What I liked about it is the way it was served. You get the broth by itself, with all of the other ingredients sitting out and you add everything to the bowl yourself and enjoy it. This keeps the vegetables really fresh tasting and still green, instead of looking like they've been cooked for hours. And everything remains fairly crunchy.
When I got home, I still thought about it, but I don't know anywhere around here that serves such a thing. I remembered that I had a recipe for it once, but it asked for star anise and I didn't know where to find such a thing in our local stores, so I gave up the idea.
I googled some recipes that seemed pretty straightforward, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it to taste like it should. Nothing is more frustrating than getting excited to eat something you've enjoyed before and then you try it and it's not quite the same.
Then I sort of forgot about it! Until the other day, when my sister posted a picture of beanster eating pho and the obsession started all over again.
It turns out, it's not hard to make at all!
I used some of this recipe here, but I altered it a little bit.
My biggest dilemma was the anise. I couldn't find star anise, but I found a few references to using anise seed instead. I used 3 t. of anise seeds instead of 10 star anise. I held back a little because k-ster doesn't like the taste of anise so I didn't want to totally ruin it for him the first time. I would definitely use more next time.
I have an issue with cloves and cinnamon, so I used just a dash of both.
I didn't have fresh ginger, so I used about 1 t. of ginger. I could have used more because I didn't taste it at all.
I also used scallions, which this recipe didn't call for, but several other recipes did. I think they are essential, but be sure to put them out with the other stuff to keep them crispy. Putting them in the broth when it's cooking would kind of ruin it.
I used some spinach, not 6 cups, instead of bok choy and I only used basil, not all of the other herbs she mentions at the end of the recipe.
I had already cooked a whole chicken, so I didn't need to worry about how long it all cooked, which was good because I didn't start this until about 3:30. I put the broth and spices in the crockpot with the chicken for about 3 hours and then removed the chicken. I added the spinach and noodles and let it go for about a half hour.
It tasted soooooo good! I didn't use the lime when I had it at my sister's but I did last night and it was good. I need a couple of wedges to get flavor. And when I first put the basil in mine, I didn't use enough and needed to add more. This was directly from my garden and I was so thrilled to use it.
What I love about pho is the ridiculous combination of flavors. Who would think anise, basil, lime, cinnamon and cloves should be together? It's like every bite is a mix of all of those flavors.
K-ster also added some ground habanero that we have from his crazy pepper growing experiment last year, but I refrained. I remember there being a pepper in the mix when I had it before, but I didn't use it then, either.
I made this on a very hot and humid day. I put the crockpot outside, as I am known to do, and it kept the heat out of the house. Soup on a hot day was kind of a strange choice, but I thought all of those light tasting ingredients might make up for it. And it did!
The scariest part of this recipe, and every recipe I saw, was the fish sauce. I knew it was going to smell deadly but I wasn't really prepared for how bad it would smell. In the jar. Once it was in the broth it was fine and probably added the saltiness that I seem to enjoy on in pho.
Now I have a jar of fish sauce in my refrigerator and I have no idea how else to use it.....