Pho-Inspired Noodle Bowl

Most of the recipes I picked this week are from My New Roots because she’s become my new obsession due to the elimination diet I’m on. She has some really good recipes on her site and she has a cookbook out. I preordered mine but it was on back order, then I get an email from Amazon today saying it’ll be here by Tuesday! YAY!

I’ve been missing Asian dishes and got all excited when I found a bottle of coconut aminos to serve as a substitute for soy sauce. I found the pho-inspired noodle bowl recipe as I was going through her entire site. I’ve never ever done that with a site before. Did I mention that I really love her?

The broth had to simmer for an hour in order for all the different flavors to meld together so I got started early. I started with a HUGE onion I had that ended up weighing 23.55 ounces. She calls for 2lbs of onions but I thought this one would be enough. It converted to 1.47lbs which is close enough for me.

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Then she calls for some ginger slices with the skin on. I’ve tried several pho recipes and have never come across one that calls for the skin to be left on, but then again I’m no chef either.

And then here’s where the the interesting ingredients come in: cardamom pods, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. I know cardamom is used in Indian cuisine but I never thought to put it in pho.

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When I smelled the pods they had a kind of spicy smell. I can’t relate it to anything but it kind of reminds me of Christmas potpourri. You know that spicy hint underneath the cinnamon? It’s kind of like that. My Flavor Thesaurus hits it on the head:

Open a jar of cardamom pods and you might be reminded of a vapor rub or sinus-clearing stick. Like bay leaves and rosemary, cardamom contains clear notes of camphor and eucalyptus. As a member of the ginger family, it also has a citrus, floral quality; depending on their country of origin, cardamoms are likely to be stronger in eucalyptus or floral-citrus flavors. Whichever dominates, those fresh notes are good for cutting through fattiness, especially with ingredients that let the spice’s complexity of flavor shine–e.g., cream, chocolate, nuts or butter rice.

Star anise is probably my favorite spice. Just because it really does look like a star and I think it’s kind of pretty. Whenever a recipe calls for star anise I get a little excited. It’s not often that I get to use these little things.

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Usually you’ll see seeds inside each arm of the star. Star anise usually has a licorice like flavor. My Cook’s Wisdom book says:

Although it has an aniselike flavor, star anise is a seed-bearing pod from a Chinese evergreen tree related to the magnolia. The brown pods are indeed star shaped; each contains eight seeds. Slightly more bitter in flavor than aniseed, star anise is used in Asian cuisine to flavor teas and savory dishes. In the West, it is used in baked goods. Star anise is often used whole or snapped into points, and is also ground as one of the spices in Chinese five-spice powder.

Cinnamon is actually the bark of a tree. We’ve all seen cinnamon sticks, but I never connected the two until I visited a conservatory here with my in-laws while the little one just teeny tiny. I saw a tree that said “cinnamon,” and then I swear you could see a light bulb above my head light up. Check out this site. They have some pretty good information and photos of the trees and of harvesting it.

Cloves remind me of Christmas. Maybe it’s because it’s used in mulled wine and you stick it in your Christmas ham, but they’re tiny little things.

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The Flavor Thesaurus says:

The word clove is derived from clavus, Latin for nail, which, aside from the visual likeness, suits the spice’s hard, direct, hotheaded flavor. The nail association becomes literal in the case of cloute, wherein a clove is used to fasten a bay leaf to half an onion in order to season soups, stews, and sauces. The singular flavor of cloves often sees it paired with other flavors to modify or round it out, although British clove-flavored boiled sweets are one exception; another is the cordial made with pink cloves from Zanzibar, once popular in the south of England and still made today. In Indonesia, the majority of cigarettes are flavored with clove and, when fresh, Thai holy basil has a similar flavor and numbing effect on the lips.

Her recipe calls for coriander seeds but I didn’t have any, so I just eyeballed an amount of ground up corriander in the palm of my hand and threw that in.

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But just incase you’re wondering, this is what the Thesaurus says about coriander seed and it’s a pretty good review:

Coriander seeds have a delicious citrus and balsamic character, not unlike a nice version of those scented wooden balls some people keep in their underwear drawers. They lend a startlingly pretty flavor used as the sole aromatic in cookies or to offset the bitterness of wine when you mull it–after all, their flavor recalls the classic mulling combination of orange, cinnamon and clove. Coriander seeds bring a fragrant, feminine touch to curry powder blends and pastes and to mixed pickling spices. They’re also one of the key botanicals in gin. A spare peppermill filled with roasted coriander seeds could easily get you hooked.

Once all of those spices and vegetables were in a pot, you add some water, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for a good hour. As it came to a boil the aroma from the pot was just SO nice! It smelled like I had just walked into a Vietnamese restaurant.

I couldn’t find any pure buckwheat noodles at the Korean store. Sadly, every single package on the shelf had wheat mixed in. I didn’t want to get any rice noodles because I’m not sure what kind of rice was used to make them (if you recall, I can’t have brown rice). So, I just got japchae noodles, which are also known as sweet potato noodles or glass noodles (because they look like glass and are slippery with chopsticks).

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The Hubs wasn’t too bothered with any garnish or vegetables, so I boiled up some broccoli for myself. Once the broth was ready, I just strained everything out. I did end up adding a splash of coconut aminos to the pot to give it some seasoning, but you can use soy sauce or tamari.

Here’s what my bowl looked like:

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This pho recipe is the closest I’ve come to having a restaurant version from my own kitchen. There’s another go-to recipe that I usually use, but this is by far the closest. I couldn’t use the fennel in this recipe, because I can’t have it, but if I had I’m pretty sure this would have been spot on.

The recipe was stupid easy to make. You just throw everything in a pot and let it simmer for an hour. You can read a book, play on your iPad, facebook, watch a TV show, do your nails, or whatever in an hour. Cooking the noodles only takes about 7 minutes. And if you’re thawing out any frozen vegetables, you just put them in a pot with boiling water and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Easy! If you’re going to use the japchae noodles, I’d probably recommend cutting them with scissors if you’re going to use chopsticks and you’re not all the confident in using them. Otherwise you’ll be slurping up your noodles making you a LOUD eater. ;o)

Enjoy your hump day. Tonight we’re going to have butternut squash lasagna from My New Roots.

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