Faux Fish Pho
Three excellent things about this dish in its original inception:
1. A fine excuse to drag out the bridal tureen
2. Tasted near identical to the pho we ate for breakfast in the streets of Saigon and the pho we ate for dinner in that strip mall south of Argyle St. in Chicago
3. Made Greg very nervous even though the recipe insisted that an application of boiling broth would “cook” the raw ground beef at the bottom of the tureen.
I missed this dish and it only took me three years to figure out that diced salmon could probably stand in for ground beef. The light bulb over my head picked a serendipitous time to turn on, given that there was some lemongrass approaching middle age in the vegetable bin and Fish Tales wouldn’t close for another 45 minutes or so. It still filled up the tureen, tasted as good as I remembered and most rewardingly, made Greg a bit squirmy at the top.
Skin and dice 1/2 pound of salmon – the fresher the better. What you don’t want is the joke so beloved to my nasty boss at Showstopper costumes, the one about the blind man who, passing by the fish market, doffs his hat and calls out, “Mornin’, girls!”
Combine it with
1 small minced onion
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
and a reasonable amount of fresh ground pepper
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.
Soak 1/2 ounce of rice vermicelli noodles – bean thread noodles, glass noodles, whatever you want to call them, just give ‘em a tepid water bath for 20 minutes.
Grate enough fresh ginger to yield 1 teaspoon – if it helps, I’m 5’7, weigh something in the neighborhood of 140 pounds and one of my thumbs is equivalent to the amount of ginger called for in this recipe.
Get out a big saucepan – like 4 quarts big – and heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Toss in the ginger and 1/3 cup of long grain, uncooked white rice. Stir for a minute or two until the rice puffs up a bit and smells good. (If it starts to turn golden, don’t wait around for it to puff up, because odds are it won’t – no biggie.)
Add 7 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, throw a lid halfway on, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, thin-slice enough lemongrass to yield a tablespoon. Forget about thumbs, if you strip off the tough outer leaves, the bottom third of a stalk ought to do you.
Mince two large cloves of garlic (which, I totally interpret to mean three.)
Heat another tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small skillet, and fry the lemongrass and garlic over low heat for a minute or two, just enough to release the fragrance and give it the beginnings of a tan.
When the timer sounds, add the lemongrass mixture to the broth, along with
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
Drain the rice vermicelli , chop it into 2-inch lengths, and throw that in too.
Bring it back to a boil.
Transfer the marinated salmon to the bridal tureen.
Pour the boiling broth over the salmon. Wait, aren’t you going to cook it!? Hell no! Now be quiet, or I'll get distracted and scald my arm off.
Naturally, you will have budgeted your time in such a way that you’re not running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to pull together a garnish plate consisting of
2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, chopped fine
2 thin-sliced scallions
A handful of shredded cilantro
And some sort of hot sauce, though yesterday, I found I preferred it without.
Yields six servings, which was the perfect amount for me and Greg.
Little fool thinks the adults’ food is “nasty”. Of course, he also said a certain female classmate is his favorite because she gives him “nasty” kisses, so I’m a bit stumped as to the math, here.
Here's wherefrom I got the original: