There are few things in this world that have better soul healing properties than a steaming, fragrant, vibrant bowl of Pho.
A Vietnamese classic, this dish is an experience because it puts you through different stages before you eat it. There’s the anticipation as you order and wait for your number to get called out, the nervous moment as you fidget with your condiments and sauces rushing to get back to your table, that satisfying pause as you take a deep breath and inhale the aromas of beef and aniseed then last but not least, the ritual of consuming a bowl of Pho.
For those of you that have never had this before, Pho (for pronunciation, head here) is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup. You get a choice of condiments that you can apply to your own tastes. You usually have a choice of of bean sprouts, Thai basil, chili slices, coriander, hoisin, sriracha, sate (not satay) sauce and lemon (or lime) wedges. This obviously varies depending where you go!
How you introduce these ingredients is what separates the Pho experience from eating any other soup. You can virtually change the texture and flavour profile with every mouthful. You like it crunchy with an evil heat? Add more bean sprouts, chili slices and sate sauce. You want it more aromatic? Throw in extra Thai basil and coriander. You can order a selection of meat, beef balls, chicken or seafood again, depending where you go to eat it.
Some people like throwing in all the condiments at once and plow through the whole thing. I am very particular in the way I eat mine.
The first thing I do is ask for no coriander as sadly I am not a fan of the stuff. I always order beef and beef balls. I like to add a drizzle of lemon, rip up a good handful of Thai basil then pour hoisin and sriracha into separate containers. The reason I do this is I like to pour a little bit of both on to the rice noodles as I collect them with my chop sticks. Sometimes, it’s only sriracha. Sometimes, it’s only hoisin. This might seem a little strange, but I cannot and will not do anything that compromises the sheer brilliance of the broth. This, in my opinion, is the absolute heart and soul of any good Pho.
Since there are no good Pho places near where I live (unless someone knows of a good Pho place on the northern beaches?) I embarked on a quest to make my own. Making the broth is something that needs time in order to extract the flavours from the oxtail and beef shin. Luckily, I had a little help from Jenny over at MusingsandMorsels with the recipe.
So how did it turn out? I thought it was a worthy first effort. I’m confident that after a few more tries, I’ll have a version worth staying at home for!
If you haven’t had a chance to try this wonderful dish, do yourself a huge favour and try it. A word of advice – this dish requires you to really get involved in order to get the most out of it. If there’s no sweating, slurping or splashing, you’re not doing it right!