Well, the winter kitchen has brought me another achievement. In my quest to try to create beloved comfort foods from different ethnic traditions, this week brought me to the noble task of trying to create my first phở. I've found this Vietnamese soup deeply satisfying when I've ordered it from restaurants, including a memorable one in Phoenix, where my family tried it for this first time, and Rice & Noodles in Lancaster.
The recipe I chose to follow was from Epicurious: this vegetarian version which read well and allows for lots of opportunity to be versatile with toppings. The process was actually really satisfying in and of itself. I turned it into a two-day task, making the vegetable stock on the first day, refrigerating it, and then using it in the full recipe two days later.
The stock gave me ample opportunity to clear out my vegetable larder a bit, and took about an hour and a half to complete. It felt kind of like distillation, taking vegetables, browning them, and then bubbling them into a kind of rich essence.
The second part of the recipe was also kind of fun. I basically made a second layer of broth based on the first part, this time adding great-smelling spices: star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, bay leaves. I found that the resulting soup still needed quite a lot of salt added to come into balance, which I achieved through adding more soy sauce.
While the phở was bubbling away, I prepared a lot of different extra ingredients and toppings, including rice noodles, sautéed tofu, steamed cabbage and carrots, water chestnuts, and edamame. The green toppings included jalapeno, chives, fresh lime, and--of course--cilantro.
For a first effort, I'll have to say I was pretty satisfied with the end result. While it didn't transport me to those restaurant experiences, it definitely had a lot of interesting flavor, well grounded by the depth of the twice-made broth.
We paired the soup with some fresh summer rolls, some of whose ingredients were doubled from the veggies for the soup. It was a nice crunchy companion.
In terms of wine pairing, knowing that any oak or sweetness would clash with the soup and all of the other flavors, including lots of green flavors, we went with one of our most versatile wines with food: the 2019 Dry Rosé.
So there we have it: one more experience to move the culinary horizon just a bit. Can't wait to find out how far we'll go!