Friday, September 24, 2010

Pho Ga, Pho Bo & Vietnamese Spring Rolls from Heidi with Love!



I couldn't decide what to make, I was criss-crossing the globe in my mind, when it hit me; the perfect dish was right down the street.  A couple of weeks ago I got a terrible cold, and one evening there was a knock on my door, it was Heidi, her daughter Amanda and mine are friends.  She had heard I was sick and brought me a huge pot of Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup), with all the condiments and all the fixings to make spring rolls.  I was overwhelmed by her thoughtful and kind gesture.  When I was well, I couldn't wait to return the favor.  I asked Amanda what her favorite dessert was, and set about making a cheesecake to bring her.  We started talking about food and I mentioned how much I had loved the soup, and she wanted to teach me how to make it.  She even offered to take me to the Asian grocery store to get the right ingredients.  The more we talked, the more I realized how much we had in common.  Heidi came to American as a young woman for a better life, but she enjoys nothing more than cooking her homelands cuisine.  She confided in me, she was worried her daughter was starting to like American food more than Vietnamese.  This really struck me, because growing up my mom was always encouraged to be American and fit in and here Heidi was fighting to not lose her heritage.

I came to her house prepared to take notes and she started cooking for me, she said it is easier for me to show you than tell you.  She thinks her English is bad, but I didn't think so at all.

Pho Bo Broth:
2-3 lbs. beef with bones
1 lb. beef, sliced paper thin
6-7 qts. water
1/4 cup star anise, whole
3 sticks cinnamon
3-4 tbsp. fish sauce
1 whole yellow onion
a couple inches of fresh ginger root
1 large piece crystal rock sugar
salt



As she was giving me directions, she kept getting this look on her face and finally I asked, "What gives"?  She was too embarrassed to correct me, but I kept saying fo, when it's actually pronounced fuh.  After we had our giggle and broke the ice, things went a lot easier.

She shared her favorite fish sauce with me:


On a baking sheet she placed the onion and ginger and baked them in a 400 F degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Peeled the outside skin off and put them aside.

She had a pot of boiling water on the stove, put the beef in it and cooked it for about 5-10 minutes; to get out the impurities like blood.  Then she emptied the water and put fresh on to boil, added the beef, onion, ginger, rock sugar, fish sauce and a tablespoon or so of salt.  I loved the way she measured; she used an Asian soup spoon.  Turned it down to simmer and left it on for about 2 1/2 hours.  Skimming off the scum, she said, the fat is okay to leave in the broth. 

In a another pot, she put a couple pieces of ginger, a handful of the star anise, cinnamon sticks and about 2 cups of water.  Let it boil, then turn down to simmer.  You skim the top off this spice mixture and add it to the finished stock.  Do not boil the spices in the stock mixture.


After the beef is cooked she takes it out and slices it paper thin and sets it aside.


I was admiring her knife and wanted to help; she pulled out a brand new one and said, "I will sell it to you, because it is bad luck in my culture to give away knives".  "Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way", I said.

She had me slice the onions, following her paper thin ones was a challenge.  Then we washed herbs, cilantro, Thai basil and mint.  Soak in water with a little salt and rinse a minimum of three times, she told me.

The noodles she likes to use are fresh rice noodles (Bahn Pho).


To cook them, she keeps a pot of hot water on the stove, not boiling she says.  Puts the noodles in a strainer, lowers them into the water for a few seconds till soft, removes and drains them.  

I helped her put the condiment plate together, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lemon wedges, and chilis.  On the side, she gave us plates with sriracha sauce and hoisin sauce.


She pulled some egg rolls out of her freezer too and cooked us those and showed me how to make fish sauce to dip them in.


She put some noodles on the bottom of the bowl, some onion, and herbs, then placed the raw beef and cooked beef on top, then ladled on the hot broth.


Then we got to go sit down and eat our masterpieces.

After we'd spent the day together and it was time to go, I asked Heidi, "How much do I owe you"?  She replied, "$1.00".  That was all she would take, I gladly gave her a dollar and I'm still thinking how I can I ever repay her.  She told me, she loves sharing her recipes, and she will call me next time she is making something else.

I hope I honored Heidi's gift by sharing her and this recipe with you.  I know what you are thinking, what about the Vietnamese spring rolls, I will share them with you on Monday.

Gina

46 comments:

  1. I thought about tackling some Asian cuisine but I did not have the courage. Great job on the second challenge! Loved also where the idea came from. Food is very often, and should be, about sharing and loving

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  2. Gina, you are amazing! I want one large bowl of beef noodle soup!
    I wish you a wonderful weekend!
    Angie

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  3. Congratulations on making it to Round 2. Good luck on surviving the deadlines!

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  4. I love pho, but never even thought about making it at home. This looks so good.

    Such a great story! Congrats on advancing to round 2! Good luck...

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  5. Sara, thank you, your post is great too!
    Angie, thank you, I admire your work so much!
    Judy, we are going to try our best!

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  6. yeay for Asian dish! i'm a fan of beef noodle soup and yours definitely is gonna have my vote! ;)

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  7. Congrats on moving to round 2- love your posts!

