C'est moi, EatMonBlog! It's a whole new January and a new phase for eating this blog. What am I talking about? Check out my first (and hopefully last) personal blog post, from January 1st, 2015.
Despite this new-ish direction, the motivation for this humble blogger remains the same: real food. real ingredients. not too complicated. makes you feel great. And this is a judgement free zone! True story: my sister is currently sitting next to me eating two 8-inch hotdogs covered in cheddar cheese, avocado, sriracha, maple caramelized onions, and sweet chili heat doritos. While I am not participating in this glory - it remains glorious.
So how exactly am I going to kick off this month-long journey? WITH SUPER EXCELLENT, HOME-MADE, ONE POT/SLOW-COOKER VIETNAMESE COMFORT FOOD! (the crowd goes wild!!!) Pho (at least 'pho' me) is comfort food that ranks up there alongside perogies, risotto, pizza, and all-you-can-eat sushi. And I have never yet made my own. So why not start now?
It's winter-y time here on the Prairies, and warm, spicy, filling soup is a great way to ward off the chill. Pho came to North America with the waves of immigrants in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The key to good pho is in the long simmered, flavour-rich broth. Fennel, star anise, cinnamon, carrdamom, coriander, black pepper, clove... there are as many combinations and recipes as there are pho restaurants.
Traditionally, pho is made with beef or chicken, bean sprouts, basil, and rice noodles. I've elected to try this with some shirataki noodles. While some of you are likely familiar - many of you may not be. Shirataki noodles, are thin, colourless japanese noodles, made from a type of yam (konjac if you want to be specific). Slightly chewy, they're sold in bags of water at asian and specialty stores, are are marked by a slightly fermented smell upon opening the bag, and ZERO calories or carbohydrates.
What is this? Zero carb noodles?! Oui! Well actually, nothing can have zero calories except for water, and these noodles are of course made of something, however, they're low in everything including flavour. I accidentally discovered these at my local Asian specialty store (Ngoy Hoa Asian Foods) and have been playing around with them ever since.
I decided to give them a go in this pho, and they were a smashing success! Of course they don't taste exactly the same as vermicelli - they're not. But they are very good, and if you're watching your post-holiday meals, or just want to try something funky and fresh - give these a whirl. I dry roasted mine before tossing them into the pho - and while it didn't make a huge difference in texture - I did find it firmed them up a bit, making them more noodley.
Not only does this easy, one-pot recipe feature these magical noodles, it's full of rich flavour, herbs, braised beef, homemade stock, and, fresh beansprouts and fiery chilies. The broth takes six hours to make, so this is the perfect thing to throw into a slow-cooker first thing in the morning, come home to after work, and feel like a goddamned champion.
It's almost entirely hands-off and a great 'plan ahead' meal for weeks when you know you're going to be tuckered out and itching to call your good friends at Panago. Can you throw things into a big pot or slowcooker, cover them with water, and turn it on? Can you spoon this delicious broth into big bowls full of beef, noodles, bean-spouts and herbs? Can you decided whether you want to top these bowls with chilis or cilantro or hoisin and sriracha? Yes you can. Yes you will.
THIS LOOKS LIKE A LOT - BUT IT'S REALLY NOT. SPICES, BEEF, NOODLES, GARNISHES. Do not be scared!
2 lbs braising short ribs, including bones. Traditional pho broth is made with slow simmered beef shanks, but sometimes buying beef leg bones involves forethought and contacting your butcher in advance. I've made this with braising short ribs as they're a) made for braising, b) carried by most major grocery stores, c) cheap, and d) full of delicious flavour.
3 star anises. I have no idea what the technical term is for this.
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp anise seeds
1.5 inch cinnamon stick
1 pinch of cardamom
a big pinch of black pepper corns.
1 dried chili/1 tsp chili flakes/half a teaspoon of cayenne
*alternately: many specialty grocers will sell 'pho spice packages' which you can buy pre-portioned and everything. SO EASY.*
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 big chunk of ginger (approximately 2 inches)
1 onion, quartered.
8 cups of water
1 package of shirataki noodles
thinly sliced beef - I used flank steak as it's cheap and tasty. Based on recommendations from the Steamy Kitchen, I popped it in the freezer for 15 minutes before slicing it as thinly as possible. If you're friends with your butcher, s/he might do it for you!
2 cups of bean sprouts
1 handful of thai basil
chopped green onion
a few tbsp of cilantro (optional)
fresh chilies (optional)
other things you will need:
a slowcooker or big stock pot
bowls for eating :)
- Optional: sear and brown your short ribs in a few tbsp of oil. This will deepen the flavour and give you a nice base to start with. If you don't have the time or the inclination - no sweat!
- Combine your beef, spices, fish sauce, water, ginger, onion in your stockpot or slow cooker. If you have the time and inclination - tie your spices up in a little cheesecloth sack to prevent them from dancing all over the place. I don't really care about that - but apparently a lot of people do! Simmer for six hours or more until you're ready to eat it. You can also make it ahead and reheat!
- Optional: If you'd like to dry-sear your shirataki noodles - open the packages, drain them, and toss them in a dry frying pan and scootch them around for a few minutes until they start to squeak. Otherwise, simply drain them, give them a quick rinse, and pop them in your bowls.
- Add basil, green onion, and beef to your bowls.
- Bring the stock to a boil.
- Ladle it carefully into bowls over your beef. Top with any garnishes you like and a generous handful of beansprouts. Eat it like the mo'pho champion you are!
ed note: I know it's correctly pronounced as 'fuh', there are many more 'foh' puns.