A brief exchange about pho over on App.net last week brought on a craving I couldn’t ignore. I really love Pho, especially in the wintertime when spicy, savory and aromatic broth feels just right. (To be honest, it’s great any time, of course. But it’s the kind of thing that feels particularly full of vitality when it’s cold and the sun still goes down early as it does the first week of January.) My mountain town has had a couple of Vietnamese restaurants come and go, and while the current one is hanging on it’s not really anything special. So after having had this vegetarian Pho recipe stored on pinboard for more than a year, I went for it.
The broth is vegetarian except for the optional fish sauce. I’m not vegetarian and intended to put steak in anyway, so I kept the fish sauce for a little bit more funk and saltiness. While the list of ingredients initially was off-putting in its length, it’s really not so bad, and the prep was easy because everything goes into a big pot in big chunks (including the garlic, no peeling required).
After a couple of hours simmering, the whole pot gets finely strained and you have this cinnamon- or mushroom-colored broth. It’s really lovely. We ladled it over medium-rare bison steak and garnished with bean sprouts, basil, peppers, lime and scallions. It was everything I was hoping for: Spicy from the fresh peppers and ginger and headily aromatic with anise, with just a bit of sweet balance coming from the turnip and depth from the mushrooms. Really good pho at home, I’m a believer.
By the way, I decided to put the bison steak in partly because a) I had it, but mostly b) I wanted to call this buff-pho-lo.