I remember the first time I experienced pho, it was a small drafty joint near Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Now I didn’t order my own bowl, it was my dad who got some and I just tagged along. This was probably about fifteen or so years ago, before pho became “mainstream” like other Asian delicacies (see also: bubble tea) and prompting chains like “Pho King” and “What the Pho” (uninformed, click here). Truth be told, my first encounter was not a pleasant one. Truthfully said, I thought the broth specifically smelled like old smelly beefy gym socks. Needless to say, now I love it.
While pho is reasonably cheap around here (about $5-6 for a “small” bowl, enough to fill you up and then some), I’ve always yearned to make it at home. Though I don’t have a tub of beef bones and oxtail stewing in my kitchen 24/7, there are lots of quick-prep methods popping up, from concentrated bouillon cubes and paste to today’s product, a pre-made organic broth complete with instructions printed on the side.
I didn’t have any rice noodles, sliced beef, bean sprouts or any of the other requisite ingredients to make pho besides this broth and the bachelor’s carbohydrate of choice, the dried Top Ramen rectangle. Due to my laziness, cheap nature and unwillingness to spend more money on quality ingredients for something that ultimately (like all review for this blog) is a culinary experiment, the ramen and the broth had to suffice. As I soon found out, it was the broth that spoiled the noodles, not the other way around.
Pho broth is a distinctive yet simple flavor (keeping in mind my comment in the first paragraph). Per Wikipedia, “The broth for beef pho is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. For a more intense flavor, the bones may still have beef on them. Seasonings can include cinnamon, star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove.”
It seems Pacific Organic took the “star” in anise literally, as to make it front and foremost as the highlight and only seasoning discernible in the broth. The liquid tastes like Eau de Good & Plenty. Uneatable and already destroying my little ramen brick, the rest went down the drain.
Folks, I may not have to write a legible, intelligent blog post each week, but I sure to have time to make my own pho broth, especially if this is how the pre-packaged option is going to taste.