Faux pho

April 5, 2016

This stuff. No pic of soup. It ain't photogenic.

This stuff. No pic of soup. It ain’t photogenic.

This stuff has possibilities.

I made my maiden voyage at pho from the jarred pho base I picked up at the international market recently. While it was not the best pho I have ever eaten (that honor goes to Le Coloniale in Chicago), it was acceptable, and a sight better than some I’ve had.

Given that directions on packages manufactured by Asian firms are sometimes, shall we say, less than clear, I was kinda winging it. It called for a “spoonful” of base for three cups of water. I was making a single serving of soup, so I was using two cups of water. Not knowing the suggested size of said spoonful, I decided to go with a heaping teaspoon.

But first, the prep. Pho should have beef in it. I get some tiny little filets with my beef order every year — between 4 and 5 ounces per steak. As they’re not a particularly good shape for grilling, I generally use them in some other application (like beef tartare, in which they are To Die For) or briefly seared in a skillet and then sliced across the grain for some other application.

That’s what I did with this one — salted and peppered him, seared him in a screaming hot skillet for about 2 minutes on one side, a minute on the other, took him off and covered him with foil. Then I set about the rest of the dish, which constituted noodles, water and pho base.

I took what I estimated would be a single serving’s worth of rice noodles (the flat pad Thai style) and set them to boiling in my two cups of water, to which I’d added my heaping teaspoon of pho base. Then I sliced said steak, which had had a few minutes to rest. Put it in just a minute or two before I took it off the heat.

At the last minute, I remembered the pickled quail eggs. That ought to be a nice garnish, I thought. So I quartered one and tossed him in.

Verdict: As I said, not bad. I will do some things differently next time, i.e., cutting the beef in smaller pieces, and putting it in immediately after the pot comes off the heat, to keep it a touch on the rare side. And I’ll break those noodles up into smaller pieces, because they’re hell to try to eat with a spoon from a broth.

The pickled egg, though, was all that and a bag of chips. Actually, I think I’d enjoy the soup with just the eggs and a few enoki mushrooms, maybe a few cubes of tofu; heck with the beef and noodles. Oh, and a spritz of lime. It definitely wanted some like. A little cilantro would not have gone amiss.

But it makes a very nice light dinner in a very short time, and that’s laudable.

I think when it comes time to try the tom yum paste, which appears to work about the same way, I’ll do it with the eggs, and some green onions, and maybe a dried shiitake or two. Actually, that may be my next venture with the pho. I can certainly see it leading to me regularly purchasing and pickling quail eggs. They were just too good in the broth. A poached egg would have been good, as well.

In any event, it’s far from a failure. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em stand by for the next iteration of faux pho.




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