When I was in Los Angeles last month, I was completely inspired by a simple dish in an adorably lit (with micro and white Christmas lights) outside Vietnamese restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard called PHOnomenal. I wasn’t particulary starving…just wanted something small, simple, and favorable.
I heard of pho…and I am sure I’ve tried it years ago, but it wasn’t very memorable to me. It was just a soup with some spaghetti and veggies at an Americanized restaurant. This was entirely on a whole other playing culinary field. I tasted sour, tart, sweet, spicy and these sensations were all happening in the same bite. The savory thai basil…the sour kick of the broth..with a healthy squeeze of lime… and all of those wonderful rice noodles were soaking up all of these exotic flavors.
The flavor that was the most unrecognizable to my pallet…I finally figured out…was the fish sauce. As I experimented in making my own pho…at first…I tried different quantities to see how close I could get it to how it tasted in LA…then, I added more fish sauce on top…mixed it in…and I was transported back to California in that gorgeous lit up patio slurping up those fabulous noodles and veggies and meat again! Now…that will be my new “happy place”.
PHOnomenal Beef Pho
1 1/2 lb NY strip steak (paper thinly sliced)
3 tbsp sesame oil
6 cups low sodium beef stock
2 stalks of bok choy (sliced in 1/2 inch pieces)
10 shiitake mushrooms (thinly sliced)
4 scallions (cut into matchsticks)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tbsp ginger (finely chopped)
1 tbsp sea salt
2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
8 oz rice noodles
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
4 jalapeños (sliced with a mandolin on the 2nd to thinnest setting)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup Thai basil leaves (whole leaves)
1 lime (cut into 4 wedges)
salt & pepper to taste
In a deep dish, fill it with warm water and place the rice noodles in it to soften for about 15 minutes.
In a hot pot, add sesame oil and saute the ginger and garlic until the garlic is slightly bronzed (not burned). Add the scallions until they wilt slightly, then the mushrooms and bok choy. Add the beef stock and let it get to a boil. Add the softened noodles and the beef and let it cook about 2 minutes. Add the bean sprouts. Salt and pepper to taste.
Take out the green flecked rice noodles and create a small tower of noodles in each bowl (divide among 4 bowels). Ladle in the broth half way up the bowl, so you can still see the noodles. Distribute the fish sauce evenly in each bowl and mix slightly so all of the noodles absorb its flavor. Scatter the Thai basil, jalapeños, cilantro and take a squeeze of the lime in each bowl of pho. PHENOMENAL!