If you ever knew me more than 4 years ago, you would know that this is how I would react to eating at other people’s houses…..
“OH YUM! THANK YOU!”
And this…. is how I would react to people encouraging me to hold dinner at my house… ie cook for others in return…..
*panic, panic, breathe… calm… OMG… panic panic*
Let me explain… I hated cooking… I barely cooked for myself and was happy to eat a can of tuna with rice. I lacked so much confidence in my culinary skills I was embarrassed to have to feed others the mush I created.
Growing up, I only had 2 choices, eat whatever was given to me (even if it was going off) OR starve.
With that kind of training on food, how would I know if something I made tasted good or not? What if it didn’t taste good? What if it was crap? What if I poisoned the people I fed? or worse? What if something I made that I thought was delicious actually tasted disgusting to everybody else?
What led to my complex you ask? WELL, let me sit on this couch while you get out your writing pad and pen…. ready?
OK…. It all started with my grandma (who knows, it most likely would have been a long chain over generations but I only know to that far).
My grandma hated cooking (my mum always told me that my Grandma’s thoughts on “slaving” over a hot stove were exactly that… slavery). I always got this mental image of my grandmother having a chain on her foot attached to the stove and her all covered in soot while she grumpily stirred a pot while someone whipped her. Mate, if that happened to me, I’d hate it too! Regardless of her lack of “Nanna’s freshly baked cookies”, I still love my grandma – she gave me mandarins, coconuts, jackfruit, persimmons (which she told me were star apples), custard apple, watermelons and all that other lovely tropical fruit! Who needs to cook when nature provides you such tasty treats? 🙂
My mum hated cooking – to my mum eating is a waste of time and if she didn’t have to do it to live as a necessity then she wouldn’t bother.
At the end of the day, there are only 2 camps when it comes to food… Those who live to eat and those who eat to live. I was born from a mother belonging to the latter camp but inside…. I KNEW I didn’t belong.
So all those stories of sitting at a restaurant saying “mum’s cooking is better” and “I love my Nanna’s cookies” that everybody has, really draw a blank with me.
Alright, sob story over.. put your violin away… enter Braveheart music or maybe even Last of the Mohicans soundtrack….
From these humble foodie beginnings, I decided that I’d have to become the mum who’s kids say “mum’s cooking is better” and then I’ll be the nanna who’ll bake cookies my Grandkids will love (wheat, peanut and gluten free with minimal sugar of course!).
So with that in mind – I’m proud to say “HEY! We made Pho!”
Insert Superman soundtrack here as I enter the room with ladle in hand, my super apron on and chest puffed out gleaming from ear to ear.
Using a recipe given to me by a friend (from her mum who loves cooking) here’s what I made (these were our biggest bowls but they weren’t big enough!)
and over the weekend just passed, Tony gave it a go and here’s the result 🙂
The chilli gives it a good kick + some colour and we got new, bigger bowls too!
To make the soup, bring to boil and simmer together for minimum 5 hours:
2L beef stock
3 cinnamon sticks
3-4 star anise
2 burnt onions (peel the onions and then burn them over a flame)
1/2 soup ladle of fish sauce
1/2 soup ladle of sugar (we used rock sugar)
3 tsp salt
large piece of ginger (sliced and crushed)
tough beef (eg. beef brisket)
Tips: Add salt to taste, use Ox tail or some other bony meat to get a deeper flavoured soup. I noticed Tony also likes a little hoisin sauce on the side to dip his meat as he’s eating, kind of like people do when they eat Steamboat so you may like to try this as well.
When serving – I guess this is up to you what you put in your bowl but the essentials are: a big bowl, flat rice noodles and the soup!
You can then add as much or as little: lemon, chilli, basil, mint, bean sprouts, shallots and corriander (cilantro) as you want.
Also we’ve found that if you add cooked beef balls (bought frozen from Chinese grocery stores boiled in the soup) and paper-thin sliced raw beef (like bulgogi beef, you can buy these pre-prepared from the Chinese grocery stores) to your bowl, the Pho tastes MUCH better and you get 3 different flavours and textures of beef in your noodle soup! The thinly sliced raw beef will cook in your bowl once you pour boiling hot soup over it 😉
Unfortunately, the second time around, we didn’t have any beef balls or beef slices and had to stick with just brisket – it was still delicious!
I love this soup because you get all the elements of fresh & clean from the herbs and sprouts as well as the warm & hearty from the beef and broth. It’s got balance of carbs, meat and veg AND it gives you the hot, the sour, the sweet, the salty. In terms of texture, you get the smoothness and slipperiness of the noodles, the crunch of the veg, the chewiness and rubbery texture of the beef balls and the melt in your mouth softness of beef that’s been simmering for 5 hours! The smell from all the fresh herbs mixed with the bark and ginger in the soup – unbelievable! (Just don’t get the chilli up your nose, it made me cry.)
I always thought this was a really complicated dish but after doing it I realise, it’s actually pretty easy! The great thing about this is that you only need to get the soup base done (chuck everything in a pot and leave it)… everything else is done by the eater! The eater will like the taste because they’re the ones that are choosing the quantities and the elements to mix their bespoke meal in their bowl!!
Easy peasy Vietnamesey!