Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Happy Day


     Some days are just perfect. Even if you have three classes and then a lab practical, sometimes you are in a really good mood. You come home, you go to the supermarket, and let me come out of my dreamy tone for a second: Did you know that Supreme Shop and Bag on 43rd and Walnut has spices for 99 cents????  They have bags and bags of beautiful spices. Finding that out was probably the start of my dreaminess. So, I bought the amazing star anise you see above and the coriander seeds. And what did I need this bounty for?

Best Dinner Ever. 
     Pho. The soup that is the joy of Vietnam. The only thing I ever get at a Vietnamese restaurant even though I always say I will order something else -- how can I order anything else when I know there is pho simmering away somewhere in the kitchen? It's even one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite foods! (Pride of the travel channel? Amazing host of No Reservations? Anyone?) I have been wanting to make it for so long. I bought pho noodles and pork shoulder in Chinatown for that sole purpose. Today, I finally got a chance to make it! The joys of not scheduling any work.

How to Make Pho Noodles
     So, I bought my spices. I toasted them, tossed them in my big pot with chicken stock, water, onion, fish sauce, and the pork. Forty-five minutes of simmering later, I had the best food in the world. The rich, flavorful broth, noodles to slurp, and tender pork all topped with the crunch of onions and the freshness of cilantro and lime juice. I want more just writing about it, especially with my empty bowl staring at me. My pho tasted just as good as restaurant pho - and I didn't even have to leave the house.

Cilantro, lime, onion, fish sauce, hoisin sauce-and the empty bowls where pho was.
     Now, I get to sit, blog, and watch Friends with PN. I am pleasantly full of pho, and I have writing part of my kid's book to look forward to. That's not sarcastic- I'm really looking forward to writing, finally. And, best of all, PN is Vietnamese and she loved the pho! I am very happy with the day. Second best of all, there is still a little pho left. I love knowing I will get a good meal tomorrow.

Pork Shoulder Pho 
Adapted from Guilty Kitchen        

Serves 2 

For the Soup:

1 Star Anise
2 Cloves 
1/2 tbsp Whole Coriander Seeds 
2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock 
1 1/2 cups Water
1/2 Mid-Size Onion, Finely Chopped 
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder (or a small chunk of Fresh Ginger) 
1/2 tbsp Sugar 
1 1/2 tbsp Fish Sauce   
1/2 Pork Shoulder (about 1/2 lb) 
1/3 pack Pho Noodles (about 2 cups) 

To Prep the Pork Shoulder:

Cut the skin and fat off the top of the 1/2 lb piece of pork shoulder. Trim some of the excess fat off of the sides. Cut it in half. Then, place it in a large bowl filled with water

To Cook the Soup: 

First, pour the chicken stock, water, chopped onion, ginger powder, sugar, and fish sauce in a large saucepan without turning on the heat. Stir them to mix. Then, place the star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds in a frying pan at medium heat (without any oil). Toast them for 3-4 minutes until they are fragrant. Once they are done, pour them into the saucepan. Place the pieces of pork in the pan as well. Turn on the heat to medium-high, and bring the pot to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about forty five minutes. Turn off the heat, pull the pieces of pork out and cut them (careful, it will be hot) into smaller pieces. Place them back in the broth.

For the Noodles:

Find a rounded sieve or colander whose insides will fit inside a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with enough water that the sieve would be submerged. Bring the water to boiling and reduce the heat slightly, enough to keep the water boiling. Place half the pho noodles in the sieve, and dunk it in the boiling water. Use chopsticks to stir the noodles around in the water till they are soft. Then, transfer them to a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the noodles.

For the Toppings: 

1 Lime, Cut in Half 
1/2 Onion, Sliced 
1 Handful Cilantro
Hoisin Sauce 
Fish Sauce 

Put your soup in a bowl, add noodles, and top with the toppings! It will be so delicious. 

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