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Pronounced fuh it is probably the most well known Vietnamese food in the US. We eat it at home and so I thought I'd post about how it's made in our house.

French colonialists importing Vietnamese managers to their colony in Laos also inadvertently imported pho, coffee, and baguette bread. A century and a half later many Vietnamese and their foods are Laotian.

Above a large cow bone has simmered in a couple of gallons of water for a few hours with a quarter a teaspoon each of sugar, salt, MSG, and one star piece of star anise.

I like lean cow bones fresh from the market in Laos better, but options are limited here. We use regular cow and simply skim any oil off the surface. Not that beef fat isn't tasty, it's just that pho is a light dish. Flavorful but light.

Noodles are from the local Chinese Supermarket, dry rice noodles soaked for a couple of hours then drained.

Above rice noodles (sen fuh)

After the broth and the noodles next of importance is the meat. I like the meat of the foreleg, a cut I never see in American supermarkets, the name in Laotain is kah lai which I guess translates as "leg very much" which the fore leg really is. The muscle looks like pure strength and speed itself, it lays lies like some sort of super fast tuna in the bowl secure in it's silver skin.

After the backstrap and tenderloin the kah lai is the most expensive meat in the market. It must be cut very thinly across the grain and cooked only briefly, but if done right kah lai is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat on a running grazing animal.

The noodles are cooked in boiling water briefly then placed in a bowl. Kah lai pieces are dipped into the boiling broth until done, (perhaps a minute) then placed on top of the noodles. Boiling broth is added to the bowl and then the optional ingredients.

Bean sprouts, deep fried shallots or garlic or onion, thin sliced tomatoes, thin sliced onion, green onions, cilantro, or my favorite a couple pieces of fresh squeezed lime and fresh ground black pepper. My wife has been playing with carving vegetables of late, that's where the tomato rose comes from.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (45+ / 0-)

    “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 10:52:13 AM PDT

  •  I've made vegetarian pho... (15+ / 0-)

    which is delicious, from a vegetarian stock.

    •  ...leans in close... (12+ / 0-)

      Do share the details...

      Thanks for this, bn. Now I've got a hankering for pho, which is wildly popular in DC.

      Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

      by dclawyer06 on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 11:01:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I looked up several recipes online... (0+ / 0-)

        and picked out elements of several that sounded good. First I made a vegetable stock....then the pho. I don't buy that pho is not authentic without meat. But if you are a purist, have at it (referring to some posts below).

    •  Like tomato sauce sans tomatoes ;-) (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilK, martyc35, SteelerGrrl, dclawyer06

      “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 11:21:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  be fair... loved your diary but I'm veggie too n/t (5+ / 0-)
        •  welcome to be vegetarian but all pho begins with a (5+ / 0-)

          bone of a big animal. Pig, cow, elk, horse, whatever. You can even skip the noodles and it's called kao lao, but you can't make vegetarian fried chicken or barbecued ribs or pho.

          I enjoy vegetables and worked in a tofu factory, I grow a huge garden and eat greens like a dog gone cow, but some things require meat, pho is one.

          I'm sure you can order it vegetarian at any restaurant catering to westerners, but not on any street stall in HCM city or Hanoi, Pakse or Huay Xai.

          “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 12:54:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I understand... be we enjoy adapting meat-centric (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock, martyc35

            dishes.    

            I'm doubly sure that what you say about street vendors is true.

          •  Pho can be vegetarian (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ban nock

            It just can't be authentic and vegetarian.  (Yes, I know what pho chay is.)

            Sometimes, we just have to be tolerant of vegetarian pho and other crimes against humanity.

          •  Maybe I can get some bones from a regular butcher? (0+ / 0-)

            Pork bones best?
            I call myself a veggie but, on rare, occasions, used smoked turkey or ham hocks to season(without eating the actual meat).

            I'd be willing to hunt down some rack of beast and simmer it into a faux pho.
            Just wondering if they're equipped for this sort of thing at a generic Safeway or Giant.

            Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

            by dclawyer06 on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:39:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  a lot of soup bones sold at stores are for dogs (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dclawyer06

              so no one worries about freshness. Ribs are greasy. Sometimes asian groceries or if in a big city they usually have meat shops scattered about where you can buy all kinds of cuts. I think beef is the traditional bone I've seen the Viets use, more clear lighter broth. I'm an early riser and often bum some hot water to make coffee before they add the bones. Lots of things go on before dawn in Asia.

