I tried something a bit different today when I was making my soup. I didn’t want to use one of the instant pho soup bases, I wanted to try basing it on a chicken soup base instead. To start out, I did what I tried yesterday: I filled my bowl with water, then dumped it in the pot. I went a bit over on it because I was expecting some of it to boil away. To the water, I added: 2 Tbs of Knorr Chicken Broth mix (from the Chinese section of the asian food aisle – less yellow food coloring and no parsley compared to “regular” chicken broth mix), 1 tsp of Bovril beef bouillon concentrate, 1 tsp fish sauce, and 1/4 tsp of Chinese Five Spice. I actually measured everything this time (except for the actual amount of water I used) and wrote it down. I never do that. I used the Five Spice for the cinnamon and star anise that are in it. Both of those are used in a real pho broth. I have to say that I’m halfway pleased with the results. In the triangle of broth perfection: color, clarity and taste, the color and clarity are pretty close to what I’m looking for, but it’s still a tiny bit too cloudy. Not sure what that came from, but I could probably fix that by straining it through a cheesecloth before serving. Gee, sounds like it’s getting to be a bit more work. The taste, while flavorful, wasn’t quite what I was aiming at. Next time, I think I’ll double the Bovril and cut back on the chicken soup base. Go for more beefy flavor.
While I chopped up the herbs and veggies, I put my noodles on to soak in a separate pot. Halfway through all the cutting, I drained and rinsed them, then put them on the stove to cook. This, as I expected, turned out to be a really important step, extra dishes be damned. My noodles only took a few minutes to cook to the right firmness. I immediately shocked them with cold water, drained, rinsed, drained again and put them in my bowl waiting for my broth to come back to a boil after I added the meat balls and thin-sliced roast beef. With not cooking the noodles in the broth, it didn’t thicken with the added starch and remained nice and soupy (as soup should be).
As you can see from the picture, the color isn’t bad. It’s still moderately clear, so I doubt that I’ll use the cheesecloth. I don’t mind a broth with a bit of body. I only used 3 meatballs, but I cut them up in thirds. I cut off all the fat on the roast beef slices (that’s Schneider’s Mainstreet Deli – Cooked Seasoned Roast Beef for anyone keeping track) which the dog really liked. Even though it’s already cooked (obviously), I like to cut it up and add it to the broth with the meatballs and let it boil away for a bit. I like to think that it helps add to the flavor. It changes the texture if nothing else.
The finished product looked and tasted pretty good. I wish that sandwich steak was cut a bit thinner, but for something quick, which this bowl of soup quest is supposed to be leading, they’re alright. Sure, I could get the meat person at the grocery store to slice up a nice lean eye of round roast for me, or do it myself here at home with the meat slicer, but that seems like a pain in the ass. Some people might be put off by me adding raw steak to my soup, but by the time I get to them, they’re very gently cooked by the hot broth and almost creamy in texture. Very nice. OK, I retract that wish that they were thinner.
I misjudged something tonight. I think it was that I ate more for lunch that I took into account, but I couldn’t finish my bowl of soup… Too full. A very rare occurrence that I couldn’t finish my bowl. I also got some spicy broth directly in my right eye. First bite/spoonful too. Something fell off my spoon and splashed broth right up into my eye as I was leaning over the bowl. Ouch. To make matters worse, I didn’t wash my hands after slicing up the serrano pepper. As I type this, my left eye is burning from where I stuck my finger in it. I rock.