Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

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Daniel Larkin: to Jamey Bennett

November 25, 2014

You like that email name?  I thought you would.

All stupidness aside, I’m really glad you picked Pho for the first throwdown.  It seems like nowadays I can’t look at any social media forum without seeing a hundred people with raging boners for the stuff, so I think the time is right to Two Dudes it.  The real reason I was excited that you picked Pho, though — and it’s time for some brutal honesty here — is that I’ve never even been in the same room as a bowl of the stuff.

This was a good primer into Pho, and to your credit, I was guided by your recipe.  I just tried to adapt it on the fly with the basic ingredients I could find at the local Food City; aka, Food Shitty. This may be like a blind man describing the color red, or Albrecht Dürer’s Rhino.  But whatever it was that I made, it was outstanding!  It was savory, but the spices were light and festive.  It was hardy, but still soft and comforting.  It was vegan, but had the richness of a steak.

The obvious first hurdle was the meat.  I decided that just going tofu instead of beef was a cop-out.  I hate when restaurants do that, because sometimes it’s just the lazy thing to do, so I wanted to avoid that trap.  What I landed on was mushrooms, but not just mushrooms, ponzu marinated portobello.

Ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce, that when made right, adds all five flavors; sweet, sour, tangy, salty, and savory.  (When Kikkoman makes it, it tastes like soy sauce and 7-Up.)  The spices in Pho seemed like they would be a good match for a slight lime taste, so I went with a ponzu and lime marinade.  (Depending on your noodles, the small amount of wheat in Ponzu can the only thing keeping this meal from being gluten free.)

Most of the work was done in the morning, when I started my broth.  I also cleaned the fans from the mushrooms, sliced them, and let them marinate all day.  In cooking the mushrooms, my general rule is that the longer they cook, the more flavor they give.  It just gets concentrated.  So with all of that in mind, let me give you my list of ingredients.  As you said in your email, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s all fairly easy.  And again, I found everything at the local Food Shitty, so there’s nothing weird or obscure here.

For the mushroom marinade:  

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  • 2 large portobello caps, de-fanned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup Ponzu
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (soy sauce as it should be, no wheat or sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 4 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
  • Juice of one lime

Mix in a gallon Ziplock bag, and stash the fridge, turning every now and then to ensure equal contact time.

For the Broth: aka, the star of the show.

  • 1 32oz box of veggie stock.  I always recommend Imagine No Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 onion rough cut — save the other half for the soup
  • 6 cloves of garlic whole
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 oz package of shittake mushrooms  (This is the key to that savory bump)
  • 2 pods of clove (Optional.  The flavor boils off, leaving good aroma – if you like clove)
  • Half bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 3 tbs Tamari
  • 2 tbs honey — or agave syrup if you don’t consider honey vegan.
  • 1 TBS rice vinegar
  • Half bunch of cilantro whole

Combine all of these into a stock pot, bring to a simmer, and let it go low and slow all day.  Strain all the solids off when it’s time to assemble the soup.  It’s really that easy.

Other miscellaneous ingredients:

  • The other half of that onion sliced
  • 3 carrots sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small stems
  • Jalapeño (Optional, but recommended)
  • 5 Spice Powder (Optional)
  • Noodles of your choice (I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles)
  • Cilantro, basil and lime wedges for garnish

With all of the prep work done, assembly is pretty easy when the time comes.

  1. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and sear on high heat in your preferred oil.  Once they are seared and have that light brown color on the outside, turn down the heat and go low and slow for at least 20 minutes, or unit they are half sized and easily chewed.
  2. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth, then add the other half onion for a two minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli and carrots and top off with the rest of the broth.  Simmer until the broccoli and carrots are tender but not mush.  (Hence the thin slice on the carrots)
  5. Taste and see if you need any five spice powder.  I added a little, but probably could have gotten away without it.
  6. Then you just stack it all, with noodles on the bottom, broth, a teepee of mushrooms, and the garnish herbs and jalapeño.

I’m serious, man, this is one of the most flavorful soups I have ever made.  And it’s one of the few soups that is as good the first day as it is the second.  The key is the broth, which is just a vault of scents and tastes that are neither timid or overpowering. One of these days I’ll actually get to try some real Pho, and then I can see how close I actually came. IMG_7333

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

[For the original, meat-based Paleo pho, click here.]

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Paleo Phở with Bonus Slow Cooker Bone Broth

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from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,
I had a great idea tonight to try out a low carb and paleo pho. Last week I made some pastured organic chicken bone broth, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it, then it popped into my head to make some pho! I will definitely make this again. Also, while it kinda sounds like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, it’s quite simple.