              Probably if you ordered Vegetarian pho at most street stalls the translation would be something like pho without meat and that's what you'd get, the stock with noodles and all the trimmings but no slices of meat.

              “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

              by ban nock on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 03:00:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I'm okay w/that... (0+ / 0-)
                Probably if you ordered Vegetarian pho at most street stalls the translation would be something like pho without meat and that's what you'd get, the stock with noodles and all the trimmings but no slices of meat.
                Thanks for the info, I love Asian grocery stores. There's a small one in DC that sells sushi grade fish. It's a godsend and has saved me hundreds of dollars.

                I can make my own chirashi for 20% of the price I'd pay for take-out.

                Feel free to write more Vietnamese food diaries...

                Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

                by dclawyer06 on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:34:30 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Vegetable fajitas!!!! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ban nock

        It drives me crazy since fajitas refers to a cut of meat, not a style of cooking.  It's kinda like saying black bean steak ... might be tasty but NOT the same thing.  LOL

  •  now you've gone and made me hungry... (12+ / 0-)

    I'm thinking of all the fresh herbs I grow all summer - sprigs of mint, fresh basil, oregano, cilantro...wonderful!

    Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

    by Smoh on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 11:09:59 AM PDT

  •  Aaaaa...... (10+ / 0-)

    my favorite was on a side street in Victoria, Canada. Popped into a Vietnamese spot. The weather was cold and rainy and I had a bad cold. I sat inside with the heavenly scent of the Basil wafting into my poor nose and I was comforted by the warm soup.

  •  Just got home (6+ / 0-)

    from the international grocery, what a great diary to come across!  I've got the noodles and veggies, will try this with mushroom broth and tofu tonight.  Any other suggestions for vegetarian pho are welcome :)

    Also, your photography and presentation are fabulous!

    "as long as there last name is not obozo, i am voting for them." -- some wingnut blogger

    by SteelerGrrl on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 11:24:53 AM PDT

    •  Vegetarian Pho (9+ / 0-)

      is quick and easy.  For every quart of vegetable stock,  dry roast in your stockpot 4 cloves of garlic, one shallot, half a small onion,2 whole cloves, half a thumb of ginger and a star anise pod.  As these start to char, add your stock and a tablespoon of soy sauce.   Oyster mushrooms are a good option.  You need the other spices to make up for the missing beef.  

      Simmer for a half hour and assemble with the noodles and veggies.   We serve it with thin slices of sauteed saeitan but fried tofu works well too.  

       

      An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

      by martinjedlicka on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 12:09:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yum! Gorgeous looking too! (7+ / 0-)

    I'm always envious when I see Anthony Bourdain slurping a bowl of Pho on the various tv episodes where he is in SE Asia. Especially when he's enjoying it as breakfast after a night of indulgence;)

    Those nice big cuts of fore leg make me wish I could develop a relationship with a butcher if there was one to be found around here:(

    •  might well be lots running around on the hoof (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martyc35

      so to speak.

      Mid Atlantic states seem over run with little prancing phos.

      “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 12:56:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Trader Joes (7+ / 0-)

    has a frozen pho that's not bad. Not quite the same as when I get it fresh from our local Vietnamese restaurant, but for a frozen just-add-water-and-nuke dish, it's pretty good.

  •  Thanks for this. Great Pictures! (7+ / 0-)

    The local shop where I order chin nac (as I'd never bother with tendon at home) claims their broth is the result of a twelve hour process.  

    Best pho I've had was in Alexandria, VA.  They didn't have elk but they did have goat.  

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 12:23:56 PM PDT

  •  OMG I so love Pho! (6+ / 0-)

    Sounds easy enough to make - I've always thought it more complicated. I've always loved that part of Asia's mix of contrasting flavors - mint, cilantro, basil, hot, sweet, etc.

    We had a small Vietnamese restaurant in the town where I used to work (Haverhill, MA) but, as so many immigrant populations do, they started with a menu that had everything - too many choices for uninitiated Americans to understand. But they did great food and fabulous Pho. I was in nirvana as long as they were open which, sadly, wasn't long.

    Restaurants are just one way an immigrant culture assimilates itself into America. Often they either go way too complex, or they dumb the food down for American tastes. Personally, I've had enough exposure to foods around the world that pretty much nothing intimidates me - I'll try anything once. Sadly, so many Americans don't have the spirit of adventure to try new things. They still think chicken fingers are Chinese food.

    Thanks for the Pho!

