Perfectly real

“The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment, every sin already carries grace in it.”

– Hermann Hesse

Sometimes I get cravings that are easy to satisfy – chocolate, pizza, a fresh peach. Other times the memory of a specific food will keep popping up in my head, pushing me to search for it. A few months ago, I started daydreaming about pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with a rich and unique flavoured broth. It had been a few years since I’d had a good bowl of pho and I wasn’t quite sure where to find the best place to order it in our new hometown.

My husband and I went on a hunt to find the perfect pho. At the first place, we discovered they didn’t serve Vietnamese food, only Thai. We settled for delicious spring rolls and pad thai, but it didn’t satisfy my craving. Then, someone recommended the best pho place in town and we tried to find it a few weeks later. Sadly, we were given the wrong name and could not find the place anywhere! Next, we decided to try another place recommended to us. It was a further drive away, but we were told it was worth it. My tastebuds were tingling at the thought of finally devouring a bowl of delicious pho. However, we arrived and the door was locked – they were under renovations for the first two weeks of January! Our search was leaving us empty-handed.

At this point I decided to find a recipe and make it myself. Interestingly, most of the recipes I found were for “faux pho” – a concoction that tastes similar, but nowhere equal to, the real thing. Intrigued, I researched further to learn that the secret to “perfect” pho is in the broth, and that each little restaurant in Vietnam has their own secret method of preparing it. Real pho requires toasting spices like star anise and boiling beef bones for days! Since I knew that was never going to happen, and I really wanted some pho, I decided to attempt a simpler recipe.

My version here is a combination of a few different recipes. And while this one might not be considered the real thing, it was as close as possible to recreating the taste I was longing for. Sometimes when you are searching for something your heart desires, the best place to start is at home. And my “faux” pho was more real than any of the perfect phos that we never even got to taste! 

Faux Pho

Ingredients

  • 6 cups homemade or good quality chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • ½ tbsp Chinese 5-spice powder*
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 pkg bean sprouts
  • 1 pkg rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 pkg thai chili peppers
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha red pepper sauce

*Note: Chinese 5-spice powder is a blend of different spices used in traditional Asian cooking. It often includes star anise, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel and various other spices.

Directions:

  • Cook and shred chicken ahead of time. Set aside.
  • Finely chop green onions. Set aside half, and stirfry the other half in oil in a medium soup pot for 2 minutes. Then add broth to the pot along with Chinese 5-spice powder. Bring to boil and then simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and soy sauce to taste as desired.
  • Prepare rice noodles according to directions on package.
  • Set out 6 bowls. Divide cooked noodles evenly among bowls, filling about ⅔ full. Then place on top of the noodles in each bowl: ⅓ cup bean sprouts, 2 sprigs of cilantro, 1-2 basil leaves, 1 chili pepper, 1 tbsp chopped green onion, and ⅓ cup cooked chicken.
  • Pour hot broth over noodles to fill the bowls. Serve with a wedge of lime.
  • To eat, squeeze lime over soup. Add hoisin and sriracha sauces to taste. Stir herbs and veggies into the soup. Remove herbs or eat around them. Prepare for slurping!

Author

  • Monica deRegt

    Monica is a freelance writer and works as a Guidance Counselor at Abbotsford Christian School.

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