Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
This week, we’re learning about Vietnam. It’s fair to say that this country is near the top of the bucket list for both Linds and me. It is a beautiful country in SE Asia with a tumultuous yet fascinating past and a vibrant culture. We were daydreaming about everything this country has to offer, from mysterious fog to mystical lagoons and from Ho Chi Min City to Hanoi, while reading this travel blog post:
When the random draw indicated we’d be visiting Vietnam this week, we knew right away we’d be making Pho. Mack and I both love noodle dishes and anything that remotely resembles ramen– we’re always on the hunt for a hearty or unique noodle soup. Pho, pronounced ‘fuh’ rather than ‘faux’, can be made with chicken, beef, or seafood, but traditionally it was made with beef. Read more about Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, in this article by Travel Squire and this article by Pho Vietnam. Many of the really authentic pho recipes involved a broth with several cuts of beef, which would have been tough on our wallets. We decided to go with a more simple recipe for that reason alone:
We found this recipe to be very easy to follow and had lots of great tips about preparing the meat and noodles, and awesome suggestions for garnishes. This recipe only called for beef stock, rather than simmering multiple cuts of beef for hours and hours. I decided to balance budget with flavour and actually went ahead and purchased some beef bones to boil out in the broth along with the store-bought stock. We let our broth simmer for about three hours.
The spice blend for the broth was incredibly fragrant. I had to purchase star anise and cardamom for the first time. Honestly, the smell really added to our Christmas spirit as the aroma of cinnamon wafted through the house. Making this broth was a great experience and it was super easy.
Once our broth was ready to go, we strained out the solids, prepared the noodles, and thinly sliced our steak. We brought the broth back to a rolling boil and then the magic could happen:
A key element of pho is that the raw beef is cooked by the broth! It was such a cool technique to try and we had never done anything like it before. The boiling broth cooked the beef to perfection. You have to try this!
We garnished our pho with fresh cilantro, lime wedges, green onion, sriracha, and our favourite Asian condiment, hoisin sauce. Our pho was to die for. The broth was rich and flavourful, the meat was cooked to perfection, our noodles were the right consistency, and the toppings were great. Of all the noodle dishes we’ve made so far in this challenge (North Korea and Myanmar being the other two), pho is definitely the best and we would certainly make it again.
While we ate, we watched this YouTube video to learn more about traditional cuisine in Vietnam:
Have you tried Pho? Been to Vietnam? Let us know in the comments!