Friday, March 19, 2010

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Vietnamese is certainly near the top of my list of favourite cuisines in the world. There’s something so simplistic about its dishes, but at the same time so complex when you taste all the flavours working with one another—the savoury, the sweet, the acidic.

duck pho_05

I love myself a good bowl of pho but have never really considered making my own (it’s just too easy to step out and find myself a decent bowl in the city) until the wonderful and super inspiration Eleanor asked a couple of us Twitter foodies to take part in a little pho show and tell.

She needn’t say more to convince me. She had me at pho.

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If I ever get pho at a Vietnamese restaurant, it’s always pho bo, the classic beef pho with slices of raw beef that is pretty much flash-cooked from the scalding hot broth. Loaded with crisp bean sprouts, and lots of herbs and lime, it is comfort food at its finest.

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I wanted to do a little something different for this show and tell though. Pho vit. Duck pho.

To give my stock an extra layer of flavour, I used the carcass of a roast duck rather than making it from a raw duck. What results is incredibly rich stock with heavy hints of anise and other aromatics from the various spices. When I first tasted the stock on its own, I thought it was too salty and would be too overpowering, but trust me, it will mellow out when you serve it with the noodles and lots of lime (that’s how I love eating my pho!). If you do find it too overpowering though, you can always add a little extra water to the stock to mellow it out.

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With the extra meat leftover from the roast duck, you can always serve it with the noodles in lieu of the duck breast. Or make fresh spring rolls with it to serve as an appetizer, wrapping the duck meat in rice wrappers with rice vermicelli, assorted herbs (my favourites are Thai basil, mint and cilantro), julienned lettuce and carrot and mango (optional), and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.

Making pho was an incredible experience. While it did take a little time to make, it was well worth it, and as I sat down to eat it, I took a deep, long whiff. Aaaahhh….this is the smell of pho. The cinnamon…the anise…the lime…the cilantro…all coming together. This is the familiar smell of pho I’m so used to…and I’ve recreated it at home! Try making pho yourself at least once. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

And be sure to check out Eleanor's blog this Sunday for the full show-and-tell!

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Pho Vit (Vietnamese Duck Pho)
Serves 2 to 3

For the pho broth:
2 cinnamon sticks
5 to 6 star anise
6 to 8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
24 cloves
1 dried tangerine peel, soaked and pith removed (optional)
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger, skin removed
1 small onion, skin removed and halved
1/2 bulb of garlic
1 1-ounce piece rock sugar
1 BBQ duck
7 cups filtered water
1 tablespoon fish sauce

For the pho:
1 duck breast
1 bundle banh pho (thin rice noodles)
Handful of bean sprouts, washed and dried
Handful of Thai basil, washed and dried
Handful of cilantro, washed and dried
1 lime, cut into 8 equal pieces, washed and dried
1/2 onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water
1 serrano chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

For the broth: Place all the spices on a baking sheet or a dry skillet and toast on low heat until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Separate the meat of the BBQ duck from the carcass, removing as much of the meat as possible. Reserve the meat for another use.

In a large heavy stockpot, place the carcass of the duck with the 7 cups of water. You can also add the skin and fat if you want to enhance the flavour of the stock, but that is optional. Add the spices, ginger, onion (if you like, you can poke the cloves into the onion before placing it into the pot), garlic, and tangerine peel and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and skim off any foam and impurities. Cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours.

The stock will take on a deep colour and will smell incredibly fragrant after 2 hours. Stir in the fish sauce and taste to see if the flavour of the stock is to your liking; if not, allow to simmer for a little longer.

Remove the stock from heat and allow to cool a bit before straining through a fine mesh sieve, remove all the spices and carcass and discard. (Before you discard, pick off any remaining meat leftover on the bones. This is a special treat for you as the chef—the meat will be super delicious and tender from the long simmer in the spice-filled broth!) Place the strained soup back into a large saucepan or a container and store in the refrigerator overnight.

For the pho: The next day, remove the stock from the fridge. The fat from the duck fat will have congealed overnight, making it easy for you to scoop off and discard. Once all the fat has been removed, place stock in a large saucepan (if you haven’t the previous night) and bring to a boil slowly. Reduce to low to keep warm while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the pho.

Remove the duck breast from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Rinse and pat dry, and using a sharp knife, score the skin in a checkered pattern. This will allow the fat to properly render.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Place the duck skin-side down and sear until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and sear another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, place on a chopping board and let rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Slice the duck breast as thinly as possible, removing the fat if desired.

In a separate, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and place in a large bowl. Ladle over the hot duck broth, covering the noodles by at least 1 inch. Place slices of duck on top and serve immediately with the bean sprouts, sliced onions, fresh herbs and lime wedges. Enjoy!


Don March 19, 2010 at 10:18 p.m.  

Gorgeous! 7 cups of filtered water! 24 cloves of garlic...Tell me next time you plan on making a batch. I'll drive to Toronto just to sample a bowl :)

Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.  

This food looks great!

c h r i s t i n e March 20, 2010 at 5:31 p.m.  

That looks fantastic! I definitely am going to try this recipe.

Eleanor Hoh March 21, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.  

How did you know duck is my favorite? This made me salivate big time. Thank you for joining Pho show and tell, it was fun to see other people's interpretation.

ARUNA March 21, 2010 at 11:56 p.m.  

this dish looks wonderful!

Fried Wontons For You March 22, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.  

Duck and pho together?! What a perfect pair! Mmmm...I can only imagine how aromatic the broth must smell like.

Robbie Nicolaisen March 22, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.  

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about doing a roast duck pho along side yours, but it was in all good fun. Yours is awesome! Wish we all together so we could actually taste one anothers. Brilliant!

HoustonWok March 23, 2010 at 10:15 p.m.  

I love everyone's ingenuity, almost reinventing a classic dish. Great job! I am going to try to make very soon. thanks for sharing

S March 25, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.  

pho is like making a stock- so therapeutic and calming. making it with duck- a fave of mine- is a lovely twist.

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