Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pho At Home and Other Delightful Shit

Given a random Thursday night off I decide to hit the Asian markets and get into an rather involved cooking project: Pho.
I think I'm getting pretty close to dialing this one in at home. Obviously I don't have access to the master stocks that Vietnamese restaurants keep going for long periods of time, but I was happy with the results anyway.

To start the process you'll need to make stock. To me there's nothing more relaxing than getting stoned and doing this at a relaxed pace. Maybe wake up, get coffee, go to Pat's Meat Market to get supplies, and then come see me at Downeast Beverage where i'll provide you with one of my new favorite morning beverages - Fruit Beer. I know what you're thinking - "Magic Hat #9 sucks" or "I'm all set with Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde Ale now that I'm not in 8th grade anymore" - and I agree. These beers, however, changed my mind:

Dogfish Head Festina Peche, Delaware

You get the flavor of fresh peaches, while the beer is very tart and dry. Serve it ice cold with breakfast.. delicious.

Unibroue Ephemere Apple, Quebec
This reminds me of Unibroue Blanche de Chambly with a finish of Granny Smith Apples. French fries with good mayonaisse makes a perfect pairing - and I also like to drink it while I sit and stare blankly at my computer screen trying to figure out what the fuck I should blog about.

Now that you've got your frosty beverage, time to make stock.

5 lbs chicken necks
4 lbs pork necks
4 chicken feet (i'm not sure if this actually helps but I like to think it does)
3" piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into 3 pieces
4 scallions
1 head of garlic, halved
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 white onion, quartered

Rinse the necks and feet under cold water and place them in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and bring just to a boil over medium high, skimming any shit that comes to the top as you go.
Add the ginger, scallions, onion, garlic, and peppercorns. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer partially covered for at least 4-5 hours. I often let it go 9 or 10.
Strain the stock and let it cool. Remove the layer of fat from the surface and freeze if not using within a day.
I like to portion the stock out into quarts and half quarts. The half quarts are perfect for preparing ramen noodles for a late night after-work snack.

For the Pho:

One Whole Chicken, cut into 4 pieces (try to have as much marrow exposed as you can -It makes the broth very rich)
3 quarts chicken stock
6 cloves
4 star anise
2 small cinnamon sticks
12 oz. dried galangal (thai ginger)
grilled ginger and onion (about 2 knobs ginger, 1 white onion)
1 package fresh rice noodles (you can get them at Haknuman Meanchey on forest ave.)
1 sliced white onion
picked cilantro
chopped scallions

For Garnish:
Vietnamese basil
fresh mung bean sprouts
lime wedges
hoisin sauce
sambal oelek
sliced chilis

Bundle the spices up in cheesecloth, as well as the ginger and onion (separately).
Place the chicken into the cold stock and bring to a boil over medium high, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.
Add the bundles of spices and ginger-onion and reduce to a simmer. I also toss in a pinch of salt. Cook for about an hour and a half, partially covered. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool, letting the broth continue to simmer.
Once cool enough to handle, pick all the meat off of the chicken. Strain the broth and return to a simmer. Salt to taste. Drop the rice noodles into the broth for about 30 seconds and then divide them into the bowls for serving.
Add chicken, white onion, scallions, and cilantro to each bowl. Ladle the hot broth into the bowl and serve with all of the garnishes.

I generally go to 3 different Asian markets to get my supplies:

Hong Kong Market - Congress St. Right Next to Dogfish Cafe
The go-to for any Chinese ingredients
Sun Market - Congress St. Near Norm's
Great for any Japanese needs
Haknuman Meanchey - Forest Ave Near Haggarty's
I like this market for Thai and Vietnamese items, as well as produce and meat (pork belly, tripe, feet, etc.)

What to drink with Pho:

I think that German riesling would be the obvious choice here. Some of my favorites:

2007 Donnhoff Estate Riesling, Nahe (about 25.99 retail)
I find it hard to believe that a riesling this good is only their "entry level." beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity with a haunting, lingering finish.

2004 C.H. Berres Riesling Spatlese Urziger Wurtzgarten, Mosel-Saar-Ruer (about 32.99 retail)
Similar to the Donnhoff but has a little more age on it. Rieslings from the Mosel tend to really show off elegant slate and lime peel characteristics and this wine is no exception.

2006 George Breuer Rudesheim Estate Riesling, Rheingau (about 19.99 retail)
This is a great wine to shut anyone up who tells you that they don't like riesling because they "don't like sweet wines." Brilliant acidity and notes of limes and petrol dominate here.

2006 Shafer Frohlick Riesling Spatlese, Nahe (About 39.99 retail)

One of the most interesting rieslings I've ever tasted. The nose hints at wet earth and mushrooms, and then the minute it hits your palate it explodes into life with limes and peaches (and yes, I just said it explodes in your mouth).

