Saturday, February 6, 2010


So, as you may have heard, the entire Washington Metro has effectively shut down for fear of an apocalyptic snow storm that began midday yesterday.

My car, as of about noon, Saturday. 
Photo by Jake

Yes, we have about 20 inches of snow so far. What to do? Yes, that's right... cook. I joined the throngs of foolish idiots both Thursday night AND Friday morning and braved the markets - first to HMart (this was the weekend we were supposed to go), then to Giant. As a result of NWS and other "officials" making recommendations that people should prepare for up to 5 days, they of course, began ransacking the stores, stocking up like it was Y2K all over again.

First project: Homemade pho.

I've been on a major pho kick lately, and poor Jake (who does not believe "soup is a meal") has been a good sport, and been dragged from pho house to pho house over and over again.

So, I finally decided to try my hand at making it. I used two recipes as reference texts, one from Serious Eats, and one from Viet World Kitchen (at the recommendation of one of the commenters on the Serious Eats post). I didn't exactly stick to either recipe, and had somewhat mixed results.

First, I did follow the advice of @aqnguyen and charred the onion and ginger first. I'm not sure if this really helped for the ginger, but it sure smelled nice. Additionally, since I do not have a large 12-quart stock pot, I tried to use two small stock pots. But, I'm not sure I had enough bones, onions or ginger for this. My stock, after the initial 2-3 hours, was a bit watery.

The onions and garlic got added to 4 lbs of beef soup bones (as they were labeled at the HMart. Fairly cheap, not a bad buy. And the tendon meat that fell off these was out of this world) and a bunch of spices. Star anise, cinnamon, cloves, white pepper (my addition), crushed garlic cloves - skin still on, and fish sauce (I accidentally bought oyster sauce and substituted). I also had a half bunch of cilantro leftover from tacos, which I split, and tossed into each pot. I split these ingredients among the pots and covered each with water. After 3 hours, I tasted and, although my house smelled amazing, the broth was disappointingly watery.

The stock went back on for another two or so hours. I tried keeping the pots uncovered and at a high boil, in attempt to boil down the stock, and intensify the existing flavors. I also added some salt, and more oyster sauce. I tried transferring most of the bones and seasonings into one pot, to try and intensify the flavors, while allowing the other pot to boil down even further.

Finally, it tasted delicious. I pulled as much tendon and soft meat from the bones as I could. Loaded up my bowl with noodles, raw slices, the tendon...

Then ladled in the boiling broth, bean sprouts, cilantro, pepper slices and lime juice. YUM.

Was it perfect? Of course not. My broth is way darker than it's supposed to be. I strained it many many times, but I know there's still some stuff (broken bits of cinnamon stick, mostly) floating around. 
Was it delicious? Of course!! And it's amazing to have a big bowl of pho waiting for me at any time! I think if I were to make it again, I'd probably buy the soup bones, and boil them storebought stock (there's a good one I get for mul naengmyun that I like) with the spices in a satchet -- but probably not start entirely from scratch again. It took too long, and was kind of a pain! 

Dreaming? of a magically clean kitchen, so I can get to my next snOMG/snoMAGGEDON cooking adventure!!


  1. Cool wheels. Did you get a new car?

  2. Parents gave it to me when I moved out here! Couldn't drag the 22 yr old Volvo across the country.