Friday, 20 February 2009

Phở Soup? Phở Sure!

It's 0 degrees Centigrade outside, snowing, and I have the feeling my throat might explode. This is why A.) I'm at home, B.) I made soup for lunch (the actual subject of this entry). I've been sick now for what seems like forever (my cabin fever is growing more and more acute). First it appeared that I had a cold worsened by two rather long plane trips back to Munich, then suddenly I had all-over aches and a really high fever and presto, it was the flu. Now, I'm back to the oh-dear-my-ow stage in which my diet consists of tea, applesauce, and soup with lots of sleep and strange Vietnamese vapor rub. The first two dietary staples being rather easy since they don't require much preparation. But soup. Yes, soup. I'm not the person who lives and breathes for it. It never makes me full and no matter how hard I try I'm just not into things like butternut squash generally and especially not as soup. Soup for me was always too much work or came out of a can or sachet. This all changed when I met phở, a yummy Vietnamese bullion-based soup with rice noodles, meat and a selection of fresh green things like coriander (cilantro), lime, Thai basil, and bean sprouts.
Phở was one of the things I encountered during one of my (I'll admit many) food-deviant phases. I was always a picky eater and the phrase "It's just like chicken noodle soup!" was not going to sway me. The first time I ate it I was ten maybe, and with my best friend and her mother. Her mother used the "It's just like chicken soup!" line, but the taste of Cilantro was too much of a giveaway. I refused to eat it.
Flashforward to eighth grade in northern Virginia. We moved and needed a place to eat dinner. We headed over to the Rosehill Shopping Center off Franconia Road. I remembered wanting to go to Kingstowne or wanting something like pizza or chicken tenders. But the parents chose Phở Kim, a small new Vietnamese restaurant that only had soup on the menu. I wasn't happy about it. I think in fact I was quite petulant. Even once I tried the wonderful spring rolls, and phở I still had to pretend I didn't like it to avoid the "See, it is good, see it's like chicken noodle soup!"
Many bowls of phở later I live in Munich and long for a Phở Kim-like replacement. I guess sooner or later I was bound to try to make it myself. I headed into the asian grocery store close by (mostly because I figured these wouldn't be as scary as the ones in Glasgow where really only Asians shop and everyone doesn't speak English) I found it to be fascinating (need fresh banana leaves? look no further!) and full of beautiful ceramic bowls, plates, teapots and just about everything you could ever need to make any sort of Asian dish. I ended up with frozen Vietnamese spring rolls, some phở bullion, fresh coriander (aka cilantro), bean sprouts, spring roll dipping sauce, rice noodles, and some Thai imported A&W Root Beer. (who knew?) I stopped by another store to pick up some chicken and set off home to make some dinner. When I got home I ended up being too tired so I googled recipes and freaked out because it seemed like I needed about 50 more ingredients and 2 more stove burners (I only have two electric burners, no oven, and no microwave...the perks of short-term leases for students studying abroad!)
I woke up this morning and just figured I'd go for it (that and the help of Soon, Then's Blog entry on phở...brilliant!) I made a few mistakes ...such as forgetting to use the bean sprouts I had (also changed a few things, like using phở bullion instead of the spices) And it would have been nice to use chop sticks...but the results were more than I was expecting. I was so proud I even took pictures. (On a side note, the spring rolls were great...definitely worth the money since I don't really have enough room to attempt them from scratch (one of these days)...that and I am more than obsessed with spring rolls...and finding the perfect one...). Anyway, that's about as much as I can take at the keyboard right for more tea and probably another nap...


Z said...

the cilantro, I think, is the best part!

that looks so good, I'm jealous!

Russell said...

I was so confused by your use of the word coriander at first. Perhaps it is just lost in translation. In America, "coriander" is used when referring to the fruit (the seeds). "Cilantro" is used when referring to the leaves. Therefore you wouldn't say, fresh coriander, as people associate that with the seeds. Anyhow, just one of those things I guess.