Alright, so I have confessed my deep-running distaste for all things pie. It felt good to get that off my chest, though I’m sure the backlash will be brutal.
But for today, I wanted to talk about something that I absolutely love: soup. I love soup, really. Cream soups, bisques, broths, noodle soups, wonton soups, anything really. I have several different restaurants that I love to get a particular soup from. San Francisco Soup Company, a chain in the Bay Area, has the most delicious Tomato Bisque ever. So smooth and creamy and rich, I could eat gallons of it. In San Leandro, there is a small Greek restaurant called Luke’s Grill. It has the best avegolemono, a lemon/chicken/rice soup. It’s made with egg yolks which gives a super velvety, thick consistency to the broth, and the lemon really brightens up the flavor of the chicken and rice, which could be fairly bland on its own. It’s such an unexpected taste, to have a lemon flavored savory soup, but it works so well, you will want to order it in every Greek restaurant you step into. Incredibly filling but refreshing.
Right next door to Luke’s is Le Soleil. Le Soleil is a Vietnamese restaurant that serves fresh spring rolls, Vietnamese coffees, vermicelli plates and Pho. Pho, for those who have never had it, is a rice noodle soup served in a very light and specially seasoned broth. It comes in all sorts of flavors, the most popular though seem to be chicken, veggie and pork. It’s a great soup, and Le Soleil’s is particularly good. Gingery, sweet broth with an assortment of fresh veggies, just barely cooked through. The dish is almost big enough for two (or one incredibly hungry blogger) and it’s generally very inexpensive (Shawn and I can usually eat for under $20).
So for all the dozens and dozens of bowls of Pho I have eaten over the years, I’ve never attempted to make it. I always figured that the broth would be too difficult to figure out, that I would have to search down expensive, foreign ingredients, and that it would take hours of simmering and stewing to get everything just perfect. I don’t know why I thought that was the case, but nevertheless, I convinced myself that it would be better to not try my hand at it.
But then this month, while perusing the newest issue of Bon Appétit, I stumbled across this recipe: Faux Pho. An easy, quick, simple way of preparing Pho at home, and making it with beef, which I had yet to try. Well, I absolutely had to try it.
I added my own spin to the dish. First, I substituted lemongrass for the onion; none of my family are onion eaters, so I omit them from most recipes. The lemongrass give it a nice little kick and really helps to flavor the oils before adding in the broth. I also omitted the anise star, but that was because I didn’t have any; next time I would definitely add it in. I also added in some sweet potatoes for depth and texture, and green snap peas for crunch.
I decided to follow the recipes suggestion to use Raman noodles instead of rice noodles. I figured with the heartiness of the beef, Raman would go better than the light and subtly-flavored rice noodles. I just used regularly packaged Raman noodles (Ichiban) and boiled them in plain water; the broth would provide plenty of flavoring for them without using those overly-processed-super-salty packaged seasonings. I finished the bowls off with a lime wedge and a handful of bean sprouts (which my sister Caiti calls “crunchy water”. Yeah, she’s a little weird.).
This soup was so flavorful and so delicious, I know it will work its way into our regular rotation. Which is fine by me: definitely always on the lookout for some new, delicious soups. But I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. THG
Simple Beef Pho
(Based on this recipe)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 stalk of lemongrass, trimmed and sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 3” piece of ginger, thinly sliced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cups organic beef broth
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups green snap peas, stringed
4 packages instant Raman noodles, boiled to al dente and drained
2 1/4 lb. piece of beef round, sliced on diagonal to 1/8”
2 limes, quartered
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until almost smoking. Add lemongrass, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to oil. Cook until garlic is browned and lemongrass becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add broth, water and cinnamon stick; heat to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low and add sweet potatoes. Simmer while flavors meld and sweet potatoes cook, about 10 minutes. Add snap peas and cook another 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Add beef and cook until sides are browned and centers pink, about 30 seconds. Spoon broth, veggies and beef over Raman noodles in soup bowls. Garnish with bean sprouts and lime wedges.