopped onion in the middle, and sprinkled green onion tops and cilantro over all of it. Then I ladled boiling broth over it all, until it covered it well. We ate it immediately, and absolutely loved it. As for personal tastes, there are other garnishes you can add, but we didn't; my daughter thought it was too much cilantro, and I thought it needed salt. But we both agreed, it's a winner and a keeper.

It's so worth the time and effort, and it's so much fun for me to eat foods from other cultures, that I've prepared myself. Please comment on this post, if you like, and if you make this regularly or for the first time ever, I'd love to hear from you.

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