Achievement Unlocked: Fus Pho Dah!

I am informed that I’m only allowed to make the pun in the title if it somehow involves throwing or pushing, as Fus Ro Dah is the pushing spell in Skyrim.  Look, I’m not that advanced a student of video games; I have yet to beat the first Assassin’s Creed.  (I’m stuck on the Robert de Sable assassination; that crowd is a pain in the buttocks.)  But sometimes, you can’t pass up an utterly terrible pun, even if it makes your boyfriend swear he doesn’t know you for all of ten or fifteen minutes.

Anyway!  Pho.  Vietnamese comfort food.  I read Steamy Kitchen‘s recipe and was instantly hooked by the writing style, not to mention the delicious imagery.  Rice noodles, beef, spices, fresh herbs and lime.  What’s not to like?  (Especially the rice noodles.  Ever since a friend introduced us to homemade spring rolls, I’ve been craving that taste and texture combination.)

I deviated from the recipe in almost every way possible without actually changing the ingredients.  It’s very tasty, but I’d love (for once) to work in a kitchen where soup doesn’t get actually cold within ten minutes of serving it.  The process is broken, but the recipe is delicious, and here’s how this non-particular student went about it.


Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

  1. The night before: boil a pot of water.  Take two pounds (ish) of beef marrow bones and boil them rapidly for ten minutes.  (This removes a good deal of the scum from your broth.)  Skim scum, and transfer bones to slow cooker pot.
  2. Fill slow cooker pot almost to the top with water.  (I was using a 5-quart pot; Steamy Kitchen’s recipe was made in a 12-quart.  Hence the discrepancy.)  Add two onions, halved, and charred if you’re not afraid of your broiler like I am.
  3. Add your Pho Spices Bag!  To construct, assemble the following in a hank of cheesecloth: one or two cinnamon sticks, eight or so cloves, five whole star anise, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, and one cardamom pod.  If you’re less than prepared and not willing to spend SIXTEEN DOLLARS on a tiny jar of cardamom at the store, follow this formula: leave out the cardamom and fennel, add seven or so allspice seeds, and sprinkle some coriander on top of the broth.
  4. Add a 4″ chunk of charred ginger, if you’re Jaden Hair, or a hefty sprinkle of ginger on top of the broth, if you’re me.  Add two teaspoons of sugar and a quarter-cup of fish sauce; try not to get fish sauce on your t-shirt.  Your shirt may be black, but it’s still going to stink.
  5. Add a pound or so of cubed beef stew meat.
  6. Turn slow cooker to “low, ten hours”, then go to bed.
  7. In the morning: turn slow cooker off and remove pot.  Fish out onions, spice bag, and bones.  Discard the first two and freeze the bones for later use.  Fish out as much of beef stew meat as possible and plunk into another large bowl or pot.  Shred chunks.
  8. Strain remains, bit by bit, into same pot where stew meat resides.  Discard strained-off bits.
  9. Slice some uncooked sirloin, flank steak, or generally steak-shaped beef as thin as possible.  (This works better if the beef is at least partially frozen.  If it’s as frozen as mine was, though, nuke it in the microwave for a minute before continuing.)
  10. Prepare your rice noodles, following the directions on the package.
  11. Eat some rice noodles, then remember they’re supposed to go into the soup.  Right.
  12. If preparing for a crowd, set out plate of toppings: fresh herbs, lime, bean sprouts, and sliced chili peppers.  If you’re just making it for yourself and your distracted boyfriend, slice a lime and let him add his herbs.
  13. Layer rice noodles, shredded meat, and sliced meat into soup bowl.  Pour almost-boiling broth over the whole lot; it’ll cook the beef.  Squeeze in some lime, add herbs, and eat.  (Note from experience: if you don’t have fresh herbs, don’t use herbs.  The dried mint I crumbled in smelled nice and tasted just fine, but the texture really didn’t go well.)

It was delicious, but not really a showstopper of a recipe; perhaps next time I’ll make it for a larger crowd and shop a little more thoroughly.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  🙂


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