Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fast and Fabulous Fake Pho

I've shared in previous posts that noodles are one of the favorite foods that I miss the most during my reign as the Food Allergy Queen. Chewy, warm, fun to play with, a perfect background for lots of flavors and textures, what's not to love about noodles? I've tried making my own soba (horrible results), purchased quinoa and corn pasta, 100% corn pasta (my current western favorite), and of course used the different FAQ-friendly asian noodles -- both bean thread and yam noodles (also called glass or cellophane noodles). Anyhow, the sad fact is that noodles are a comfort food that don't appear in my life as much as I would like. For western noodles, I am running out of ideas for tomato-less and dairy-free sauces. I have a great olive oil and shallot recipe, but am burning out on that. Same with pesto.

So the other evening around 11 p.m., I was having noodle cravings and became obsessed to try to whip up pho (prounounced "fuh"), which if you're not familiar with is the national dish of Vietnam. It's traditionally made with rice noodles in a beef broth and can be served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are pho places here in LA near Koreatown, which service the people coming out of Korean nightclubs at 3 a.m. and they eat pho instead of going to Dennys! I once had my favorite pho which is Vietnamese, served to me by Koreans, shared with my Japanese friend, and I'm Chinese. It was all kinds of crazy. :)

Usually, soup broths take a while to simmer and get their flavors through, but I was feeling inspirational/desperate and just jumped in, guessed at the ingredients, and about 30 minutes later, voila! Fake pho! I was TOTALLY excited about it and showed my man the results, and... he was supportive but in reality had to suppress a yawn. (Perhaps the pungent fish sauce smell that sent him screaming from the room had something to do with it?) Not being Asian, he sometimes doesn't understand the comfort-food role that noodles play for Asian peoples. Oh well. That means more for me! Bwah ha ha. This is how I did it.

Fast Fake Pho
Serves 2 small portions, or 1 big one!

4 cups beef broth (I use Savory Choice concentrated carrots, celery or garlic, no preservatives, GREAT taste)
2 pieces of star anise
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
cooked beef slices (I had leftover steak already)
1 diced green onion
handful cilantro, washed and dried
yam or bean thread noodles (or rice if you can have them, of course), that have been rehydrated and warmed up in hot water and drained

NOTE: For IBS sufferers, substitute cooked sliced chicken and chicken broth for the beef, and rice or yam noodles. The bean thread noodles my be too much insoluble fiber.

Heat up the stock, beef and all the seasonings except for the cilantro and noodles and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Stir well so that the cinnamon doesn't float around on top because it just looks weird. Correct seasonings, it should be mild but flavorful. Fish sauce is salty, and adds more flavor than just salt, so if it's flat, try that first. Keep in mind that premade broths vary in their amount of salt, so start off easy and add as you go along.

Slide the drained noodles into a bowl, pour the broth on top and garnish with a good handful of cilantro. If you have fresh basil, that's great too. (You'll see in my picture that I had a few stray veggies in there, but I was just cleaning out my's not traditional but it was gooood.) Very happy with my pho at midnight.

Traditionally you can also add in sriracha (the hot sauce with the rooster on it) and hoisin sauce too. But sriracha has garlic, and hoisin has soy, so I avoid them both.

Slurping noodles in Asian cultures is considered a compliment to the cook, so because you did a good job, slurp away.

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