25. März 2013

Feel-Good-Broth - Pho inspired

I use to eat special foods the day before an exam. In high-school I wore "lucky-underpants", but now I am definitely too old and mature for crazy  polka-dotted underpants. I mean, eating a certain food that is supposed to have magical power is much more appropriate for a 25-year-old, right? Cough.
Oh well, let’s face it: I am a freak when it comes to exams. I totally stress out the day before, crying, screaming, feeling sick. You name it. Two days before the exam migrain strikes and  makes my head feel as if an elephant was doing a step-dance in it. Not a good feeling I can tell you!
I’ll admit, I am probably a little emotional.

To make the evening before the exam as pleasant as possible, I treat myself with good food.
I am that kind of person who rewardst herself for…wait…not having done a thing? Uhm, yes. Don’t judge, please. I am a defender of treats. I think that we don’t treat ourselves enough. Special gifts caress the soul and make our lives worth living. So pat yourself on the shoulder once a day because you are awesome!
Alright, enough said. Let’s return to the main character of the show: The Pho.
As I have already told you, I have rituals before I take an exam. This time, I had soup.
Pho chai to be exact. It was the first Vietnamese food I had in my life and it was love at first bite. Or slurp. Pho is a soup after all.
The evening before this term's first exam was a very cold one. It was snowing like crazy, my shoes were wet and I could not walk fast enough to make my body warm up. I knew that today would be the day for my personal “lucky-soup”. I called my boyfriend and told him, that I had to have Pho chai today otherwise I wouldn’t be able to wright that damn exam because by then I had either died of the cold or of hysteric hyperventilation.  
He agreed on Pho Chai.
When I entered this beloved little restaurant that had evoked the love for Pho in me, I knew, everything was going to be ok. I ordered a kombucha (they serve it in wine glasses with sliced oranges and ice cubes, so fancy) and waited for my love to arrive.
And then we had Pho Chai. The second time in a week. 

I have to say that it is the most comforting food I had in a very long time. The broth is so flavorful, with just the right amount of spices. I have no idea, what they put into their broth (no glutamate!) but it tastes a-maz-ing! The Pho is actually quite simple: fried silken tofu, corn, oyster mushrooms, rice noodles and herbs. Lots of fresh cilantro, mint, Thai basil, and green onions.
The herbs are served in a little basket together with bean sprouts. The broth comes in a tea pot and they pour the steaming deliciousness over the noodles right before your eyes.

One could say, that this soup is nothing special. The ingredients may be simple, yes, but they are so fresh and flavorful that the soup taste like heaven and I cannot stop raving about it!
The only draw back: I am not so good at eating the soup like a lady. But who cares. My t-shirt  says thank you.

As always, I had to try to make this broth at home. The restaurant is cute and cosy and all, but it is also a little expansive. Since I do not want money to rule my food world, I created a soup at  home that’s delicious enough to serve as an alternative. Like I've said, I have no idea, what original Pho is made of. And I was also too shy to ask the waitress at the restaurant for teh ingredients. Buh.
But the broth I cam up with is so delicious that I had to share it with you anyways. No matter if I call it feel-good-broth, it was definitely Pho-inspired.

The recipe makes enough for 2-3 people and you can get creative with the add-ins. I followed the green theme and it tasted great, but feel free to add any vegetables you like.
For a very simple and light snack, just have a cup of the broth. I think it tastes best on its own and I will totally make it again when the cold strikes again.

P.S.: Sadly, I cannot tell if this soup really is a "lucky-soup". I am still waiting for the results of my exam but it definitely helped my buzzing head calm down. No headache the next day. Yay!

Ingredients (Serves 2-3):

6 cups water (1.5 litre)
knob coconut oil
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves, crushed*
2 stalks lemongrass, crushed*

1 bird’s eye chill3 cm ginger root, peeled
1 large sweet onion, cut into 8 pieces
2 carrots, coarsely chopped into 2 cm pieces
2 parsley roots, coarsely chopped into 2 cm pieces
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fleur de sel or coarse sea salt, more to taste

Add-ins:Noodles of choice (rice, soba or spelt) to serve 2-3 people
1 cup peas, cooked
250g Oyster mushrooms, sliced and pan fried, seasoned with salt and pepper
Chopped greens, slightly sautéed and seasoned

Mint leaves
Cilantro/coriander leaves
Thai basil (did not have any, but tastes great!)
Scallions, chopped

In a large pot heat coconut oil. Add in garlic cloves, lemongrass, chilli, onion and ginger and roast for about a minute in medium heat. Then add carrots and parley root. Mix well until the vegetables are coated with coconut oil. Deglaze with soy sauce and water. Bring soup to a boil and simmer on very low for 1 hour. Remove from heat and leave covered for one more hour. Using a fine strainer, drain the broth to remove the vegetables and seasoning. Add salt or soy sauce to taste. Reheat slightly for serving.

Cook noodles of choice accoring to package directions, drain and place into bowls.
Arrange noodle bowls with vegetables and herbs of your choice, cover all with broth and serve hot!
Serve with more fresh herbs.

*Tipp: I did not mince the garlic and lemongrass.  I just crushed the cloves and the white part of the lemongrass with a rolling pin. Works great and makes straining easier!

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