Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Simple Pho Seafood Soup






     A Simple Pho! 
     There are no hard to find exotic ingredients in this recipe.  The ingredients can be found in nearly every grocery store.  I just wanted to post a pho soup recipe that does not require searching for exotic ingredients or fresh Vietnamese herbs, for those that have no Asian food markets or specialty markets nearby.  I also wanted to keep today's recipe simple so the readers that are not familiar with Pho do not shy away, because Pho soups are so healthy to eat!  

     Thin rice noodles are called "Phở" in Vietnam and this style of soup is spelled as "Fo" in Thailand.  Pho is pronounced as "fuh" with a short "U" sound. 
     Pho usually refers to rice noodles, but this traditional definition can vary a bit.  In many noodle house restaurants, Pho simply refers to the Vietnamese style broth soup with noodles and just about any kind of noodle that the chef or guest prefers is added to the soup.  I have had Pho made with glass noodles (bean thread noodles) a few times in Vietnamese restaurants and the chef chose this type of noodle because it best suited the theme of the soup.  

     Pho is usually served in a large bowl with plenty of clear broth.  Any kind of broth or mixture of broths can be used that best suits the featured ingredients.  Light vegetable broth is the most popular choice.  Aromatic vegetables are usually added to the broth.  A wide variety of raw meat, prepared meats or seafood can be added to the broth as a featured ingredient. 
     Vietnamese cuisine makes use of a wide variety of fresh herbs.  Lemongrass is often used to flavor a Pho broth.  At Vietnamese and Thai noodle house restaurants, fresh herb sprigs and bean sprouts are usually served on the side, then the guest adds the fresh ingredients to the hot broth at the table.  Lemon Mint, Perilla, Rice Paddy Herb and Thai Basil are popular choices for accompanying Pho.    

     There are several traditional ways to cook rice noodles.  Many Vietnamese cooks soak the rice noodles, then steam the noodles, just like cooking rice.  Boiling rice noodles is the easiest method.  Shocking the rice noodles in ice water is not traditional in Vietnamese cuisine, because this is a tropical climate cuisine and ice is kind of a natural rarity.  
     The rice noodles can be cooked and cooled in cold water, then set aside for later use.  Cooking rice noodles too far ahead of time will result in pasty soft noodles that are not very appealing.  It is best to cook rice noodles to order or shortly before preparing a recipe.

     Simple Pho Seafood Soup
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of Pho!  Pho is usually served as a generous portion size.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of vermicelli rice noodles in boiling water.
     When the noodles are cooked al dente, cool the noodles under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the vermicelli rice noodles and set them aside in a bowl.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3 1/2 cups of light shrimp broth.  (The excess liquid will evaporate as the soup boils.  About 2 3/4 to 3 cups will remain by the time the soup finishes.)
     Bring the shrimp broth to a boil.
     Step 3:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 thin sliced shiitake mushrooms.  (Substitute button cave mushrooms if none are available.)
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red chile pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Fish Sauce.  (Thai or Vietnamese Fish Sauce is available at most grocery stores.  Substitute soy sauce if none is available.)
     Add 1 baby bok choy that is cut lengthwise into fourths.  (Add 1 handful of sliced cabbage if no bok choy is available.)
     Add 4 thin slices of daikon radish.  (Substitute turnip or parsnip is no daikon radish is available.)
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion strips.
     Step 4:  Boil till the vegetables just start to become tender.
     Step 5:  add 5 cleaned mussels in their shells.
     Add 6 peeled medium size shrimp.
     Add a 5 ounce piece of white fish filet.  (Pacific Cod, Swai or Tilapia filet are good choices.)
     *Do not stir the soup, after adding the seafood!  The seafood only takes a few minutes to become fully cooked.
     Step 6:  After the seafood is fully cooked, add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Add 5 or 6 snow peas.
     Remove the pot from the heat.

     Presentation: 
     Place the cooked vermicelli rice noodles in the center of the bowl.  (The soup broth will be hot enough to reheat the noodles.)
     Use a slotted spoon to place the seafood and vegetables around the noodles in the bowl.  Try to arrange the seafood so the finished soup looks nice.
     Slowly pour the broth over the noodles to reheat them.
     Garnish the soup with 1 large sprig of fresh Thai Basil.  (Use fresh Broad Leaf Basil, if no Thai Basil is available.)
     Serve with bean sprouts on the side.

     This is a healthy bowl of simple pho soup!   

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