Let me start with the broth. Of course, one could always buy a store-broth, but I like to have more control over that, and the health benefits are so much higher from a fresh homemade broth than the high sodium stuff you get in a can. I generally seek out grass-fed beef bones for broth, the omega-3:6 profile is so much better than with chicken, but this was a healthy chicken, so I feel good about it. Essentially, I just put a chicken in the slow cooker all day with a little bit of salt, strained out the meat at the end of the day and had that with dinner. I left the bones in, put in a few cups of water, and added the neck, carrots, celery, parsley, a bay leaf, and a handful of other brothy things, and let it go all night. Strained out the solid matter, and I had a delicious broth.

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I’ve never done pho at home before, so I did a lot of googling of what other people do for their pho and I devised my own from common themes. In no particular order, the ingredients I put together are:

  • 3 cups homemade bone broth
  • Shiritaki noodles (Miracle Noodle fettucini style, or if carbs are your thing, white rice noodles)
  • About 12 ounces thinly sliced sirloin or skirt steak
  • 1 portabella mushroom
  • Five Spice Seasoning Powder (several varieties should be available in the International Asian-ish section of most conventional grocers, just make sure it has at least anise and cinnamon)
  • 4 tablespoons Fish sauce (watch out for added sugars and either find one with little or no sugar, or just limit yourself to 2 tablespoons…four tastes so great, it’s a small sacrifice 😛 )
  • Two small to medium white or yellow onions
  • A heaping cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 radish
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • Two jalapenos (I got green and red for color)
  • Salt and pepper (I used regular sea salt and charcoalized black sea salt from Hawaii, but use whatever)
  • 4 Scallions
  • Minced garlic to taste
  • Cilantro (basil works, too, for cilantro haters)
  • 1/2 lime, cut into four pieces
  • Optional: Sriracha

Prep the meat by poking with a fork or pounding it with a meat mallet to tenderize it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of each piece, and set aside.

Slice the mushroom, onions, radish, jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro and set aside. Also mince the ginger and cut the lime.

Heat up a skillet, super hot, use whatever fat you want, lard, coconut oil, whatever…we’re going for smoke point here. Breaking some rules. It’s okay though. Just this once. Sear the thin beef, 10-15 seconds on each side, 30 seconds if you aren’t blazing hot. Take the pieces aside, and slice thin-ish strips against the grain.

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Oil that skillet back up with some lard or whatever, reduce the temperature to low to medium. Throw in the onions. Give them a minute or two head start. Add the sliced radish and mushroom. Eventually After 4 or 5 minutes, whatever, just make sure you like how the onions are looking, slowly add the garlic and ginger. This is one of those low heat is best treatments. When everything is looking good, slowly stir in the bone broth. Up the heat, bring to a boil, and then scale back to simmer.

Now it’s time to work on the noodles. If you go rice noodle, just follow directions on the package. But I prefer my shirataki noodles, and here’s a brief primer on preparing them. The ones I buy come in a bag, wet, with a solution that smells fishy at first. So what I like to do is rinse them in a collander for about fifteen seconds, and I like to take kitchen scissors and put a few cuts in the middle to make the noodles a bit shorter. Boil them for one minute in water, strain them again in a collander, then throw them back in an empty pan for about thirty seconds to sort of dry them. Set aside.

Now you’ve had five or ten minutes go by with the simmering vegetables and broth. Throw in the jalapenos (deseed them if you want a milder pho), stir in a teaspoon of the seasoning powder, a little bit of salt, and four tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste the broth. Tweak as necessary, but it should be tasting pretty darn good now. Give it a few or five minutes. Add the beef. Give that a couple minutes. Add the bean sprouts.

After about a total of twenty minutes (from the time you added the broth), you should be good. Separate the noodles between bowls (this amount is about four bowls of pho), and spoon out the goods. Garnish generously with scallions and cilantro (or basil), squeeze a lime on top, and if you need an extra kick, add some sriracha.

If you’re willing to accept the challenge, this could be our first paleo-vegetarian challenge. You could easily up the mushrooms and axe the meat, but finding a fish sauce and vegetable broth sub might be more difficult.

Let me know! And enjoy.

PS. If I had it to do over, I’d do more broth, and would have to adjust the seasoning and fish sauce.

Sent from my iPad

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

When the hell did Sriracha become optional?

I did a little research, and it looks like veggie fish sauce does exist, so I’m going to try this. If I can’t find any packaged vegan fish sauce, I’ll try to make it. (That may be a blog post in it’s own right.) I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to crust up tofu like a good seared steak. This may be the time to do it, although I may have to use the tofu as a topping rather than cooking it in the sauce for the last few minutes.

Who knows? I can plan all I want, but I know it’ll all be made up as I go along on the day of.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin 

Yeah, I think a couple of the recipes I read said to just mix the beef in at the end, and I think I even saw one that said to serve the beef raw. I just wanted to make sure the beef was served warm!