July 20, 2016

classic Vietnamese favorites at home

Split yellow mung beans in the light batter made these Vietnamese crepes or banh xeo quite unique. Traditionally filled with shrimp, other meat like chicken and pork may be substituted. I also used sauteed ground pork cooked with coconut milk. As with many Vietnamese specialties, these crepes were served with beansprouts and fresh herbs like Thai basil and cilantro.

Vietnamese crepe assembly

To complete our Vietnamese meal, I also tried to cook Vietnamese pho for the first time at home. I didn't feel the need to cook it at home before because we used to go to a very good Vietnamese pho restaurant but lately we haven't been there much. I do miss and crave the taste of this popular Vietnamese soup.

A platter of herbs, lime, jalapenos, beansprouts and mushrooms to complete a bowl of pho (shown above). The mushrooms are not traditional but it was a nice addition.

I got 3 pounds of beef marrow soup bones at our local grocery to make the pho. I also got some lean round beef cut for the thinly sliced rare beef that was also essential to complete a bowl of pho. Fresh ginger and a whole onion are usually charred on a hot grill or roasted in the oven. Spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves were also added to the water. I used the Instant Pot pressure cooker for the broth. I later learned that the broth was best made a day ahead and refrigerated to intensify the flavors. The extra fat was skimmed off the surface before reheating. It was a bit time consuming to make but the result was a full-flavored soup broth.

The most important part of pho is the broth. It's just not right without the classic combination of flavors. Before serving time, simmer the broth. Soak the rice noodles in warm water for a few minutes to soften them. Pour boiling water over the noodles or place in a colander and dip in boiling water for a few minutes until fully cooked. Drain well. To serve, place the cooked noodles in a serving bowl, arrange a few slices of very thinly sliced beef on top then ladle the hot broth into the bowl. Top with beansprouts and lots of fresh herbs. Serve with lime and sliced jalapenos.

This particular recipe for Pressure Cooker Pho from The New York Times was my guide for the ingredients and process to make the pho.

earthy shimeji mushrooms from the Asian market

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