Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pho Mushroom Soup with Oysters and Arugula

     Soothing, Savory and Healthy!
     Pho translates to noodles or rice noodles.  Pho noodle soups are popular these days.  I have published a few pho soup recipes that are traditional Thai or Vietnamese.  Some are modern style pho creations.
     Pho creations?  The truth is, if a pho entrée is made with Asian ingredients, then it probably has already been made thousands of times in the past  Asian cuisine has traditional recipes that have not changed for thousands of years and many more that have never been written.  Asian style fine dining entrées are among the most popular of today's food trends and this adds to the mystique.
     Pho soups are very healthy and comfortable.  There are so many variations of pho soup.  Mushrooms and seafood are a classic pho flavor combination.  Oysters are excellent in soups or stews.  The fresh ocean flavor of oysters combine with the mushroom broth in a nice way.
     The health benefits of shiitake (shitake) and enoki mushrooms are well known.  They both are immune system boosters and they slow the aging process.  Dried shiitake have more of an anti aging effect than fresh shiitake because the active chemical compounds are freed during the drying process.  
     The Asian market that I went to had some of the best looking fresh shiitake that I have seen for a few months, so I could not resist!  The oysters were fresh shucked farm raised oysters that impart a gentle flavor to a soup broth.

     Fresh herbs are used to garnish a pho soup.  Usually a generous amount of fresh herbs and sprouts are served on the side.  The fresh aromatic items are added to the hot broth at the table.
     Szechuan Pepper was used to season today's soup broth.  Szechuan Pepper comes from Prickly Ash trees.  Szechuan Pepper has its own distinctive flavor.
     The broth is made with rinsed salt packed seaweed and sun dried anchovies.  Sun dried anchovies taste like a mild savory fish (umami) and they are not salty at all.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large portion of noodle soup!
     Ikan Bilis and Wakame Broth: 
     This is a Japanese style fish and seaweed broth that only takes a short time to prepare.
     Step 1:  Boil 4 cups of water over high heat in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of small sun dried anchovy.
     Add 1/5 cup of chopped rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Step 2:  Boil the broth for 10 minutes.
     Step 3:  Pour the broth through a strainer into a container.
     Discard the anchovies and seaweed.  (The discarded seaweed and anchovies actually can be used to make other recipes, like a marinated salad.)
     Set the broth aside.
     Mushroom Soup and Noodle Preparation:
     The soup can be made while the pho noodles are cooking.  Shocking 
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling to cook the rice noodles later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil.
     Add 2 thick sliced large shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 1 thin sliced button cave mushroom.
     Stir fry the mushrooms, till they are lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add 2 pinches of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add the reserved sun dried anchovy and wakame seaweed broth.
     *Now is the time to cook the rice noodles!  Be sure to continue making the soup while the noodles boil.
     Step 4:  Cook 1 portion of Vermicelli Rice Noodles in boiling water over high heat till the noodles are tender.  When the noodles are fully cooked, drain the hot water off the noodles.  (Rice Vermicelli take 10 to 12 minutes to cook.)
     Step 5:  Bring the soup broth to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add 4 or 5 very thin slices of peeled fresh lotus root.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Boil the soup, till the rice noodles are ready.
     *The volume of the soup broth should be about 3 1/2 cups.  Add water if the volume is too low.
     Pho Mushroom Soup with Oysters and Arugula:
     It is best to have all the finishing ingredients ready ahead of time, so the soup can be quickly assembled!  When placing the ingredients on the surface of the soup, try to arrange them so they look nice.
     Step 1:  Add 2 large shucked farm raised oysters to the boiling soup broth in the pot.  (The shucked oysters should weigh 3 to 3 1/2 ounces apiece.  The oysters only take a a minute to cook.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of the oyster liquor.  (oyster juices)
     Step 2:  Pour the steaming hot soup into a large soup bowl.
     Mound of the rice noodles in the center of the soup.
     Try to expose the two oysters on the surface of the soup.
     Step 3:  Place 2 julienne sliced snow peas on the soup.
     Step 4:  Place a small bunch of trimmed enoki mushrooms on the soup.
     Step 5:   Garnish the soup broth with a small amount of each of these vegetables and herbs:
     - Very thin sliced onion ring pieces
     - Thin sliced green onion
     - About 12 cilantro leaves
     - About 12 arugula leaves
     - roasted nori seaweed chiffonade  (Chiffonade = thin ribbons.  Use scissors to cut the roasted nori seaweed sheet into very thin strips.)
     Step 6:  Place 1 large sprig of Thai Basil on the edge of the soup.
     *Serve with bean sprouts, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño, arugula leaves and more Thai Basil sprigs on a side dish.

     This is a great tasting and healthy pho soup!  Break out the chopsticks and an Asian style soup spoon for this noodle soup entrée!

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