Day three and today it’s New Year’s Eve and like I said early this week, noodles in the Filipino and Chinese tradition symbolizes longevity hence were posting noodle recipes for the whole week. Another important information about this belief is that in the Chinese culture these noodles should not be broken as it is considered to be very unlucky to cut up even a strand (just imagine how you eat them without breaking), also in the Philippines these noodles needs to be soaked in broth called “sabaw” which then symbolizes prosperity. Another New Year tradition we had in the Philippines is that anything circular or spherical brings luck and wealth that is why people wear polka dots and serve lots of circular fruits on the table from New Year’s Eve until the day itself. Finally to top it all up in Feng shui the year 2015 is the Year of the wood feng shu element and to be in harmony with the energy of the year the colours green and brown are believed to be the luckiest colour.
Now to abide with all of that tradition and hope for a long life, prosperity and luck I was thinking of the best dish we can serve today and nothing can be better than this Meatball Pho, with round meatballs, green coriander and lime, long strands of uncut noodles and a good serving of rich broth I think we got it all covered.
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup dish made out of rice noodles and different types of meats served in a rich stock with bean sprouts, basil and lime. There are a lot of variations of this comforting dish but the most common meats used are beef (cooked and raw), chicken, meatballs and assorted fish cakes.
Pho originated in the early 20th century in Nam Dinh province southwest of Hanoi. Cooks during that time created this dish to satisfy locals at the same time the French colonizers. A combination of Western and Asian cuisine in noodle bowl was created from a mixture of rice noodles and beef slices. Rice noodles from Vietnamese and beef slices from the French cuisine, take note that the use of beef is unusual for the Vietnamese as they never used cattle as a meat/food source before but rather as working animals that help them in their farms. Initially pho was sold in boxes on streets until a restaurant opened in Hanoi in the 1920’s.
The word pho have several theories where it came from, one theory suggests that I came from the word called “feu” which means fire which came from the cooking technique of burning onions in fire to give colour and robust flavours. Another theory suggest that it came from the Chinese dish called hofan or in English rice vermicelli, the common noodle used in this dish. Apparently they said the word “fan” similarly sounds like “ph”.
Traditionally it is served with a rice noodle called “banh pho” with thinly sliced beef then different variations have been introduced in Southern Vietnam where they used tendons, meatballs and tripe. The beef broth is the key ingredient on this dish and it is usually made out of beef bones, charred onion and different spices such as cinnamon, star anise, ginger, fennel and cloves. It is then boiled very long periods. It is then served with garnishes like fried onions, spring onions, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts and Thai basil.
One of our favourite noodle soup dishes, this is what we usually order in our favourite Vietnamese restaurant (Hansan) in NZ where we can order an array of different variation. Now I want to make it at home and here is my recipe and trust me it’s easy and it tastes nearly as similar as the traditional version.
- 400 g flat rice noodles
- 150 g minced fatty pork
- 500 g Asian Style beef meatballs
- 2 litres good quality beef stock
- ½ cup crispy fried shallots
- 3 tbsp crispy fried garlic
- 1 pc star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- fish sauce
- bean sprouts
- lime wedges
- chopped coriander
- crispy fried shallots
- Cook noodles according to packet instructions then set it aside. You might want to add a bit of oil to prevent noodles from sticking with each other
- In a pot add a small amount of oil then cook minced pork until the fat is rendered.
- Add all the remaining ingredients in a pot then bring it to a boil simmer for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked.
- Place noodles in a bowl together with bean sprouts, ladle boiling soup into bowls and add around 6 pcs of the meatballs.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and crispy fried shallots then serve with lime wedges on the side.