This is my take of a Salmon Pho I first ate in a San Francisco Noodle shop. Perhaps it's not 100% authentic, it is still an easy to prepare, delicious, healthy soup.
The making of Salmon Pho
Salmon Pho. Or Salmon Faux Pho. Is my Salmon Pho authentic enough to be real pho, or is it faux (imitation) pho?
My husband and I eat a lot of Pho (pronounced pha), so I will debate this question with myself because, while it's close to the pho I get in Vietnamese restaurants, it's different enough that I would not put it in the exact same category as an authentic Pho. First of all, I take a shortcut in the broth, using a box of low-sodium beef stock. A real pho takes a day of slow-cooking beef bones to come up with their flavorful broth. Second, I add fresh spinach to the mix. I have been to some restaurants where they put lettuce into the soup (soggy lettuce is not my fav); so that's close, but still no cigar. Third, while I generally use rice noodles (traditional), at times I use buckwheat noodles (Japanese) or linguini (Italian), and that would defiantly not be authentic.
Is this an "authentic" pho? Probably not, but it's a darn good and healthy pho.
What is Pho
Most pho soups are made either with beef stock or chicken stock. Add noodles, along with thinly sliced meats or seafood and it's pho. The seafood soup is generally shrimps, scallop, calamari (squid), fish balls, and sometimes added sliced chicken or pork. Beef pho can be any meat from a thinly sliced flank, tenderloin or brisket, to tendon and other fatty pieces of beef. My salmon pho uses a nice piece of wild salmon that has been seasoned, broiled to a medium-rare (it will continue to cook in the broth); the salmon breaks up nicely into the soup, so it's flavorful and delicious, and with the addition of spinach, has added health benefits. I add the spinach raw as it will cook in the hot broth.
Salmon Pho, ready for some broth
The broth is really the most important part of this soup; so don't skimp when you make it. It's going to take about an hour; a half-hour of a slow simmer, then another half hour, or more, to let it seep. Just shut it off and let it set so all the flavors have time to meld. Once you remove the aromatics of lemongrass, ginger, scallion, cinnamon, star anise, jalapeño, and a bit of cilantro, you will have a most flavorful stock.
This recipe calls for lime slices as well, I use that when I can't find kaffir lime leaves, which are very difficult to find. Limes are pretty easy to find in most parts of the world, but if you don't have access to fresh limes, omit them altogether.
So now add your flavorful broth to your bowl and ...
A delish bowl of Salmon Pho
Salmon Pho with accompaniments.
Putting in what you like, and how much is part of the fun of eating pho.
I served this with an Oregon Pinot Noir which worked not only with the fish but with the flavors of the broth.
- For the Broth
- 1 quart low-sodium beef stock or homemade
- 2 cups water
- 1 stalk lemongrass tough outside leaves removed, tender inside thinly sliced on the bias (this will extract the most flavor, so hold the lemongrass and slice it at an angle - thinly)
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced (you do not need to peel it, but can if you want)
- 3 green onions scallion cut into 1-inch lengths (you will need more green onion for garnish)
- 3 slices lime or 3 kaffir lime leaves sliced
- 1 jalapeño thinly sliced (if you like a little heat in your broth like I do, leave the seeds in)
- ½ of a cinnamon stick
- 2 - 3 star anise
- 8 - 10 cilantro stems
- For the Bowl
- 2 about 4 ounce salmon filets, preferably 1 inch thick, wild-caught, with or without skin
- 1 teaspoon Thai Spice Blend or ½ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice mixed with ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds and a dash of red pepper flakes
- Salt to taste
- 1 small bag baby spinach leaves
- About 2 ounces for each bowl cooked noodles rice noodles are traditional, but you could also use udon, buckwheat or linguini
- And for the Rest
- Fresh bean sprouts
- Thinly sliced jalapeño
- Thinly sliced green onion tops
- Cilantro leaves
- Fresh basil preferably Thai
- Fresh lime wedges
- Prepare the BrothPlace all the broth ingredients into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer slowly for ½ hour. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for ½ hour to 1 hour. Remove the aromatics.
- Prepare the "Bowl"Heat the broiler to high heat. Season the tops of salmon fillets with the spice mix and a bit of salt. Place, skin side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil, and place under the broiler. Broil, without turning, until the top of the fish is just beginning to brown, but the flesh is still not cooked through.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles of your choice until just al dente (about 1 - 2 minutes under the cooking time they tell you to cook it. Drain and place the noodles into deep bowls that have been warmed.
- Take a few handfuls of spinach and put that on top of the noodles. Top with your pieces of fish (if you cooked it with the skin on, that should have stuck to your foil and be off now, if not, remove the skin before you put it in the bowl). Heat the broth up to a simmer, then ladle into the bowls. Serve with accompaniments.