Friday, August 31, 2018

Pho Goodness Sake.


I do so like a good pho. (pronounced fuh).  
What is pho, you ask?  Basically, it's a Vietnamese soup made up of a broth, herbs, and rice noodles, along with a buffet's worth of endless accompaniments and garnishes.  You can have a beef pho, phở bò, or chicken pho, phở gà.  Today, since I'm catering to vegetarians, pescaterians, and vegans, I'm making a vegetarian pho stock.  I'll serve a few bowls today and freeze the rest for later use. That way, I can start out with vegetarian and then turn it into anything I want!

I like being able to have a single bowl of pho, with whatever accents I want to use.  The problem with ordering pho at restaurants is that it's basically served in a trough.  I don't want a trough.  I want a bowl.  Also, whenever I buy soups at the ChinaMacs down here (I stopped bothering with the entrées long ago.), I want fried wontons.  The fried wontons offered here are ALWAYS STALE!  STALE!  ARGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!  How hard is it to fry a freakin' wonton?  Sheeeesh.
OK, RosieRant is over. 

If you'd like my recipe for beef pho, or  phở bò, and want to learn some of the history of the dish,
please check out my blog post, Pho Whom The Bell Tolls.

Now, for vegetarian pho basic stock, here are my step-by-steps:

First, get a bunch of onions, garlic, carrots, and celery.
Smash the garlic and coarsely chop the rest.
(Maybe 5 or 6 onions, 4 large garlic cloves, 6 or so each carrots and celery.
Like I said.  A bunch.  Numbers are not critical here.)

Heat a little oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and throw in the garlic and onions, skins and all.  (Just adds more flavor.)  Stir, cooking, about 5 minutes, slightly charring.

Add in the carrots and celery and keep cooking and stirring, about 10 minutes.

Pour in about 6 quarts of water, a teaspoon or so of kosher salt, a handful of peppercorns, and a  bunch of fresh thyme, parsley, and bay leaves.  (I have a bay tree, so I use fresh bay leaves.  If you're using dried, cut back to 2 or 3.  Dried  is stronger.)
Bring to a simmer.  Do not boil, but keep at a bare simmer.
After thirty minutes, remove the herbs.

Slice some ginger and onion, pour some oil over top, and place under broiler to brown.

In a dry skillet, toast some cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and anise.

And get you a big chunk of yellow rock sugar. 
I  have a box I bought from an Asian market up in Chesapeake.  Rock sugar is crystallized sugar, milder than regular granulated sugar.  It's commonly used in Chinese cooking, especially in soups and braised dishes.  It has a more delicate flavor than granular sugar and has flavor notes that white sugar is missing, but you can substitute demerara or raw sugar for rock if you're in a pinch.

Add the charred onion and ginger, the toasted cinnamon, cloves, and anise, and the rock sugar to the pot.

Keep at a bare simmer for another 60 minutes, skimming any froth off top.
Taste test.  Adjust seasoning.  Add kosher salt if needed.  A few tablespoons of soy sauce if you like.

And there you have a basic vegetarian pho broth.
Let cool and pour into quart and containers and freeze.

Now, when you get the itch for some pho, it's right there, ready to be thawed out, heated up,and added to.  And let me just tell you, this pho plays very well with others.

For example, I sautéed some mushrooms and added some sliced jalapeños and some mint and basil to this bowl.  Don't forget to fry up some wonton strips.

There are so many flavors in here.  It's complex.  It has depth.
And I forgot to add the noodles (which I think is what actually makes pho pho).
Tell you the truth, I didn't miss 'em.

If you're a real vegan or vegetarian, throw in some cubes of tofu.  Pretend it's meat.  HA!

Being highly carnivorous myself, I added in some seared beef.

Mint, basil, cilantro.  All work here.

Snow peas and scallions.

Ahh...  There're the noodles.

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