I went to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant in London last summer called Pho. Wikipedia describes it best:
They sold wonderful noodle dishes for the most part and they were so simple in execution but so tasty. The idea was similar to Vietnamese street food, broths, noodles, fresh veg, fresh meat, and letting the flavours do the work. I searched for recipes online using my usual haunts such as bbcgoodfood, Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascal (no joy), and finally Ching-He Huang (no joy). I didn’t want laborious dishes as I already find it difficult after putting Pumpkinella to bed, to prepare and eat a meal before it’s already time for bed.
I started putting some ideas to paper of common things that go into oriental dishes, things I could easily find in a local supermarket but things that reminded me of the aroma of my lovely Pho dish.
Some weeks later and a random food bulk-buy shopping trip to Costco, they had a free tasting of a frozen pre-cooked chicken Pho dish. It was absolutely yummy and brought me right back to the restaurant in London. For about 2 months I kept my freezer stocked with Pho and had it for dinner at least 3 times a week. This might seem obsessive but it came frozen in packs of 4 and only needed water and 6 minutes in the microwave before it became perfection in my mouth. It was light, fresh, and low in calorie. Low in calorie you say? Well yes, very little oil, glass noodles, cooked chicken, spring onions, cooked onions and a chicken broth, and that was it. It was also surprisingly filling. After a month of not really making any other changes to my diet and eating this every couple of nights with my husband, I managed to lose a whole stone in weight. I think at dinner time when you have a young child sometimes meal times can be very late in the evening and can sit around in your gut storing fat. All you do is eat then sleep and your body doesn’t get a chance to digest heavier meals. Well this Pho dish was quick and easy to prepare and a lighter evening meal which was still appetising and thankfully easy to digest. Although pleasantly surprised about the weight loss it didn’t take long before I started to get a bit bored of the meal.
Coincidentally my canteen at work also introduced a pho-style noodle dish and although it isn’t wasn’t a regular feature, I tried it and liked. It could use a little bit more flavour but the idea behind it is essentially a very Pho style dish. I began to have it every time it was on the menu and embarrassingly a few months on, I still go for it when i see it. This coupled with the Costco one meant I pho was almost literally coming out of my ears!
In any case I saw all these things as a sign that I need to try and cook this for myself. I went about in search of ways to incorporate the flavours I’d been enjoying with ingredients I’m more familiar with in my kitchen and seeing how I could vary things to keep my taste buds excited. I’m quite an adventurous person when it comes to food anyway but I love asian food particularly, be it south-east asian or Indian.
My favourite Pho-style recipe so far is this chicken noodle soup one I’m describing to you below.
Things you’ll need:
- Fresh veg ( I chose carrots, spinach, and spring onions)
- Fresh herbs ( I chose fresh parsley and my all time love fresh coriander)
- Dried noodles of any kind (I went for egg noodles in the world foods aisle of my local supermarket – no special brand but I’ve since also stopped up on vermicelli rice noodles, glass and udon noodles.
- Vegetables: 2 sticks of lemongrass sliced, a small Thai red chilli whole, 5cm of galangal or ginger roughly chopped, 3 shallots finely sliced, 5 mushrooms finely sliced, 1 handful of fresh parsley, 1 handful of fresh coriander and half an onion also finely sliced
- A fillet of raw chicken (or more if you love your meat) sliced to around 2.5 cm pieces
- Fish sauce
- Soy sauce
Now I know this seems like a lot of ingredients but the payoff is out of this world.
I chopped everything up and set it all aside on 2 plates (raw meat and fresh vegetables). and then fried off the chicken in 2 tablespoons of oil. I really didn’t even need that much because I cooked it on a low heat and it cooked in its own juices. I didn’t let it go brown and set it aside once done.
I boiled a pot of water and added the galangal, half the onions, chilli, some fish sauce and a sprinkle of the parsley and coriander. I left it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the water had changed colour and gone a bit brown, I had a taste and found that all the flavours had blended together perfectly. Then I took out a colander and poured in the remaining ingredients including the cooked chicken. I stirred until the dried noodles were softened and submerged in the now broth. I then put the pot lid over the colander and left it all to simmer for about 4 mins. And that was it, voila! With some soy sauce to taste I found a new reason to love Pho.
I later discovered another wonderfully ingenious way to eat Pho thanks to a blog called careergirldaily. I found I could add all the ingredients into a mason jar and just add hot water when I get to work and leave the magic to happen. The only thing that required prior cooking was the meat or fish of choice, if indeed you want meat, but it’s perfectly yummy without. The rest of the ingredient just cooked in the sealed mason jar. I will be writing another post all about this new way of making the dish.
Here are a few pictures of some of my experiments and I hope I never get bored with this type of food.