Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pho: Chicken Soup for the Asian Soul

Dooods... so sorry for my lack of postings as of late.  I have no excuse.  I simply apologize.

So without further ado:

Two weeks ago, I came down with a cold.  (Hard not to, when you work with germ factories known as children.)  I came home from a long day at work and passed out on the couch.  My body was achy, my head hurt and my sinuses were starting to get clogged.  There was one thing and one thing only I wanted to eat that night.  Pho.  Living in Seattle, Pho is slowly becoming a staple.  It's a simple Vietnamese noodle soup with some vegetables and meat.  You can also get it with tofu and vegetable broth.  Slather it with hoisin and rooster sauce and it doesn't get any better.  It's also super quick, super cheap, super delicious, and super convenient considering there are a ton of places nearby where you can get it.

So I dragged my ass off the couch and we went.  And it was delicious.  And I felt better.  (I still got sick for the whole weekend, but at the time it made me feel awesome.)

Boiling the spices in with the stock and some sweet onion.
Even though it is so easy and cheap to get, I decided that I needed to know how to make it myself.  So I looked around for some recipes and found good ideas and places to start.  I found that the key to making it right is the right spices in the broth: anise pods, whole coriander seeds, and whole cloves.

Note the basil, cilantro, mushrooms, and fried tofu.
So I basically followed the recipe on the above website but started with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.  I also put in Seitan and fried tofu in place of the chicken.  So I made it, and it was delicious.  Just like the real thing.

But.  In order for it to really be like the real thing, you need a cream puff to cool your mouth off from all that rooster sauce.  So of course, I had to make those also.

For that, I started with my sister's tried and true puff pastry recipe she uses every time:

1 stick of butter
1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
1/2 tsp salt
1tbs sugar
4 eggs

Start by bringing the water, sugar, salt, and butter to a boil.  Mix in the flour until just combined and the dough sticks together but off the sides of the pan.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  You can help this by stirring the mixture every couple minutes.  Using a hand mixer, blend the eggs into the flour/butter/water mixture one at a time.  Mix until the batter turns sticky and elastic.  Drop them onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet by the tablespoon-full and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  As soon as they are golden and puffed, poke small holes in them to let the steam out and leave them in the oven, with the door cracked, to cool.  (This way you can help achieve cream puffs and prevent them from turning into cream flats.)

While they're cooling, you can make the custard cream filling.

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tbs corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk

Put the sugar and milk (minus 2 tablespoons milk) in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Let the mixture come to a boil for one minute, stirring periodically.  Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the reserved milk and add it to the milk and sugar mixture.  Beat the egg yolk and egg in a separate bowl.  Add a 1/2 cup of the boiling milk mixture to the eggs to temper and mix quickly.  Then add the eggs back into the milk stirring quickly so that the eggs don't curdle.  Stir until mixture thickens to a pudding consistency.  Add the salt and then vanilla. 

I could probably eat about 47 of these in one sitting.
To this, I also added 2 cups of whipped cream to make it fluffier and filled the pastries.  They were sooooooo good.

We'll be making this frequently.

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