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  8. Congratulations Gina!! Great post for round 2. Pho is something I've loved every time I've had it. Now, with great step-by-step instructions maybe I'll tackle it at home. Kate @kateiscooking

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  9. Congrats moving on the second round! I love the story behind this. So nice to have a friend to cook for you! Even better to have the a friend to relate to food-wise and share her food culture with you! Great post. This looks so yummy!

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  10. Congrats on advancing to Round 2. The soup looks awesome, Heidi sounds like a real gem.
    Good luck!
    LL

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  11. A very sweet story. I felt like I was right there getting to know Heidi and the correct way to pronounce Pho. Good luck!

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  12. Gina, Congratulations on moving to Round 2. Your story and recipe shows the power that food has to bring people together and share their love of food and friendship with each other. Have a great weekend.

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  13. Fuh is my favorite :--) I swear! Great post and thanks for the lesson.

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  14. WOW! I've been wanting to make some pho too but didn't have a recipe. This is one of my favorites! I eat this year round, even in the heat hehe. Thanks for sharing Gina and congrats on advancing! You got my vote (=

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  15. Great Post! I have been wanting to learn how to make this for some time now. You have my vote!

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  16. Gina, I loved this story. Preserving and passing on my food heritage is something I enjoy. And I think it must be even more important for recent immigrants. I'm glad Heidi is concerned about Amanda losing that important aspect of her culture.

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  17. Lovely post! Good luck with the rest of the challenges :) I'll be cheering from the sidelines!

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  18. Congrats on moving to the second round :o) What a lovely post and great looking pho!

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  19. What a thoughtful friend, and a cleaver for only $1! If you're thinking about how to repay her, maybe she could use some cooking lessons from your culture, or you could teach her how to make a cheesecake.

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  20. Thank you everyone, Heidi is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and I look forward to sharing more of her.
    Shirley, Thank you for that wonderful idea, that would be perfect!

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  21. This recipe is truly a gift in so many ways! I'm so glad she shared it with you and you in turn shared it with us. I love Pho (yes, I said fo, too!). I have been dying to make it myself but in the absence of a tried and true recipe, I have resisted the urge. Not anymore. Thanks to you and Heidi I will be giving this one a try. Thank you so much and best wishes in the challenge!

    Best,
    Veronica

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  22. I hit the wrong button! Anyway...thanks for your comment in my blog this morning! Good luck in Round 2...this recipe..and the story are great. I love pho, but have never thought about making it at home!!

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  23. This is such a beautiful post! You know I'm a sucker for the warm n' fuzzy posts. I think food is the best way to become better acquainted with people and their cultures. And that broth looks so fragrant, it makes me wish I had some right now. You have my vote (of course) :)

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  24. I want a neighbor like you! Or your neighbor :) This looks so comforting.

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  25. I love pho, and it is a great dish for the less adventurous since it has many familiar ingredients! Best of luck to you!

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  26. How great for you to have such a compassionate neighbor. This was a great choice for PFB #2

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  27. Wow, I loved this post! What a great chance to learn a new recipe and get to know your friends and neighbors. I love pho too, I have to make this!

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  28. Gina,
    How lucky are you? I am so jealous because Pho is one of my favorite soups, and to be taught by a Vietnamese woman how to make it, how great for you. I will be trying out Heidi's recipe, please thank her and thank you for sharing with all of us. Congrats on advancing to round 2, I will see if voting has begun yet.

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  29. I so wish I had a bowl of this right now! How generous of Heidi to share this with you! Tell her thanks for me ;)

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  30. I'm so glad to have found your blog! I love Pho and have long wanted to make it - thank you for shoing all the packages etc. It will make it so much easier for me to find everything at the Asian grocery. You totally have my vote!

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  31. I love Pho, but I guess I have been mispronouncing it all this time too. Good to know that it is "fuh." Great post! You have my vote in the challenge.

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  32. Looks like a bowl of love! Wonderful story, thanks for sharing.

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  33. Aww homemade soup makes everything better. Pho is just amazing awesome--and probably awesomer (not a word) since you had a real tutorial in what the best ingredients are. Awesome post! Now go make some spring rolls for us!

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  34. This looks amazing and quite an impressive feat! I can't tell you how comforting a hot bowl of pho can be, especially on a rainy day. I loved your story and photos, especially the one with the meat cleaver... reminded me of my mom since that's her knife of choice too ;)

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  35. Gina this is marvelous. Wonderful photos and I just loved reading about the soup from start to finish!
    Super job Gina.

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  36. Great job! I had a bit of trouble with the comment procedure. This may be my 2nd comment. GREG

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  37. You get my vote for so many different reasons. One big one is for all the work you put in for making this incredible pho! I can't wait to make this at home!

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  38. Fantastic entry...already voted but wanted to leave a comment too :) Great job :)))

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  39. Love pho,but have never made at home! What a wonderful neighbor and friend you have. I already voted for you :-)

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  40. Wow, I can't believe that you made that dish. What an undertaking. It looks amazing. Congratulations on this round and a beautiful entry.

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  41. What a sweet story! Just voted for you - good luck!

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  42. I'm so in love with pho!! yours looks delicious! now I want a bowl :)

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  43. Really great job! It is not easy to cook Pho. You didn't take any shortcuts and it looks delicious. I love mixing hoisin sauce and Sriracha sauce for dipping the meat. You got my vote!

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  44. yum, pho is the best! we voted for you!

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