Between recuperating from a nagging illness that won't go away and just plain hibernating, in general, I haven't had much time this week to go out and eat. Luckily for me, mom made me a pot of pho that was meant to, at least, last an entire week. Since I wasn't able to visit any restaurants, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do a little something I've wanted to do since the beginning of this blog. There's an obvious enthusiasm when it comes to eating pho and where to find the best pho, but have you ever considered attempting to make your own pho at home? It's not as intimidating as it seems, and it could very well be a great kitchen skill to add to your arsenal.
First things first: You will need to stock up at your local Asian grocery store. This could probably be the most daunting part of the "making pho" experiment. Buying the right ingredients also consists of a lot of explanation, so this blog is going to be a two-parter, split between this week and next. We'll focus on the ingredients today and concentrate on the cooking next week. To help ease any anxiety you may have about going into foreign territory completely clueless, I stopped by an Asian market to gather some visual aids.
Things you will need:
- A LARGE soup pot (Is a picture of this really necessary?)
- A small to medium sized sauce pan
- Cutting board, knives, and tongs
- Thought we should start with Pho Ga, or chicken pho. My mother's convenient and "short cut" recipe is great for breaking in starters: A 6-7 pound whole chicken hen, preferably organic or free range. But if you insist on adding some beef...
- In the refrigerated section of the packaged foods, you can find a variety of beef meatballs. Choose any you like.
- In the butcher section of the grocery store, ask for 1-2 pounds of beef eye round (depending on how much meat needed or how many people you are feeding.) Ask the butcher to slice the eye round into thin strips for you, or you can just take it home and slice it yourself.
- 1-2 packages of refrigerated dry pho rice noodles. When you walk into the market, you're going to see a lot of dry packaged noodles flying at you from everywhere. Walk straight to the refrigerated section of the packaged foods (the meatballs are here, too). Behind these glass doors, you will find the right pho noodle for you.These packaged pho noodles are easier to work with than the dehydrated ones on the outside shelves.
- 2 large onions
- 1 bundle of scallions/green onion
- 1 bundle of cilantro
- 1 bundle of basil
- 1 bundle of saw leaf (ngo gai)
- 4 limes
- 1 bottle of fish sauce. Again, like the noodles, picking out the right fish sauce amongst the options offered is a scary prospect. A good fish sauce for pho is the Three Crabs Brand, which has, you guessed it, three crabs in the logo on the bottle.
- Bottle of Hoisin Sauce. Pick any brand you like.
- Bottle of Sriracha. While this is the most popular brand out there, I like to experiment with this from time to time. That, however, is for another blog on another day. For now stick to the Sriracha.
- 1 box of Pho Hoa Pasteur Chinese Special Spice. WHAT, you say?! Yes, we use bagged seasoning, but it's not what you think. All these tea bags contain are the traditional spices in a pho, i.e. cassia, star anise, etc. The spices are ground up and put together in a tea bag, for your convenience. It's much simpler than buying large bags of each spice and having leftovers which you will never use, again. These bags are a Godsend.
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- 1 bag of SMALL Lump or Rock Sugar. Regular table sugar is not as delicate and does not dissolve like Lump sugar. It also won't give the pho the right flavoring. You can always use the rest of the lump sugar for tea.
While you're at the market, pick up some Yan Yan strawberry cookie sticks, Calbee flavored Shrimp Chips, and a can of Grass Jelly drink. These have nothing to do with the pho, but you're already there and can use a tasty diversion to ease your pho-bia about next week's cooking class. Stay tuned.