I’ve just discovered a pho place near my office, and somehow, I’m there several times a week. Perhaps it’s because the weather has been bitterly cold and wet these past two weeks, but despite the hundreds of other lunch spots in the Loop, I only ever want a steamy bowl of pho.
There’s just something comforting about the ritual of eating pho. First, you breathe in the salty aroma of the steam and take a tiny sip of the broth. Then tear the herbs and add them to your bowl along with the jalapeno and mountain of crunchy bean sprouts. Squeeze some lime. Another sip to taste. Adjust with sriracha and hoisin until it’s perfect. Slurp your noodles, sip the broth. Slip, slurp, slip, slurp, and so and so and so.
We made Peking duck yesterday and decided to make good use of the carcass. Here it is: duck pho. This could just as easily be done with the remnants of a roast chicken, but I love the added fattiness of duck. Perfect for lazy, rainy Saturday afternoons.
Last night’s duck was so good that there were no leftovers, so we’re using beef in the soup. Duck would’ve been great. Either way, the meat needs to be ultra thin so that ladles of piping hot broth will be enough to cook it. The trick is to set the meat in the freezer for about an hour before slicing.
This bowl is now ready for noodles and broth and all the rest.
DUCK PHO for two
for the broth
1 duck carcass
1 small onion, halved
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
3 star anise
1/2 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon of fennel seeds
2 whole green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 tablespoons cup of fish sauce (add more to taste)
salt to taste
for the bowls
1/2 pound of thinly sliced duck breast or beef sirloin
8 ounces of uncooked rice noodles
8 ounces of bean sprouts
sliced green onion
For the broth: heat a bit of oil in a large pot. Place the onions halves flat-side down to brown them. Add the slices of garlic and the spices to toast for a minute. Add the duck carcass and cover it with eight cups of water. Bring to a boil, skimming the surface for any scum. Lower the heat and simmer for at least two hours. Strain the broth and return it to the heat. Add the fish sauce, then salt to taste.
To get paper-thin slices of meat, let the meat sit in the freezer for about an hour. It should be quite firm, but not rock-solid. Slice it thinly across the grain with a sharp knife. Divide into the two bowls.
Prepare the noodles according to the package directions and divide them into the two bowls.
Ladle the hot broth into the bowls, on top of the sliced beef and noodles. Serve with loads of bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, sliced jalapeno, sliced green onion, and lime wedges. Optional condiments: sriracha, hoisin, sambal.