Vietnamese Pho at home

I love noodle soup.  My friend Maureen turned me on to this place called Monta Japanese Noodle House in Las Vegas.  It redefines what noodle soup should taste like.  You have to stand in a long line just to get a seat at their ‘noodle bar’, but it’s worth it.

So living in Northern Arizona we don’t have high expectations for great Asian food.  But I was hopeful when we went to this little Pho MPM restaurant in Flagstaff.  While their pho noodle soup was nice, my standards and bar had been set high by our experience at Monta.  So we opted to go home and make our own.

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There is something just fun about having noodle soup at home.  You can set out all your little fancy bowls filled with a variety of condiments to garnish your soup.  We like, although not traditional: green onions, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, cilantro, and beef…. and of course noodles and broth.

For the noodles, one can use Japanese udon or the glass or cellophane noodles. I find the glass noodles very easy to use.  I like the ones individually tied, so you just take a bunch and put it in a bowl of very hot water to rehydrate while you work on everything else.

The most important part of course is the broth.  There are countless recipes and complicated ways of achieving that unctuous dashi broth.  I do a short cut that yields a fairly respectable and surprisingly delicious broth (albeit not traditional or time consuming).  Starting with a base of homemade chicken broth, which I always have on hand and in the freezer, I add 1/2 – 1 t. of Hon Dashi granules.  Look for it in your Asian supermarket, but this stuff is equivalent to chicken bullion granules, but for dashi.  Just a little bit makes all the difference, and converts your chicken broth to dashi.  I also add a 1″ square piece of Konbu (sea weed) to add that brininess… and just a dash of fish sauce and soy sauce (don’t overdo it), and a touch of garlic (roasted garlic is particularly nice).  Since these are all dry pantry staple ingredients, it makes it easy to make your own dashi…. and pho or noodle soup, at a moment’s notice.

Top with a Korean hot sauce or sliced jalapeños.

While Gochujiang, Korean hot sauce in the tub is all the rage… my favorite smokey-hot-sweet sauce is KIM.

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