Faux Pho (aka Pos is tired and hungry and it's cold and she wants tasty soup goodness. NOW.)
I love pho bo. In Vietnam, I ate it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even on the way home from town. Now that I'm back in New Zealand, if I want the delights of this aromatic, healthy and filling soup, I have to fork out an obnoxious amount of money to get it at a Vietnamese restaurant (ok - to be fair, it's about a normal NZ main price, but since I know what it costs on the ground in Vietnam, it hurts paying that price!), OR I have to sacrifice a lot of time (which, given my job, I do not have).
Desperation for tasty, tasty pho goodness led to experimentation in the kitchen, naturally. This version takes approximately 5-10 minutes from start to end, as long as you have the ingredients handy and have pre-boiled the water in the kettle. This recipe serves one person, but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. It will never be as amazing as proper pho bo, but it's quite delicious in its own right, cheap, healthy, and fast. It is also useful for me, because I find it very hard to get all the proper pho ingredients at home, so have tried to come up with a soup whose ingredients could be found pretty much anywhere in the world.
You will need:
So how's about gettin' your pho on?
- Fresh, high-quality steak (but not much - budget about 2 matchbox size pieces)
- Water and powdered beef stock OR liquid beef stock (about a cup and a half, but this is flexible depending on how soupy you like it)
- Flat rice noodles (in the Asian section of your supermarket)
- Asian Flavouring Options
- Vegetable-y bits
- Condimenty things
Bring your water+stock or stock to the boil in a pot. (nb: if you back yourself to complete all the other steps of this recipe in under three minutes, add your noodles the moment it hits boiling; otherwise follow all the steps below)
Meanwhile, find that super sharp knife you keep, and sliver the steak into little pieces. Thin is key! Then lay them out in a single layer at the bottom of a soup bowl. This will ensure you have beautiful, (very) rare, tender beef pieces (if you like your beef better cooked, then add to the boiling stock about 30 seconds prior to serving.)
Also slice up spring onion very finely on the diagonal (ooooh, pretty!), and place to the side. We'll be cooking this at the end.
Find your condiments and place them out. I recommend black pepper (no salt, because that's in the stock and soy sauce), chili flakes or chili oil, lime wedges, and chopped up coriander and mint. Place these to the side too.
Next, scramble through the fridge drawers until you've found your vegetable-y bits. Mung bean sprouts (small handful), thai basil (several leaves), and baby spinach (or green, leafy equivalent - a small handful) do well. Place all of the vegetables into the bowl on top of the beef (we're creating an insulating blanket that will help cook the meat once the stock is added to the bowl).
Is your stock boiling? Excellent! Let's add our Asian Flavouring Options to it! (Oi! Stop drooling on the keyboard. And to the purists, yes, I know these aren't all Vietnamese. But they're fast and tasty!) This is very taste dependent, and also depends on what I find in my pantry, but I will usually add:
Here's where it all starts happening quickly. Throw a handful of the noodles into the boiling stock, and cook until they are heated and hydrated through. When the noodles are almost done, add the spring onion slivers (you can also add the beef at this point if you don't like it rare), and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
Then pour it into the bowl (create a blanket of noodles at the top of the bowl, and leave to sit for a minute to cook the beef and cool down a little), and distract yourself from throwing yourself into the imminent pho by condimenting to your heart's desire. Om nom nom.
With apologies to my Vietnamese cooking instructor, who would be horrified.