Some Upcoming Features on this blog:

1. Drinking at Bars in Asian Restaurants
Dietz and I will be getting hammered on ridiculous frozen drinks and sampling the food at Asian restaurants throughout the city. We will be accomanpanied by different guests in the restaurant and alcohol business each time.

2. Hot Dogs and Pretty Girls
I will be searching for the best Hot Dogs in Portland, while accompanied by pretty girls. What's not to like?

3. I will continue to translate the Press Herald reviews for you.

4. Another Review of Miyake (gets better every time)

...And as an extra bonus for actually fucking reading this far, I'll tell you about my Father's day brunch experience at Verillo's Restaurant:

"After getting very little sleep due to being a drunk bastard the night before, my day randomly begins at Walmart. I've been tipped off in a not-too-subtle fashion by my mother that my dad is currently in the market to purchase a gas powered weed-wacker. Immediately memories came flooding back of myself trying to negotiate the fucking electrical cord of the current weed-wacker around the maze of obstacles in my backyard growing up. I also started thinking of how much fun it used to be to weed-wack ant hills. So anyway, I'm at the fucking Walmart feeling like a pilgrim in an un-holy land and I can't find the weed-wacker section. I decide on a gift certificate in the shape of a mug that says "#1 DAD" on it. Perfect.
When my parents had suggested Verillo's (out by exit 8, across from what was previously known as Platinum Plus - now CJ's or something..) for brunch a few days prior, I knew it was perfect. I wouldn't know anybody there, the menu shouldn't present any significant obstacles for my parents or grandmother, and I could be in and out in without any excessive delays. I was told that they were doing a "father's day cookout buffet," though there promised to be nothing resembling an actual cookout going on at all.
The parking lot was a ghost town when I arrived, with the exception of a sky blue Buick and a gold Oldsmobile. As we roll in I question whether or not they are even open. The host/waiter seems to assume that we're lost because we're not over the age of 87. The dining room is quite large, with plastic lobsters and fish all over the walls. It has that musty old restaurant smell - that I actually find a bit comforting at times.
It is not until the waitress starts to take our order that my parents realize that this isn't actually a buffet at all. You get the options of Haddock, Chicken Parmesan, Prime Rib, Fried Chicken - White or Dark Meat, or BBQ Spareribs. They come with a soup, salad, and a side - 10.99. My mother immediately sets in with her usual modification shitshow - sub this for that?, what's in this?, well is it a good baked potato?, etc.. - and finally gets them to add cheese to her house salad and sub clam chowder for the soup of the day. My pulse races and I go into fight or flight mode as my father starts reaming the waitress out about "how we were told it was a buffet on the phone so that's what we expected...." I realize at this point that I'm actually pressing my face into the wine list and fantasizing about being anywhere else.
The waitress, who turned out be 65 but looked about 50, was actually fantastic. She was patient, efficient, nice, and could tell that I was about slit my wrists if I didn't get a drink. I shot-gunned 2 Sam Adams Boston Lagers and at this point I was able to calm down a bit. I ordered the Spareribs, soup of the day - cream of tomato, and salad with ranch dressing.
"You can always tell that a restaurant is good when alot of elderly people go there" my Mom said. While this is completely untrue I will admit that once I had a few drinks I did have a pretty good time enjoying the sheer ridiculousness of Verillo's."


  1. Yay, you're back! And you have really cute grandparents. Can't wait to read your upcoming shit.

  2. hot dogs and pretty girls, huh? can i submit material?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. or wait, do you need pretty girls to look for hot dogs with you? i'll wear something nice. i love weiners. i mean....damn!

  5. your pho sounds very yummy. recently I've been getting heavily into chicken pho. I always used to prefer the beef but I think I may have changed my mind.

  6. "You can always tell that a restaurant is good when alot of elderly people go there"

    That is classic, I love it!

    Also pho has been the perfect meal for all these soggy, wet nights. Wish I could've tasted your pho broth - the recipes I've seen from my Vietnamese friends are extensive and complicated. Looking forward to more of your stuff!

  7. Try putting a char on the onion and ginger first about 15 min. let cool. wash/scrape off all the black bits. cut the root ends of the onion use whole split the ginger and bruise. loose the galangal and the feet. Add two tbsp of toasted corriander, about an ounce of, ideally yellow rock sugar but I lightly carmelize some white. Hit it with a little fish sauce.

    My wife grew up in Saigon. Several trips and bowls of Pho later I hope this helps.

    Love the blog

  8. Thanks Toby,

    I'm excited to try the rock sugar, sounds amazing..

    glad you like the blog!