Thursday, January 28, 2010

Elmer Fudd, Clear as Mud

I have so much to say and share and yet, AND YET, I have the hardest time sitting down to write.  Argh!  So, I’m making a list of things I’m going to blog.  This way, I can remind me and you can remind me and things will get done and shared and recorded for future generations.  A little drama helps.  So, here’s the list:

What we really eat for dinner

New Year thoughts or chosen things to be resolute about

Another fun trip into Dallas and yummy things

Houston happenings

The boy who begins his name with “D”

A few fun things picked up along the way

Garden hopes and dreams

and perhaps, What I actually accomplished last year

Let’s start with what we really eat for dinner.  From time to time friends have commented that we eat “strange stuff”.   I’m sure they  mean this as a compliment…   The recipes I’ve shared here have been very “normal” so today we’ll try something different!  How about some  Pho?  Pho is a delicious anise infused Vietnamese broth and noodle soup served with thinly sliced beef and topped with basil, jalapenos, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime wedges.  Here’s a picture of dinner last week:

Pho wm.jpeg

Who wouldn’t want to eat this?!  It’s absotively delish and a dish my family craves.  It has started a cult following and Pho restaurants are popping up everywhere.  Even little cities like mine.  Which brings to mind, I’ll explain in a bit, why correct pronunciation of the word “Pho” is so relevant.  Years ago when we happened upon our inaugural bowl of Pho, we pronounced it Fo with a long “o”.  We were newbies.  We have since learned that it is pronounced Phu, like Elmer Fudd, without the “Elmer” part or the stuttering  “d’s”.  Is that clear as mud? 

Proper pronunciation became fascinatingly relevant when a Pho restaurant opened nearby, named Pho King Way.  Pronounced correctly, I’ll pause whilst (there’s an innocent and fun word) you sound this out…   See, this kind of talk causes the “under things” of the Grammy Awards producers to go catawampus every year and makes necessary the “5 second delay”.  And it necessitates, that I as a parent and quasi semi-pro Hamster Handler,  ensure when I mention the restaurant that an adequate amount of pause be left between the “Pho” and the “King”. 

On the drive to and from school , as we pass Pho King Way, the teens will mention perhaps a Bubble Tea  stop after school.  The name always leads to a discussion of the pause.  We’ve decided that a proper amount of pause is probably a mile or two.  Makes for long conversation.

Anywho… here is a Pho recipe I adapted for my family that suits us just fine.   I hope you’ll try it and give your friends something to talk about!

Beef Pho      (serves 4)

2 cups sliced onion

4 (1/8 inch) slices unpeeled fresh ginger

5 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

5 star anise

3 whole cloves

1 (16 ounce) package dried, flat, rice noodles

4 (4 ounce) sirloin steaks, frozen or partially frozen

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 bunch of of fresh basil leaves (12 to 15 leaves)

1 lime, cut in 4 wedges

1 jalapeno, sliced thin

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and stems removed

1.  Place steaks in freezer  so that they will be frozen or partially frozen when needed in step 3.  Freezing allows the steaks to be easily sliced very thinly.  The steaks need to be sliced very thin to allow the boiling broth to “cook” them when ladled over the steak.

2.  Combine the 2 cups onion and ginger in a heavy skillet over high heat.  Cook 4 minutes or until charred, stirring often.  Charring the onion and ginger in a dry skillet gives the broth a deep flavor.  Remove from heat.  Combine onion mixture, broth, sugar, fish sauce, star anise and the whole cloves in a large pot.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove onions, ginger, star anise and cloves with a slotted spoon, reserving liquid.  Set aside.

Pho 8 wm.jpeg

3.  While broth is simmering, boil a large pot of lightly salted water.  When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and drop in dried, flat rice noodles.  Let noodles soak for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the brand.  The noodles should be soft but not mushy.Pho 2 wm.jpegRemove noodles from water and divide them into 4 large serving bowls.  Also, while broth is simmering, remove steaks from freezer and use a very sharp knife to cut the steaks against the grain very thinly.  Place sliced steak on top of noodles in each bowl.  (If you would like your steak more “done”, sear them quickly in a very hot skillet coated with cooking spray.)

Pho 1 wm.jpeg

4.  Bring broth to a boil.  Spoon boiling broth over steak and noodles in each bowl. 

5.  Top with vegetable toppings (bean sprouts through cilantro) to your liking.

Pho 7 wm.jpeg Pho 5 wm.jpeg  Let me know if you try it!

A little more info:

Ginger root is readily found in most super markets in the produce section.  If the piece in the store is too big for your use, simply break off the size of ginger you need at one of the small “knobs”. 

Star anise can be purchased in packages at Asian markets or in spice, bulk bins at stores like Central Market. 

Pho 9 wm.jpegRice noodles can be found at some supermarkets in the Asian section.  It’s worth the trip to go to an Asian market to purchase them though.  Make sure to take your kids as Asian markets make  an interesting field trip.  Pick up some fresh steamed buns, standing soup spoons and chop sticks while you’re there!  Here is a brand of rice noodles I purchased at an Asian market.

Pho 11 wm.jpeg

You’ll notice that the ingredients are listed as flour and water.  I think they mean rice flour but some things are lost in translation.


“Do not dismiss the dish by saying that it is just simple food.  The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself.”      Atdulhak Sinasi


  1. Okay, that is hilarious....who knew. I have been using the wrong pronunctiation and I might continue to do so!!! Jake is loving your playlist...he is dancing and playing an imaginary instrument! I love your blog!

  2. Thanks Kim. Glad to know that I can play a part in one little boy getting worn out for a nice loooong nap!