With the cold setting in, and the temperatures dropping to the low double-digits (and soon the one-digits), my husband requested Pho. This popular rice noodle soup, with its aromatic broth, is mostly associated with Vietnamese cuisine, but it can be found at any street food stall in South-East Asia.
The name pho is thought to have come from the french word feu, meaning fire. It’s believed that during the French colonization of Vietnam, pot au feu, or beef stew, was introduced to the country, which the Vietnamese adapted into beef pho.
I grew up with my mother making beef pho, from scratch, in the kitchen. She would spend the morning boiling a chunk of beef bone, and adding all the spices directly into the pot. Once the broth was ready, the family would make their own pho bowl to their liking. I didn’t order my first bowl of restaurant pho until college, when friends wanted to go out and enjoy this spice-infused noodle dish. (It was, and still is, the worst bowl of pho I’ve ever ordered.)
My husband would tell you that I am a very impatient person. I can’t wait all morning, or night, for my pho broth to be ready. So unlike my mother, I use chicken wings–instead of beef bones–and a pho spice pack–instead of whole spices. Into the pot I also like to add lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, half an onion, and garlic cloves. The lemon grass and garlic cloves eliminate the odor of meat or bird in the air, while the lime leaves and onion add more flavor to the broth.
Once the chicken wings have cooked, I have a pot of chicken broth, ready to be turned into Chicken Pho with Pork Meatballs.
Pho can be made to one’s own liking, and can be enjoyed any time of the year. (If my husband could, he’d live off of it for life.) It may be labor-intensive and time-consuming, but the overall broth is delicious and well worth the wait. As my mother says, there’s nothing like home-made pho.
- 1 Pho spice packet
- 1 piece lemongrass
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- ½ onion
- 3-5 clove garlic
- 4-5 whole chicken wings
- Pinch salt
- Beef paste
- Shrimp paste
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Chili garlic sauce
- Fried garlic
- Black pepper
- Oyster sauce (optional)
- Rice noodles
- Pre-cooked pork meatballs
- Raw beef slices (optional)
- Mint leaves
- Thai basil
- Mung bean sprouts
- Bok choy
- Green onions
*All ingredients can be found at the Asian supermarket (Note: The market must cater to the whole Asian community in order for all ingredients to be available. If you are unsure, go to your nearest Vietnamese, Hmong, or Chinese supermarket.)
In a big pot, bring 6-10 cups of water to a boil (add more or less, depending on the amount of mouths you’re feeding). To the pot, add all the broth ingredients. Allow the chicken wings to cook for 45-50 minutes, until the meat falls off the bones.
Meanwhile, wash the herbs, bean sprouts, bok choy, and jalapenos. Chop the bok choy into bite-size pieces; cut the green onions into ¼-inch pieces; roughly chop the cilantro; cut the jalapenos into circular slices, and cut the limes into wedges. Place everything onto serving trays for easy access. And set out the condiments.
Once the chicken wings have 10 minutes of cooking time left, add the pork meatballs to the broth, and allow to heat through. Remove the wings once cooked and allow to cool, before removing the meat from the bones and adding back to the pot.
In a bowl, add one serving of rice noodles. Ladle in some aromatic broth, adding meatballs and chicken pieces to your liking (add the raw beef slices now, if you choose). Then add the condiments to your liking. (I love mine beefy, so I add a lot of beef paste to my bowl.) Lastly, add the bok choy, bean sprouts, herbs, and jalapeno slices. Squeeze in some lime juice, and mix everything together.
Enjoy steaming hot with an ice cold beverage^-^