Wednesday, 14 January 2015


It's Katherine again, and with an actual recipe! 

So, back in June, I spent a week in Islington for a graduate design fair. But this post isn’t about that: it’s about a tasty little restaurant that sparked my love of Vietnamese food. 

And that place is Pho- a family run business of Vietnamese foodie enthusiasts! Along with their Islington store they have locations throughout London and a few in Brighton and Leeds. Definitely worth a visit! Plus cute little illustrations of their stores, what's not to like?

Pho (pronounced fuh) is actually the name of the Vietnamese Rice noodle broth dish. It’s typically made with a meat broth that takes hours to develop in flavour, but obviously there are vegan and vegetarian alternatives. The first time I entered the Pho restaurant I had the Phở chay- a rice noodle broth with with tofu and button mushrooms. It comes with a selection of garnishes like beans sprouts, and a variety of herbs that you chuck on to your own taste! Pho is a little bowl of nutritious loveliness. It’s the type of food that leaves you feeling content, revitalised and not over full. 

Since my first visit, I have actually made special effort when in London with the other ‘alf to venture there and share the food. Surprisingly Asian cuisine is our middle ground where we both find grub we like despite the seemingly oppositional taste palettes I mentioned in my intro. I can’t remember my main there, because really the stand out dish was their Spring rolls. Fresh vegetables wrapped in rice paper with the tastiest peanut dipping sauce. SO GOOD. 

With my New Year resolution to be to learn more new recipes, I thought where else better to start than with a Pho! I mainly used this recipe: which is a pretty solid base and I didn’t deviate much. The Pho relies on your broth, which takes time to develop its flavour. So whilst it did that, we made Vietnamese style spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce to go with- the recipes for those are further down!

First, you have to make your broth.  Made from the fine selection of ingredients you see above:

1 large onion, peeled and halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
3-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Vietnamese cassia-cinnamon1 star anise
2 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
(Noodles don’t get cooked in the broth…)

Now firstly, let’s address the first step from the recipe: 

Char onion and ginger over an open flame (holding with tongs) or directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but a broiler is a grill. So if you didn’t know that, I saved you a google search- just sayin’. And as we have an induction hob and no flame device, it was in said grill there that I placed my onions (as we didn’t have a big one) alongside my ginger until it looked like this: 

I hate in recipes where it says things like nearly, or until it looks like this. But then they include no photo to help you realise what this is. So here’s my shot, and hopefully it is somewhat near right. And if you try the recipe and get something similar, I hope this proves some assurance. 

After grilling those bad boys, you toast all of the spices mentioned (and I added an 1/8 of a spoon of fennel seeds too) until you get an aromatic smell emanating from your pan. Then chuck in all of the other stuff -BUT NOT YOUR NOODLES- and get that stuff up to a boil! When the boiling is happening, cover, simmer for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, you get to the toppings, the noodles and time to make yourself a tasty tasty side dish. 

The noodles (200g suggested) need to be covered in warm water and soaked for 25-30 minutes. I did mine about 5 mins after the broth had been simmering away and they were ready in time at the end. But the broth can always wait for you. Here are suggestions for the toppings/garnishes from the recipe:

Toppings (optional): Protein such as fried or baked tofu, bean curd skin, or seitan. Mushrooms. Vegetables such as bok choy, napa cabbage, or broccoli

Garnishes: 1/2 onion- very thinly sliced, 2 scallions- thinly sliced, 1 chile pepper (Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño) 1 lime- cut into wedges, 1/2 cup bean sprouts, Large handful of herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, culantro/saw-leaf herbHoisin sauce, sriracha (optional)

We decided on the addition of tofu and shiitake mushrooms for our toppings. The garnishes pretty much just need removing from any packaging/plant. So you don’t have to worry about them too much in advance. We simply fried off the tofu cubes and the sliced shiitake mushrooms - starting all that jazz about 10 minutes before it needed to be ready. 

(Browning the tofu very gently before adding the mushrooms in until cooked.)

Now, the TASTY side- Spring rolls with dipping sauce. These are super easy to make, are fresh and delicious.  Again, we used a recipe: here as a guide and improvised a bit. 

Ours included: cucumber, green pepper, carrot, spring onion, beansprouts and some run of the mill cabbage. Along with the veggies are the herbs: coriander and mint. 

I did see that a lot of recipes called for Thai Basil, which I didn’t have and couldn't find locally enough, quick enough. So after a google search I learned that mint is a better replacement for the Thai Basil than typical basil! 

For the Spring roll, You simply get your rice paper sheet translucent and pliable through soaking it in warm water, and then fill it up with a bit of each veggie some herbs, wrap and repeat! 


For the Spring roll dipping sauce I used about a quarter of these amounts:

-1/3 cup water
  - 3/4 cup of peanut butter (crunchy I used)
-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
-4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Which I did simply by looking at the measurements actually written on spoons/cups and doing rough division. I didn’t realise that the original dipping sauce recipe I looked at had way more ingredients, but I just whisked these together and it tasted great!

Now this is all done, your broth will probably be ready! After the 30 minutes is up, drain your noodles and place them in a bowl with your cooked topping: I also sneaked in some of the onions and carrot from the broth. Because once it’s simmered away for 30 minutes it tells you to sieve it so the broth is obviously without bits. But I hated the idea of wasting tasty food… (just be careful for seeds and bits!)

Then you ladle over the tasty stock. Add as many garnishes as you want and hey presto! Pho and Spring rolls are ready to be eaten.

Our topping choices were: beansprouts, a slices spring onion, some fresh chilli, coriander and mint, with a squeeze of lime!

Everything ready and ready to be eaten!  This is, I warn, a really filling dish. We ended up leaving some of the spring rolls to eat the next day. If you want to eat both dishes at once, I would recommend only using 100g of rice noodles as opposed to the 200g that is recommended in the recipe. If just Pho, go for the whole amount.

It is really tasty! And if you make it, hopefully you find it tasty too and let us know. 

**SARAH SAYS: I cannot wait to try this. These. ALL OF IT**

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