Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Phở is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup. The next section is in quotations because it is an excerpt from wikipedia. (Recipe follows) The excerpt is pretty concise so I decided to cut and paste:

"Because not much was written about the origin of phở until recently, its beginnings are a bit murky and mostly culled from oral histories.[4] Still, the consensus among academics, diners and restaurateurs is that it originated about a century ago in northern Vietnam.[4] It was originally sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first phở restaurant was opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.[5]

While a distinctly Vietnamese dish, phở has French and Chinese influences.[4] The origin of the word was one subject in a seminar on phở held in Hanoi in 2003.[4] One theory advanced at the seminar is that the name comes from the French feu (fire), as in the dish pot-au-feu, which like pho uses the French method of adding charred onion to the broth for color and flavor, one of the techniques which distinguishes pho from other Asian noodle soups.[4] Some believe the origin of the word to be the Chinese fen (粉)[citation needed](this character is pronounced phấn in Vietnamese.) In addition to rice noodles, multiple spices (such as star anise and cassia) are staples of Chinese cuisine (cassia used in phở is Saigon Cinnamon, a local ingredient).

There are several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called phở bắc or "northern phở"; or phở Hà Nội), central (Huế)[citation needed], and southern (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon). One regional phở may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor[citation needed]. "Northern phở" tends to use somewhat wider noodles and green 1photo 2 On the other hand, southern Vietnamese generally use thinner noodles[citation needed] (approximately the width of pad Thai or linguine noodles), and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their phở instead. The variations in meat, broth, and additional garnishes such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (Eryngium foetidum), hung que (Thai/Asian basil), and tuong (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) appear to be innovations introduced in the south.[4]

The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (local rice noodles - originally of Chinese origin) and French tastes (cattle before the French arrival being beasts of burden, not sources of beef).[4][5]

Phở did not become popular in South Vietnam until the mid-1950s.[6]

Pho has become popular in the United States, especially on the East and West Coast; such a cuisine brought by Vietnamese refugees who settled there from the late 1970s onwards."

this recipe will yield about one gallon. Traditionally pho is made with beef bones and sliced beef, this one is made with chicken.

4-5 lbs of chicken backs, necks or carcass'
4-5 quarts of water
2 medium yellow onions
1 4" piece fresh ginger
1/4 cup fish sauce (commercially available in most Asian markets)
1 sachet pho spice mixture (also available " )or 1 stick cinnamon, 1-2 pods cardamom, 5 star anise, 1 tbsp coriander seeds,1 tbsp fennel seeds,6 cloves
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt

for the bowls:
1/4 inch bahn pho noodles aka rice noodle sticks. fettuccine style or vermicelli.
par cooked al dente and cooled in an ice bath.
1/2 to 1 whole chicken breast for each bowl. Trim breast with sharp knife slice paper thin pieces at an angle from right to left aka on the bias (if you're right handed)

Thai basil (may be substituted)
thai chiles
slice fresh jalapenos or serranos
paper thin yellow onion slices
sambal chili paste
lime wedges
bean sprouts

1st and foremost, char the ginger and stock yellow onions. peel paper layer from onions and oil. oil ginger as well. If you cook with gas, you can char them directly on your burner just turn frequently (i've done this on an electric range as well, I just don't recommend for safety reasons.) Let cool and peel onions and ginger.
In a separate stock pot, par boil the chicken to remove some of the scum and impurities. Rapid boil approximately 6-8 minutes. remove, rinse and set aside.
In the another, or cleaned and dried original stock pot bring the 4-5 quarts of water to and chicken bones to a boil, skim out any additional impurities and oil that rise to the top throughout the entire process. Reduce heat to low and add onions, ginger, fish sauce and sugar. After approximately 1 1/2 hours, add spice bag- let steep for additional 30-45 minutes and remove spice bag, ginger and onions, add salt. After three hours of simmering (three hours is the optimal amount of time it will take to coax out as much flavor as possible from the bones.) strain with a fine mesh strainer and reserve. The cooking process of the broth can be sped up, but the results will not be as great. Clean stock pot and return to a boil and keep skimming for bones and oil. The boiling stock is to be poured directly over prepared bowls as follows:
In each bowl add the paper thin onion slices (to taste), rice noodles and your desired amount of raw very thinly sliced chicken. note: for beef pho, rare to medium rare meat is acceptable- for chicken put a plate over the bowl after boiling stock is added to hold in the heat and cook the chicken through. If the chicken is sliced thinly enough, it should cook immediately after the broth is added. If you don't feel comfortable with this method, feel free to cook the chicken in advance in a saute pan or in the stock itself.
serve immediately.

traditionally bowls are garnished with a few leave of basil, culantro and cilantro roughly torn into pieces, bean sprouts, chilis to taste and srachi, sambal and hoisin to taste.

always adjust seasonings before serving. the broth may taste salty but the rice noodles, chicken and garnishes balance everything out.

the chicken can always be substituted for beef, shrimp,pork or just vegetarian created with simple vegetable pho stock.

let the world's fare begin!

This is a blog for all of you foodies, cooks and homemakers out there wanting to learn cooking techniques in various international cuisine. Being immersed in a melting pot of fun flavors from all over the world as we global citizens are, we sometimes take for granted the subtleties of authentic international cuisine. Even in our grocery stores we find over Americanized versions of foods that we know to be authentic. While these cheap knockoffs may offer a decent representation of the outstanding flavor profile, the heart of dish is missing. That means not only7 utilizing authentic ingredients whenever possible but understanding also the origins of these items and what they mean to certain cultures. A good portion of the foreign foods we are familiar with are a staple to these cultures, most times representing the only vegetable and protein sources available. In other words, peasant foods also known as comfort food. Be it ratatouille in France, or miso in Japan, getting to the heart of what you put into your mouth really adds a depth of flavor that simply can't be achieved from a box of "just add water" hogwash. I love learning about and cooking foods I am unfamiliar with, it adds a certain sense of accomplishment to be able to recreate something from another culture making it as authentic as possible- it seems to taste better too! I live in a small town and I know that there aren't that many if any international markets where a vast majority of people live but it is possible to acquire certain ingredients in grocery stores or mega marts. If there are recipes that you would like to try to create but you can't find the ingredients, maybe put it off till the next time you drive to your nearest large city and seek out these items. Many times it is possible to use substitute ingredients in your dish and still make it taste authentic, it just depends on what you're trying to achieve. I recently moved from Orlando, FL to Cocoa Beach. In Orlando, I could drive fifteen minutes and be within 2 miles of 3 Indian bazzars, 2 nice Asian markets and a few different Latin markets. Just up the road from this area was a really nice mediteranean shop. I can reach this places in an hour from where I am now, it's not that bad. If you're trying to put together a garam masala which is a basic freshly ground Indian spice mixture (not curry powder) you will be spending between $3 and $8 for each bottle of whole spices. This can be worth it if you use it frequently but why not just wait till the next time you have to drop someone off at the airport and make a food run? To each their own. Now that i've rambled on for far too long we'll get down to brass tacks. The purpose of my blog is to educate as well as inspire. I will be periodically posting recipes that I have created or compiled through research and development of my outlook on international cuisine, I would also really like the challenge from my readers to research and create recipes that I am unfamiliar with. In other words if you have always wanted to learn to make a certain dish or you ate out recently and you want to recreate what you ate- please email me and I will respond with a recipe and a brief summary of the dish. I look forward to anwering your challenges and learning new techniques that I can share with others!