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

    by MA Liberal on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 12:36:18 PM PDT

    •  my Asian food adventures began in Chelsea (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan, martyc35

      then later the wrong side of Cambridge. I'd just point and eat what came out. Now haven't eaten at a restaurant in over a decade.

      “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 01:01:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gonna print this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Loonesta, PeterHug

    and sleep with it under my pillow!

    I have been looking for a recipe I can follow.  When I lived in a larger city, I did not think about it becasue I could just goto Crystal"s place and have the best pho in the world (according to me).  But now! I have to travel 1 1/2 hours to get pho.  I asked at the Vietnamese grocery and they looked at me as if I were asking how to boil water.  My friends are not good at giving directions, let alone recipes instructions.  

    So ... thank you, thank you, thank you!

    •  If I had to give a recipe I guess I'd say use (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug

      any bone but watch out for greasy, one can always skim. We've used beef ribs also. I'd use the star anis in proportion too. If making only a gallon maybe half a star. The anise is supposed to be a flavor you don't notice, only by it's absence.

      The noodles are cheap and sold everywhere dry. Just soak, drain, and cook.

      Everything else is to your personal taste. I used to always use basil, now that we don't grow much I never use it.

      The best broth I've had is always very fresh. They get big almost meatless bones from a cow slaughtered that morning and they cook the bones by 5 AM. The broth is clear but silky with a shine to it. Anything left over they pour in the gutter after the lunch crowd.

      I blogged about it here.

       http://laobumpkin.blogspot.com/...

      “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 03:12:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As I like to mention in any pho-centric discussion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, ban nock

    Tripe or tendon, preferably a both, are a must for me.  I look down on any restaurant serving pho that doesn't have a variation including those ingredients on the menu.

    •  Rarely any more, have to shop at the right store (0+ / 0-)

      can't just impulsively have tripe. My kids grew up on it in pho as they can chew it without molars and are still big fans.

      “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 05:57:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I lived on pho all through graduate school... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    anyone who wants pho and is in Cincinnati, go to Song Long!

    :)

  •  A colleague introduced me to pho several years ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    and I eat it quite often. Yum!

  •  I went to a pho restaurant. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    The menu had pictures, so it was easy for a dumb white guy like me. The waiter came to the table, and I pointed to a seafood pho.

    The waiter looks at me and says, "Not for you."

    Points to a chicken noodle pho and says, "This one, for you." Points back to the seafood pho. "This one, NOT FOR YOU."

    So I ordered the chicken noodle pho, and it was excellent.

    "Hey, what's a girl gotta do around here to get a Tiffany's tiara?"--Callista Gingrich

    by The Gryffin on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:56:22 PM PDT

  •  in the mid-90s (0+ / 0-)

    a "Thai" restaurant was owned by a neighborhood family relation.  Week before Christmas, I and my minion were putting in a patio door (in New England, but there's nothing like a homeowners procrastination) and it's 34ºF and snowing.

    I have the day 2 rage of flu, and call it good.  We'll button it up tomorrow.  Around the corner was this "Thai" place... run by Lao, Hmong and Cambodians... a made-up refugee family.
    My neighbors.

    The owner sees me and says:  "You stay here... I make Pho for you, go home.  Put broth in pot, breathe steam.  Add noodle and vegetable.  Eat all you can hot, pour rest of broth in glass, you drink all night.  Come back tomorrow."

    All I could taste was the star anise, lime, lemongrass, and the chili peppers which floated like okra across the top, adding a nice green contrast to the fist full of Thai Dragon Toenails contained in the broth.

    Flu made me impervious... but I asked the Chef the next day:
    "How hot was that?  Five?"  (scale of 1 to 5 in the restaurant)

    He replied:  "I made it like I would for my children - number 8 - they can't eat like we adults do."

    Needless to say, I felt like freakin' Super Man, and trimmed-out the door in short order... treating my minion to a few SinghHa and "Thai" food later that day.

    I've survived "traditional" - number 10 as the adults would eat - that said, sit me with the kiddies, as number 8 is borderline comfortable.

    Hit me up with an email Ban Nock should you do a diary on Indonesian food.  I had it regularly in NY, in a Dutch/Indonesian restaurant, and still crave that trademark sweet/hot balance... and load Sambal onto a great many things, kissed with Ketjap Manis.

    A man who stands for nothing, will fall for anything. ~ Malcolm X.

    by 43north on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 08:14:10 PM PDT

  •  sounds like you are the Pho King ! (0+ / 0-)

    And I am sure your soup is Pho King good!

    :-D

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Wed Apr 04, 2012 at 08:51:36 AM PDT

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