I regret to admit that I am not adventurous when it comes to ordering from a menu. I tend to visit a restaurant because I have a craving for a particular meal and so, I cannot be easily dissuaded to impulsively try something new. Since my first taste of Phở I have yet to discover a dish to tempt me away. The savory broth coupled with the sour lime juice and heat from the sliced chili makes for a light yet filling soup that was so readily consumed last March that it is often referred to the period that we were ‘Phoed-out’. The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipe is from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Frédéric Bazille, Soup Bowl Covers, 1864
oil on canvas, 22 x 35 cm, Private Collection

Bazille was an impressionist painter interested in the effects of light who worked with a dark palette. His peers included Renoir, Monet, Sisley, and Manet although it was the work of Delacroix that inspired him to become an artist. While simultaneously studying art and medicine Bazille struggled to maintain both disciplines. After abandoning his medical studies he submitted two paintings to the Paris Salon but only the still life (Still-Life of Fish) was accepted (1). Like Manet, Bazille disregarded all typical modes of representing perspectival space within Soup Bowl Covers. The covers themselves float upon a dark background with the left cover appearing to precariously balance upon it’s curved edge.

Phở is a beef and rice noodle soup from North Vietnam. Traditionally the broth is made by simmering beef bones with charred onions and an array of spices (cinnamon, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, ginger, and cardamon). The soup is customised by the customer with a variety of garnishes and in Vietnam a species of peanut worm, sá sùng, is added to sweeten the broth as well as a pheromone extract from the giant water bug to lend a spicy note. Phonetically the word Phở is thought to have originated from the French word feu meaning fire. The use of charred onions to flavor the soup is a French influence found in the popular dish pot-au-feu (2).

{Prawn Phở}

adapted from the Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

2 TB coriander seeds
4 cloves
2 star anise
2 liters fish stock
500 g raw prawns
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 inch piece of ginger, sliced and crushed
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce

1 package dried rice noodles, prepared according to the package

Soup Accompaniments:

1 lime, quartered
1 red chili, sliced
fresh coriander
bean sprouts, washed and trimmed
red onion, very thinly sliced

a large pot over medium heat and toast the coriander seeds, cloves, and star anise for 3-4 minutes. Once toasted add the stock, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and sliced onion. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes and add the raw prawns. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the prawns are done. Strain the broth.

the prepared noodles into serving bowls. Divide the prawns and add to the bowls before ladling in the broth. Serve while hot with accompaniments.