When my husband and I first met six years ago, he was eating pho up to five times a week. Our third date was to his favorite pho restaurant. While I avoided the the tendon and tripe version, I didn't shy away from much else. I loved it!
Once we had been dating for awhile, he let me in on a secret. It hadn't been a date...It was a test. If I didn't appreciate his favorite food, I was wrong for him. A willingness to eat pho, he said, showed a sense of adventure and a general acceptance of things that are "different".
A willingness to make pho, on the other had, shows that you've got a case of the crazies.
Not adventurous enough to boil ox tail and beef marrow, I took a short cut and used a pho base. It's basically large tea bag thingies that contain all of the broth flavoring: animal parts, cardamom, clove, sugar, etc.
I figured that taking this shortcut still required a lot of other work, so I set forth charring onion and ginger to add to the simmering base. With no directions on the back other than a picture of the tea bag going into a pot of water, I decided to let it simmer for 40 minutes. When it was done, we tossed in some leftover shredded chicken. The smell was to die for. I felt like I was at my favorite pho joint, minus the Buddha shrine and the little old man serving the statue coffee, tea, and cigarettes.
I soaked some rice noodles in cold water before putting them in the bottom of two bowls. Broth was spooned over it. Soon, we were drooling as we loaded our bowls up with the usual: mung bean sprouts, Thai basil, that long thing related to cilantro, jalapenos, Siracha, Hoisen sauce, red chili sauce, and a smoky chili paste.
With success on my mind, I dug in. The first bite? Disgusting. The second? Worse. It had barely passed my lips before being spit into the garbage can. This pho seriously tested my "two taste minimum" policy.
I'm pretty sure that this would have come out better had I done it the long way, but still don't think I'd have a hit. Frankly, for $4.99 a bowl at the corner pho shop, trying to make it at home is not worth my time or money.
Support your local pho restaurant!