SOUPSONG HAS GONE HARDCOPY!
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(Vietnamese Beef-Noodle Soup)
The ultimate comfort food--and a snap to make once you get hold of all the ingredients. This version is the "most-accessible-to-Westerners," called tai. Foodwriter Thy Tran notes, "Depending on personal tastes, variations on phó would include crunchy tripe, tender long-cooked brisket, savory beef balls, silky tendon" or come as a light chicken version, phó ga. A good phó restaurant's menu would be expected to list at least 15 to 20 of these." Whatever your preference, this soup is delicate but filling; fragrant and satisfying--and historically interesting. According to Thy, phó is a blend of Mongolian beef hot pot (the Vietnamese were the only people who defeated the Khan's invading armies--that grilled their meat on their shields and made "hot pot" soup in their helmets), Chinese spices, and SE Asian herbs. And what does it actually mean? Phó means "your own bowl"--that is, something that you garnish and eat individually, not to be shared, as most other Vietnamese customarily are.
Serve hot as a meal in great big bowls to 6, with accompaniments and a bottle of chili-garlic sauce (Tuong ot Toi Viet-Nam, if you can get it) on the side. With love and thanks to once friend--now beloved daughter-in-law--Angi for addicting me to this marvelous soup.
Cook the noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain (or follow package directions for whatever noodles you're using).
Heat spiced beef stock, lime juice, and nuoc mam in a large non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the broth for about 30 minutes.
Arrange green onions, basil, bean sprouts, chiles, and lime slices on a platter.
When ready to serve, distribute the noodles evenly among the deep bowls, then top with meat slices. Pour the hot broth over both, filling the bowl, and serve immediately, with porcelain spoons and chopsticks and with the platter of accompaniments, nuoc mam, and chili sauce on the side.
Okay, one last note from Thy, who writes about going to a purist phó house in San Francisco: "Although I often order tai on the side, I've never before had a separate bowl of hot broth brought to the table for cooking the meat. I remember my mom saying how much she hated it when the broth was clouded by the tai slices (which is why she would have a little pot of stock for dipping the meat before ladling in broth from a bigger pot.) But I thought that a little much even back then. Still, she'd have been proud of how clear my broth was to the last sip."