Four of my girlfriends and I do a dinner party rotation, where each one of us takes turns to host the others every two weeks. This dinner party idea started three years ago, when we all moved out of home around the same time and wanted to practice our cooking skills. It’s a sweet deal, you get dinner cooked for you every second Wednesday, and you only have to cook every 2.5 months. The rules of dinner party are: you must cook a main and a dessert; and you must cook something you’ve never cooked before.
For my dinner party on 12 March, I decided to make Pho for the main course. I love Asian food, but I tend to buy it, rather than cook it at home for myself – I decided that Pho looked like an easy but tasty option. Traditionally, Pho is cooked by boiling a broth with beef bones and spices…but I don’t have time to sit there and make 6 hour broth and we had a vegetarian coming! So I decided to wing it and try something the end result is a delicious bastard-child of a few different Pho recipes – it came be customised for vegetarians and omnivores alike, and it took less than an hour!
This make 4 decent sized bowls, and two decent left meals.
2 onions, peeled and halved
6-8cm chunk of ginger, peeled and halved lengthwise
8 cups unsalted Vegetable stock (you can make your own, but I just used pre-made carton stuff)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
6 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons Soy or Fish sauce (Soy if you’re going proper vegetarian)
2 carrots, chopped in to large chunks
Packet of flat rice noodles
Packet of Vermicelli rice noodles (optional, I love these noodles, so I put them in to give some extra texture)
Vegetables of your choice – mushrooms, bok choy etc
Meat of your choice (for the non-vegetarians, optional)
Method – Broth:
- Place the halved onions and the ginger pieces on a hot frying pan, and heat until charred and blackened on the outside. This can also be done under the grill in your oven or you can hold the pieces over an open flame, using tongs – but I don’t have access to an open flame and my oven smokes really badly when the grill is on.
- In a deep sauce pan on a medium heat, add star anise, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds and garlic – stir to prevent burning. When the spices are cooked enough to emit a strong scent, add stock.
- Add the cooked onion halves and ginger pieces, carrot and fish/soy sauce to the broth.
- Bring broth to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes (you can leave it longer if you like, for a deeper flavour – just keep tasting until you get the flavour you are happy with). Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.
Method – Noodles:
- While the broth is simmering, prepare your noodles by placing them in a large bowl and covering with hot water. Leave to soften for 20 minutes. Drain.
- In a noodle bowl, place the desired amount of noodles on the bottom. On top of the noodles, put whatever vegetables you’d like to add – I used bok choy – and any meat for the non-vegetarians (I used scotch fillet steak, thinly sliced and cooked medium rare).
- Ladle broth over noodles, usually between 2-3 cups per person.
- Serve bowls with noodles and broth, with toppings and sauces in the middle of the table so that people can help themselves.